From the Heart

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It was after midnight on a very dark road I had never driven before that I found myself pulled over by a cop who was ordering me at gunpoint to get back in my car. We had just arrived at our hotel that evening and were several hours from home in a city we hadn’t ever been to before but were excited to visit for a family vacation. After putting the kids to bed, my husband’s health declined quickly and when I got pulled over that night, we were en route to the hospital. I was frazzled under the circumstances and had opened my door to tell the officer what was going on, probably scaring him! (I’m so grateful for all first responders!)

Once I got back in my vehicle and he came up to the window (which seemed to take hours), he understood the situation better and escorted us to the local hospital where my husband was diagnosed with congestive heart failure a few hours later. (Sitting in a hospital with 3 children in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar city, many miles from anyone we knew was awful!) They allowed him to leave the next day on the grounds that I would take him straight home to a local doctor to be thoroughly checked out. We packed up, full of disappointment and apprehension, without getting to do any of our fun vacation plans, and headed for home. The doctor we went to the next day in our hometown immediately had him admitted to our local hospital which would happen many more times over the next couple years and become our norm. After going through many ups and downs with his health, he was life-flighted to a bigger hospital in another state where he underwent two open heart surgeries, including being blessed with a heart transplant which he is still recovering from.

All of this has taken a toll on all of us and has made for a very stressful few years. In spite of all of the challenges, my family has been very blessed by the love and service of others which we are forever grateful for. I believe we are here to help each other when we can and though I would rather be the one serving rather than the one needing service, I’m grateful for the humility, grace, and compassion I’m learning from it.

I thought I would share some ideas of how to help your friends, family, and neighbors going through similarly hard times. Chances are, if you haven’t endured long hospital stays, ongoing medical care, or even loss in your life or the lives of those you care about, you will at some point and I know how difficult it can be to know how to best help. Depending on the situation, whether they had a family member pass away or get a diagnosis that keeps them in the hospital and/or at many doctor appointments, trying to carry on and do the normal daily activities needed for survival can be quite stressful. As overwhelming as life changing trials are, having others support you can make all the difference. I don’t have the space to share all the ways we have been blessed and supported by others but I wanted to give you some ideas when you want to (and can) do more than say, “Let me know if I can do anything.”  The better you already or get to know those who are enduring a hard trial, the more in-tune with their needs you will be. When someone is going through an insanely hard time, it can be hard for them to even know what they need.

So, here are some ideas of how you can show your care and concern:

Sit with them at the hospital. Send them funny or uplifting quotes/memes to brighten their day. Surprise them with a meal or snack or their favorite drink at the hospital or home. Drop off a pizza. Even though taking them dinner might not feel like much, it gives them time to do other important things and one less thing to stress about. Freezer meals are awesome to have for their extra busy days or when they are too overwhelmed to make anything.

If they have to drive back and forth from out of town, call them and just listen without judgement or keep them talking to help keep their mind off some of the stress. Help buy gifts for holidays. Buying them Christmas gifts is awesome but gifts for Mother’s Day, birthdays, and other holidays are great too! Helping with yard work is so needed; shovel their snow, mow their lawn, weed, trim bushes, or help water their yard. Give them gift cards for gas or dinners. Set up playdates with their kids. Take their kids to the park or out for ice cream. These situations are hard for kids too so if your kids are friends with theirs, have them reach out and be supportive.

Pray for them. Wash their dishes or do their laundry as needed. Text to check in. Endless amounts of medical bills and insurance forms can be overwhelming, help them sort through all the paperwork. Set up a donation account. Help pay for school clothes or activities and drive their kids to activities or school. Offset changes in their income by sending some extra money along the way.

Include them and invite them over.

Pay for a house cleaner for a month or two for them. Give them a hug. Finish projects they need help with. Offer your services if you or your spouse is good at home repairs and they need some. Marco Polo them, it’s a great way to keep in touch from a distance. Surprise them with the 12 days of Christmas or holiday necessities. Send them a box full of easy crafts and/or activities to do with their kids. Take their kids shopping to pick out gifts for them for Mother’s Day, birthdays. Father’s Day, or Christmas.

Send them spring break in a box or a box of sunshine.

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Send or drop off flowers. Send a card. Have someone sit with the patient at the hospital while you take the caregiver to lunch or dinner. Take them a bag of snacks and activities that can be done in a hospital room in silence since their loved one usually is resting a lot. Take kids to see them at the hospital. Be willing to take their kids for a fun activity while their parents visit at the hospital. Have patience while they navigate their wide range of emotions. Be a friend. Have school counselors check in on kids. Talk to them about more than the big stress in their life, don’t talk around the elephant in the room, but realize their life is still going on in other ways too. Wash their windows.

Love them through it.

Show up. 

We have been served in all these ways and continued to be blessed by the kindness of others. We cannot thank all our family, friends, and neighbors enough! Recovery will be a long road, with more bumps to come, I’m sure. Receiving a transplant, cancer going into remission, or a funeral being over doesn’t mean life goes back to normal or that our friends and family no longer need us. We can continue to be a support and serve them when needed, it’s important to keep checking with them. I hope to get to a place soon where I can help others more and be more supportive through their hard times. We can’t take away the problems of those around us but we can help carry them through it! Just make sure to stay in the car if you ever find yourself pulled over en route to a hospital!

 

Photo: KWphotography

 

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Edee is a wife and proud mother of 3. She has lived in Southeast Idaho her whole life and loves raising her children here. She works at a local school as a paraprofessional and dreams of publishing a book someday! She loves being a soccer mom and supporting her kids in their activities. She enjoys cooking and baking, writing, the mountains and the beach, organizing and writing lists she hopes to check off , and spending time with her family!