I was reading over at my friend Brooke’s fab cooking blog this morning as she talked about her father-in-law’s care for her and her family. Of course, it made me want to share a little about mine, too. I talk about my father-in-law a lot to other people. Just yesterday I was telling a friend about what he did to help me through the challenge of Jason’s car accident. He is a strategist. He is an optimist. Therefore, he believes that any problem can be worked through and overcome if you just have a good plan, a good attitude and are willing to work.
When Jason had his car accident, he was already a quadriplegic. He was driving his handicap-accessible van when the front left tire blew, sending him across the freeway. He spent 13 months in the hospital and the next 6 years in surgeries, therapy and more hospital time. During those first dark days, it was clear that I needed some help to navigate our way through the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental stress of the situation. Stephen set up a plan for me…what I could and could not do in terms of caring for Jason. He encouraged me to take breaks, go on little vacations and spend only a certain number of hours at the hospital each day so that I could combat the longevity of the situation. The family rallied around to help so that I didn’t have to do it all myself.
Mostly, he gave me permission to let go of the guilt that comes from being a caregiver – when you are wondering if you are caring enough. Giving enough. Doing enough. There is always more that you CAN do but I learned that just because there is more to do doesn’t mean I’m supposed to do it.
I wish everyone could learn what I did that year. I was 26 years old and I had the blessing of having one of the most empowering lessons of my life engrained into my very character. Because of my father-in-law’s wisdom and nurturing nature, I learned that I didn’t have to do it all. I did what I could and set aside the guilt that I wasn’t doing everything. We women are good at guilt. What we aren’t so good at is working hard and then saying that it is enough and feeling ok about it.
I wish everyone had a Stephen Hall in there lives to help them learn that. To lean on and counsel with and go to Thanksgiving dinner with when everyone else in your family is miles away or in ICU. My father-in-law is Jason’s hero and mentor and he’s become one of mine, too. I am certain that I was given the gift of a great relationship with my parents-in-law because God knew that I would need to go arm-in-arm with them to navigate the challenges of caring for a quadriplegic.
I love my family – both sides of it. I am lucky to be surrounded by brothers and dads who do all they can to fulfill their responsibilities of being great fathers. This is just one of my thank yous to them. And for you, Stephen, thanks for being the kind of father-in-law that is worth writing about.