The summer of 2022 was emotional. I met my new grandson. One of the girls became engaged to a cute adventurous boy whom she met in college. Another daughter started medical school in Loma Linda, California. But I also got into traffic by a hit-and-run driver, and it could be 10 months before spare parts are available. Recently we heard that my husband’s older brother has passed away. Although it was not unexpected, it was faster than we thought. But I’d like to focus on another part of our summer that had a profound impact.
Growing up, I found my younger brother Julian stubborn and annoying. He wasn’t listening to me or doing what I told him to do. He was breaking my things and leaving a mess that I will blame and have to clean up. This same brother is now living in the body of a 60-year-old with Parkinson’s disease.
My brother’s guard
We attended the general conference session in St. Louis, Missouri, in June. Julian flew with us to our home in the UK (UK) after the session. The plan was that he would stay with us for a month to give his able-bodied wife a break, and then would come back with us when we got back to the States at the end of July.
During his time with us, we spent time reminiscing, sharing meals, and going swimming in the morning, because exercise is a treatment that can slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. I found myself keeping track of his medication (five pills five times a day), taking his daily naps (usually two to four hours), as well as eating, drinking and sleeping at a reasonable time. All of these were necessary, or his body would let him down.
He has alarms on his phone that he ignores. They explode half an hour before taking his pills. The password to turn off the alarm was complicated and difficult for him and me because it was a long string of numbers, so I guess he just learned to ignore it. That is, he often ignored what the alarm was indicating – the time of the pill.
He would often do things that didn’t make sense to me, like filling the bathtub while I was taking a shower. I could hear him walking around while he was taking a bath, and he was terrified of falling into the tub, who did. He shouted from the door: Do not enter. “I’m naked!” I was worried the whole time he was with us that he had hurt himself in the fall. When he finished showering, I had to clean the shaving cream off the walls and ceilings. I can imagine him suffering from a pack of shaving cream and a razor, using tips that don’t cooperate.
One morning when we were swimming laps, he panicked, confident he’d have a mini stroke or a heart attack. After calming him down, I realized that he hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast (although he had said earlier that he had) and that he hadn’t slept much the night before. He often spent late into the early morning hours carefully reading his Michelin guide rating restaurants in France. He really wanted to go to France and eat at bib gourmand.1 My husband asked, “You’re in England and all you really want to do is be in France?” His answer was simple and direct: “Yes.”
My husband and I took it for the weekend to Calais, France, on the other side of the English Channel. Julian was great! He slept, took naps, took his pills on time, and ate a lot. He was sure that the owner of one of his favorite restaurants had romantic interests in him because she was so kind and interested in us.
During his month with us, I have been praying a lot and hard for God to give me an abundance of patience and kindness as I find myself frustrated with Julian. It gave me a new insight into the world of caregivers. My heart goes out to all of them as well as to those who suffer from chronic degenerative diseases.
ups and downs
We flew in from Heathrow towards the end of Julian’s visit when flights were canceled and airports were a mess. As we drove to a remote security station, Julian decided to take his pack of pills for the week out of his bag, spilling enough pills for two days and infuriating the people behind us who were worried they might miss their flights. Whenever we received special care from the airline staff, such as early boarding, I had tears in my eyes from the kindness of others towards my brother. I felt guilty when we left, walking through the gate of his flight that would take him home, not because he was traveling alone, but because I felt so comfortable. We did it. It’s been a month with us and nothing terrible has happened!
Our time in the United States ensured that our daughter was settled in California. We did it at a temperature close to 100 degrees. We attended her white coat party, and while we were ready to end our vacation with time to ourselves, my husband and I contracted COVID-19. Another piece of this unforgettable summer!
After we got back to England, my husband brought home a book by Vanessa Pezzotto that had been recommended to me while I was attending a GC session. Still suffering from COVID stress, I opened the book. The author wrote a personal letter: “I hope every page of this book reminds you of how deeply your love is!”
I felt God’s encouraging presence in these words. Allow me to share a short excerpt:2
“I love to travel. A while ago, I was on an Airbus A321 heading to Amman, Jordan. I usually pick an aisle seat so I can get up and walk around without disturbing anyone. But the flight was full, so a window seat was assigned over the left wing For the plane.Although I didn’t know it, God had planned a surprise for me….
The flight was peaceful and turbulent free. Half an hour before landing, I began to see the vast city of Amman. It was night, and the city lights were shining, forming wonderful glowing veins and arteries. The entire city seemed like a living being, like those strange phosphorescent creatures of the deep sea floating in the midst of the prevailing darkness.
“This view is so beautiful. I wonder what it all looks like from your place, I said to God as I pressed my nose against the window. Then God surprised me. He answered my prayer with a clear and direct thought, ‘Here I am.’ I brought tears to my eyes thinking God is with me on the plane. Not far into the stratosphere.
Despite this emotional summer, this thought reminded me of God’s love and closeness. Our identities with God are more than our human bodies are struggling. He considers us complete wherever we are. I felt like God knew Vanessa’s book was exactly what I needed to encourage and help me keep going. You too can be reminded – our identities are linked to God’s grace, and His presence is always near.
1 Bib gourmand is one that offers a high quality dining experience at a reasonable price. To be precise, a Michelin guide bib gourmand should offer two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for about $40.
2 Vanessa Bizuto No Fears, No Limitations: Devotional Thoughts for Women.