Love endures crises of health, failing self-confidence

Rick Jacobs
Rick Jacobs

A very dear friend of mine is going through a difficult time.

Her dear mother recently suffered a stroke. Sherry was the one who found her and the way she found her is a story in itself.

Sherry was cutting her yard and, without warning, her lawnmower quit working. So she called her mother to tell her that her lawnmower was broken. This is the relationship they had, and still have. They tell each other everything. Since Sherry’s father died a few years ago, what they have, mostly, is each other.

When her mother failed to answer the phone, Sherry immediately left to check on her. She found her lying in the hallway, alive but mostly unresponsive. Paramedics transported her to the hospital.

Sherry has never married. She has no children. She has her mother.

And she is scared to death.

Her mother is out of the hospital and has entered rehabilitation. Sherry sees some progress, but it is excruciatingly slow. She and I have talked about it. She understands that I have some knowledge of what she’s going through.

For those who don’t know, my wife, Susie, suffered a heart attack in 2001. She was only 39. It happened in the office of our Bartlett business, Simply The Best Cleaners, in the middle of the day.

It changed our lives.

My wife, and Sherry’s mom, as a result of their episodes, suffered brain damage. Time will tell as to how much recovery Sherry’s mother will make.

What all this has done for me is bring back the memory of nearly 14 years ago, when I first realized that my relationship with Susie had transformed from husband into something much, much more.

I’m still her husband of course. But I am also her caregiver.

In the beginning, it was an overwhelming realization. There were countless sleepless nights. I wondered if I was up to it.

Scotty, our youngest was in kindergarten. We had three other children in middle school and high school. We had a thriving business. I had to learn how to cook, how to buy groceries, how to load a dishwasher. There were signed papers from school, lunch money and homework that had to be done.

The list was endless. And at the top of this list was Susie. First and foremost, I had to take care of her.

Something had to give.

The first thing to go was our business. The next thing was our beloved lakefront property and pier at Horseshoe Lake. I was only able to hold on to our home and vehicle through bankruptcy. I had never been so broke. I had never been so lonely. I had never felt so helpless.

And yet, somehow, day by day, the Jacobs family carried on. We had help of course. My family and Susie’s family were always there for us. Our church held a fund raiser. And while the bankruptcy was devastating, the medical bills went away and it gave us some breathing room.

I believe as well that God knew I needed a break. So He allowed Susie to improve to the point that I’d be able to leave her home alone, at least for a few hours, and that enabled me to get a much needed job. So I drove a school bus for a year.

(I think God still chuckles about that. And I thought being a caregiver was hard.)

Today, Susie is happy and quite comfortable with her life. She can’t drive, so I’m her caregiver and chauffeur. She loves TV, computer video poker, M&Ms and her grandchildren.

And she loves me as well. That makes me happy.

To Sherry I say this: Never lose hope. Take things one day at a time. As dark as things may seem now, there are brighter days ahead.

God will send you angels. Do not turn them away.

Learn to focus on what remains, not on what is lost. That may be the toughest task you face but it is so important.

I look back over that last 14 years and I sometimes marvel at how life changes. We had such plans before that day that changed everything.

Plans change.

There was one thing that didn’t change, however, couldn’t change and will never change. It has kept us going through nearly 35 years of marriage.

Throughout it all, there was always one common denominator that remains crystal clear: How much we love each other.

Even a heart attack couldn’t take that away.

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