"It was an early Saturday morning in January, 2014, my wife and I casually discussed my retirement, after working in social work for 40 years. I loved my job, but I also knew that tomorrow is never promised. Diedra had her first stroke on Valentine’s Day, 2010, and her second one in 2011.
We talked about what we might do, where we might travel, and to be honest, I still wasn’t convinced that I should retire. But, I saw how Diedra’s spirit lifted as she half-heartedly ‘planned’ our first day trip…and I began to realize my retirement was not about me….it was about US. I was slowly changing my mind, with a target date of July, which would mark my 40th year in social work.
On February 19, 2014, Diedra fell, hitting her head on our dresser, and suffered a traumatic brain injury. She was life lined to Parkview North, in Fort Wayne, where she stayed in the ICU until
March 6th, when she was transferred to the hospice unit. On April 30th, my bride of 41 years, 4 months and 8 days, moved into her eternal home.
Every day since February 19th, our boys, Matthew and Christopher, and I, would say our ‘good byes’, realizing that moment may be the last time we would be able to love on her. Each day we would make sure her radio was tuned into a Christian station, and that she was as comfortable as possible. We would speak with her as if nothing had happened, keeping her informed of all the things going on at home, etc. As each day agonizingly passed, we maintained with God’s grace.
As we walked this unexpected path, we were inundated with phone calls, personal contacts, and visitors, all of which we so greatly appreciated, and for the most part, expected. However, we were not prepared for the overwhelming support that Gilead Ministries provided in our dark time.
Diedra and I met Bill Sparks, shortly before Gilead Ministries became a reality, in 1998. Having suffered from severe depression for many years, we wanted to get into a Christian counselor. Bill’s name was given to me by our pastor, and we counseled with him for a short time….but, Diedra really felt comfortable, and immediately trusted his words. (An important trait to be effective!) I also felt a kinship with Bill, which prompted me to call on him to address some of my workshops in my office, offering positive motivation for my clients.
After Diedra fell, I immediately began getting phone calls and texts from Bill. Almost daily, I would get a “Bill text”, sharing a Scripture verse, and an encouraging word. Along with Bill’s calls and texts, we began getting notes, and cards, letting us know that we were not walking our path alone. While this may sound trivial to those who have not experienced this degree of pain, I can assure you that it is a monumental blessing.
I have volunteered with Gilead since March of 2015, and one thing has become very obvious to me-my boys and I did not receive ‘special’ treatment. Yes, I had known Bill for a few years, on a personal and a professional level. Bill, his staff and volunteers maintain the same level of compassion and caring for everyone. Having seen firsthand the folks who have been touched by illness and/or grief, and having heard their stories, they are not unlike ours.
While none of us like to think about illness, the inevitable, and the grief process that follows, there is a great deal of comfort, knowing that we have a community resource such as Gilead, that provides
support in such a time of incredible emotional need. Oh sure, we like to think of ourselves as ‘strong’; able to handle just about anything. We might as well try to leap over tall buildings while we are at it... the truth is, we all have our breaking points, and our physical, emotional and yes, even our spiritual foundations can be shaken to the core.
While there are those who mean well, and may say the most insensitive things in our time of pain, it is refreshing to know that we have someone who will share our journey willfully, encouraging us, praying for us, and just making themselves available if we need to talk.
“Thank you Bill, and your staff “, from my lips to God’s ear…..your thoughts, prayers, kindness, and loving support has enabled my boys and I to endure an experience that we all pray never happens.
I simply cannot imagine our experience without your help!