My Brother’s Keeper…
I am the oldest of three brothers. While I live here in Indiana, both of my siblings live near the Illinois River in towns southwest of Chicago. From my earliest recollections, my maternal grandfather trained me to be able to eventually watch over the family when he, my grandmother and my parents were no longer on this earth. Our mother, the last to pass away, left us 20 years ago this coming September. This preparation, from my earliest years, has served me well throughout the decades as I am now a grandfather myself and many family leadership decisions still fall on me.
That has been on my mind lately as Doug and I have gladly taken care of our youngest brother, Ken, since Mom’s death and we are getting ready for a real transition in Ken’s life. I have dreaded this change for years, but I know that it is for the best. For starters, Ken needs assistance on a daily basis and while he can remember what happened when we were kids, it is a struggle for him to live in the present. Rather than focus on how to accomplish something, Ken tends to dwell on why something can’t happen – including change.
He lives in a mobile home that he has had since before Mom’s passing – and after all these years, it needs repairs that just don’t justify continuing to pour resources into it. Doug and I realize that Ken needs additional help and Doug, along with his wife, Jill, have been instrumental in overcoming almost insurmountable odds to find an appropriate apartment for Ken to spend the next years of his life.
Doug, Jill, Janet and I have all worked hard to set up this move and it was, in fact, while Doug and I were preparing the apartment for Ken’s arrival that I was injured a little more than two weeks ago. Almost every day there is something else that needs to be done – a new form to fill out, a verification of some kind, the acquisition of furniture and dishes and silverware and every other thing one needs to set up a new home.
Anyway, during the last several days we have arrived at the time that the move is to take place. Everyone was ready – except Ken, that is. He just can’t fathom leaving his beloved mobile home. Mind you, I can’t even begin to describe the necessity of moving him. And when we think of the countless hours that we have prepared for this, it is disappointing to face this final obstacle. Among the other issues is the fact that Ken has limited mobility. This is the result of several broken legs from falls over the last 20 years and it is very difficult for him to move from place to place.
He has had numerous surgeries throughout the years and we still can’t seem to get him out of pain. I didn’t have much of an appreciation for this until I severed a tendon in my leg within earshot of his new front door. Unfortunately, this now leaves most of the “heavy lifting” for Doug to complete. And I hate that I am out of commission at this most important time.
Last night Doug moved Ken into the new place. We spoke after the move took place and Doug was exhausted from the experience. And we quickly saw that even with our best laid plans, there would be much more to do. Handicap railings, new phones and additional help at home are all in the near future. Then, of course, we want to tackle the issue of his inability to walk without discomfort.
Doug and I have been diligent in our desire to seek a better life for our youngest brother. Yet, even with all that effort, I have been consumed with how our parents and grandparents would assess our efforts. And it has been made more difficult by the fact that Ken is so resistant. We have been challenged again and again with whether we should do what we honestly believe is the best thing to do or whether we should honor our brother’s wishes. The journey has not been unlike the problems that people face when are forced to deal with elder care decisions – or other similarly difficult forks in the road. With all our hearts, Doug, our wives and I all believe we are acting in Ken’s best interest.
The ability to continue to live independently, the acknowledgment that even more assistance is needed and other real world necessities continue to haunt us. And every night as my head hits the pillow, I wonder what Mom and Dad would think of our efforts. I hope that they would be pleased. As I fell asleep last night, I left a text for Ken, letting him know how much we loved him. I tried to call him, his first night in his new apartment, but he didn’t, or wouldn’t, answer the phone. I know that he is annoyed with both Doug and me.
The verse for this evening is one that just screams to be used. We are told by Moses, the author of Genesis, in Genesis 4:9, “Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I think the answer, in God’s eyes, is obvious – a resounding YES. We are to devote ourselves to the service of others – especially our families.
My encouragement this evening is that God wants each of us to watch over and look out for our families – no matter how difficult that may be – or how unappreciated we may feel. My prayer is that you will turn to God for that extra measure of grace and mercy when the time comes for you to step way outside your comfort zone and make decisions that could run contrary to those you truly love; when you are trying to act in their best interest. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…