This empty nester realized that caring for others was exactly what God had planned for her.
- Posted on May 26, 2020
I sat in my car, overlooking a shimmering intercoastal waterway, the night sky studded with stars. Everything around me had a vibrant, otherworldly glow. This is West Palm Beach, I realized. My family and I used to live here. But we’d moved away about a year ago…
I was aware of someone sitting next to me in the driver’s seat. Someone else sat behind me. I couldn’t tell who they were, but their presence was comforting. I felt so at peace here. As if everything made sense.
“This is why you’re here,” the presence behind me said. “This is why you were born, Janis.”
I woke up in my bed in Illinois. It was early morning, and my husband was snoring softly beside me. What a strange dream that was, I thought, heading to the kitchen to make myself some coffee.
Waiting for the coffee to brew, I tried to decipher the message. It wasn’t the first time I’d had a dream like this—vivid, meaningful—feeling almost real. I’d once dreamed of a man with scars on his face, whose skin regenerated before my eyes. Another time, I dreamed of touching the hand of a woman with no fingers and watching, awestruck, as they grew back. And now with this dream, I received a message. I felt it was connected to healing people. But what could it possibly mean?
I was the last person in the world to do any kind of healing or care work. I’d never been comfortable with the idea of being responsible for someone’s welfare. My life was full enough. I had a husband, four daughters and a house to keep. I was content with what I had. Busy but happy.
The only time I’d done anything resembling caregiving was helping out an elderly couple in our neighborhood back in Florida. The husband had Alzheimer’s, and his wife’s health was failing. She needed someone to check in on her. I helped out with her husband, straightened up the house a bit and kept her company.
Not long after my dream, I was visiting a friend I’d made since moving to Illinois. She was showing me how to plant a flower garden, something I’d been excited to try out. After all, someday my girls would be grown. I was trying to start projects that would keep me busy after I became an empty nester. As we worked, my friend and I talked about our families. We got on the subject of her mother-in-law.
“She has Alzheimer’s, and we need to find a full-time caregiver for her,” my friend said. “I would do it, but my husband needs help on the farm and we just don’t have the time. I would love to find someone.”
I stopped what I was doing, a handful of seeds clutched in my right palm. I thought about the dream. The voice. It all made sense. The words flew from my mouth, almost before I’d finished my thought. “I can care for her,” I said.
For a year, I did. The fears I’d had? They completely disappeared. I fed her, helped her brush her teeth, took her on walks, had conversations with her, danced with her. Even on the rough days, when the work was hard, I still found caring for her to be deeply rewarding.
The time came to move my friend’s mother-in-law to the assisted living home. The facility actually reached out to me. “You’ve obviously got a knack for this,” they said. “We’d like to refer you.”
I went on to work in the caregiving industry for 20 years. My daughters grew up and moved away, but my life remained full. Caregiving helped fill a void I didn’t even know I’d have. Though I never sought out care work, it always seemed to find me—showing me time and again that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do.
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