Magazine Article

A Temporary Caregiver

A visit from an adult sibling turns into a lesson in caregiving.

Nina Pierce
A Temporary Caregiver

The summer of 2022 was an emotional one. I met my newest grandson. One daughter became engaged to a sweet Adventist boy she met in college. Another daughter started medical school in Loma Linda, California. But I also was rear-ended in traffic by a hit-and-run driver, and it may be 10 months before parts are available. More recently we heard my husband’s older brother passed away; although not unexpected, it was sooner than we thought. But I’d like to focus on another part of our summer that had a profound impact. 

Growing up, I always found my younger brother Julian stubborn and annoying. He would not listen to me or do what I told him to do. He’d break my things and leave messes behind that I’d get blamed for and have to clean up. This same brother is now living in a 60-year-old body suffering with Parkinson’s. 

My Brother’s Keeper

We attended the General Conference Session in St. Louis, Missouri, in June. Julian flew back with us to our home in the United Kingdom (UK) after the session. The plan was that he would stay with us a month to give his caregiver wife a break, and then he would fly back with us when we returned to the United States at the end of July. 

During his time with us we spent time reminiscing, sharing meals, and going for morning swims, since exercising is a remedy that can slow down the decline of Parkinson’s. I found myself tracking his medication (five pills five times a day), enforcing his daily naps (usually two to four hours), as well as his eating, drinking, and going to bed at a reasonable time. These were all necessary, or his body would fail him. 

He has alarms on his phone, which he ignores. They go off a half hour before his pills are to be taken. The password to shut off the alarm was complex and challenging for him and me as it was a long series of numbers, so I think he just learned to ignore it. And this meant he’d often ignore what the alarm was signaling—pill time. 

He often did things that didn’t make sense to me, such as filling up the bathtub as he took his shower. I’d hear him sloshing around as he showered, and was terrified he’d fall in the tub, which he did. “Don’t come in,” he shouted through the door. “I’m naked!” I worried the entire time he was with us that he’d hurt himself in a fall. When he finished in the shower, I’d have to clean the shaving cream off the walls and ceilings. I could imagine him struggling with a can of shaving cream and razor, using limbs that wouldn’t cooperate. 

One morning as we were swimming laps, he panicked, certain he was having mini strokes or a heart attack. After calming him I realized he hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast (even though earlier he’d said he had) and he’d gotten very little sleep the night before. He’d often stay up late into the early-morning hours carefully reading his Michelin guidebook that rated restaurants in France. He really wanted to go to France and eat in a bib gourmand restaurant.1 My husband asked, “You’re in England and all you really want to do is be in France?” His answer was simple and to the point: “Yes.” 

My husband and I took him for a weekend to Calais, France, just on the other side of the English Channel. Julian was great! He slept, napped, took his pills on time, and ate out—a lot. He was certain the owner of one of our favorite restaurants had romantic interests in him because she was so nice and attentive to us. 

During his month with us I prayed often and hard for God to give me an abundance of patience and kindness because I would find myself frustrated with Julian. It gave me new insight into the world of caregivers. My heart goes out to all of them as well as for those with chronic, degenerative diseases. 

Ups and Downs

We flew out of Heathrow at the end of Julian’s visit when flights were being canceled and the airports were chaotic. While we were being led to a distant security station, Julian decided to get his pill box for the week out of his backpack, spilling a couple days’ worth of pills and angering folks behind us who were worried they’d miss their flights. Whenever we received special care from the airline employees, such as early boarding, my eyes would tear up at the kindness of others toward my brother. I felt guilty as he left us, walking down the gate to his flight that would take him home, not because he was going on alone, but because I felt such a sense of relief. We’d made it. He’d been with us a month, and nothing horrible had happened! 

Our time in the United States included settling our daughter into her place in California. We did this in near 100-degree heat. We attended her whitecoat ceremony, and just as we were ready to finish our vacation with time for ourselves, my husband and I both contracted COVID-19. Yet another piece of this memorable summer! 

After we arrived back in England, my husband brought home a book by Vanesa Pizzuto that was recommended to me while I was attending GC Session. Still languishing from COVID fatigue, I opened the book. The author had written a personal message: “May each page of this book remind you how deeply loved you are!” 

I felt God’s encouraging presence in those words. Allow me to share a short excerpt:2 

“I love traveling. A while back, I was on board Airbus A321 bound for Amman, Jordan. I usually choose an aisle seat so that I can get up and walk around without disturbing anyone. But the flight was full, so I was assigned a window seat over the left wing of the plane. Although I didn’t know it, God had planned a surprise for me. . . . 

“The flight was peaceful and without any turbulence. Half an hour before landing, I began to see the immense city of Amman. It was nighttime, and the city lights were bright, forming gorgeous incandescent veins and arteries. The whole city looked like a living organism, like those strange phosphorescent deep-sea creatures floating in the midst of prevailing darkness. 

“ ‘This view is so beautiful. I wonder what everything looks like from where You are,’ I told God as I pressed my nose against the window. That’s when God surprised me. He answered my prayer with a clear and direct thought, ‘I am right here.’ I got teary-eyed thinking that God was with me on the plane; not far away 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 struggling human bodies. He sees us as perfect wherever we might be. I felt God knew Vanesa’s book was just what I needed to cheer and help me carry on. You too can be reminded—our identities are bound in God’s grace, and His presence is always nearby. 

1 A bib gourmand restaurant is one that delivers a high-quality dining experience at a reasonable price. To be precise, a Michelin guide bib gourmand restaurant must offer two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for around $40. 

2 Vanesa Pizzuto, No Fears, No Chains: Devotional Thoughts for Women.

Nina Pierce

Nina Pierce is a pseudonym for the author, who lives in the United Kingdom.