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The Last Roses
By Claudette Miller

At the age of 56, my husband of 25 years was diagnosed with end-stage emphysema. The doctor told Glenn he could no longer work. For the next three and a half years, his life was extended by the use of oxygen. I became the caregiver.
It was difficult for Glenn to accept he was no longer the breadwinner. This tore at his self-esteem, which required verbal affirmation he still had worth. Sometimes, a terminally ill person is deserted by their spouse because the latter feels overwhelmed with the prospect of being a caregiver. With this thought in mind, I constantly reassured Glenn I would never leave him. 
I reminded myself I must let Glenn accomplish tasks on his own, even though I could do them faster. I believed as long as Glenn felt he could be of viable use, he would fight to live.
Glenn had a passion for roses. He enjoyed working in his rose garden and watching them blossom. He would talk to them by name.  He fussed over them all, but his favorite rose was the “Dolly Parton.”   Being outdoors helped him feel closer to God.  As he worked in the dirt with his hands, he conversed with God.
I informed our two children that we must surround their father with positive attitudes and words, creating an atmosphere of life.  As stated in Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death.”  Words of life bring hope, while negative words tear down.
Handling a full-time job and taking care of Glenn provided a nesting ground for raw emotions and weariness to grind at my stamina. I was aware I needed time for myself. Even though it was difficult to leave my husband at home, I would visit a friend for those required moments of encouragement.
It is all right to cry. It does not show weakness. However, I didn’t want Glenn see me cry.  Many times I would climb into the bathtub for personal time of prayer with God. Those moments of crying on God’s shoulder equipped me with new strength when I returned to my husband’s side.
Glenn and I would spend special times together. Since Glenn liked to watch football, I would watch football. Glenn liked to play cribbage, so we played cribbage. Terminally ill people need to feel that others are not afraid to be near them. 
There were subjects that would have been easier to sweep under the rug. We discussed such things as life support and funeral arrangements. I listened to his heart, his concerns and his fears.   I chose to put aside my wants and to honor his wishes.
Glenn was not afraid to die.  He would tell me, “Don’t spend a lot of money on the funeral.  A wood box is good enough.  I want to be dressed in my Army skivvies, the same uniform as my men wore in battle, not my dressed uniform. ”
Glenn wanted to make a video tape for the children for future moments when they needed to hear their father’s voice. Regretfully, he was unable to finish this project. I wish I had been more supporting in this endeavor.     
We tried to keep God at the center of everything we did. There were times Glenn was not able to go to church, but he kept himself spiritually fed at home. When I arrived home from work, he would gladly tell me what he learned that day from a TV evangelist he watched.
We talked about our future, allowing us to dream of the things we were going to do together.  We planned trips. God did a mighty work in restoring relationships and friendships. After 20 years of no contact, Glenn’s two children from a previous marriage reestablished fellowship with their father. This event fulfilled a longtime dream that he would see his children again.  
When I had to bathe my husband, push him around in a wheelchair, or help feed him, I wanted Glenn to feel loved and special. I endeavored to serve him just as if I were serving Jesus (see Ephesians 6:7).
I repeat again that it is very important caregivers find time for themselves. I was blessed with some very close friends who encouraged me. Whenever Glenn was in the hospital, my friends would put aside their agendas to be with me. I believed strongly in spending time with God. During these times of worship, God filled me with endurance.
One of the hardest things I had to do was to release my husband. There came a time when Glenn was tired and ready to go home. He held on for me. I remember the last day when I was  driving to the hospital; I told God that if Glenn was ready, I released him. Throughout the  entire time as caregiver to my husband, I relied on God’s grace to pull me through the difficult  times, which He did.  Every time I see a rose, I think of my husband and his rose garden.


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