Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

Religion is very important to Robert. Growing up, our parents went through a “church phase” (it was the 70’s and there were a lot of phases). We went to church fairly regularly for a while – trying out different faiths – but I wouldn’t say either of our parents were “religious.” Mom grew up in a devoutly Catholic family but, for whatever reason, did not continue those rituals when raising us kids (although, she hedged her bets when we were babies by making sure we were all baptized in the Catholic Church).

Somehow, with obviously little help from our parents, Robert has found great comfort, peace and acceptance by going to church. Robert says grace before every meal, says “God Bless You” to everyone he meets and prays before going to sleep at night. He tells me it takes him 30 minutes to say all of his nighttime prayers (knowing Robert, he prays for everyone he knows, anyone he happened to meet that day and, just for good measure, for him to win a few more card games). He gives my Polish Catholic grandmother (a woman who is never without her Rosary Beads) a run for Most Religious Person in Our Family.

Before I moved Robert into a care facility, he went to church every Sunday and participated in weekly bible studies as well. It was not unheard of for him to be at church events two to three times a week. I know this group of people was very important to Robert but I was soured on his church several years ago when they advised him to stop taking his seizure medication because he was “cured.”

Robert ended up in the hospital because he wouldn’t stop seizing. I’m sorry but that is just irresponsible and I tend to hold a grudge. (Yeah, yeah, I know – if only I was more religious I would be more forgiving.).

Still, I know Robert’s relationship with God is very important. I didn’t stop him from going to church (the same church with these “well-meaning” friends) but told him he can’t ever stop taking his medication again unless the order comes from his doctor. (I may have made a few calls to “explain” this to his friends as well.) It never happened again and Robert continued his devotion to his faith.

Robert had to leave that church when I moved him closer to me (another reason I sincerely felt awful taking him away from his community). I was grateful his Old Home arranged to have a variety of church groups visit to give services each Sunday.

Robert went to them “religiously.” (Come on! I couldn’t resist).

At the New Home, it has been difficult for him to participate in bible study or to go to church services. I called a couple of nearby churches to see if they could visit with Robert on occasion at the New Home but I never heard more than “someone will get back to you.” I am not a church person so I do not regularly attend service on Sunday. However, today is Easter so I wanted Robert to go to church. I knew it would mean a lot to him and he was very excited when I told him we would be going to church, coming to our house afterwards and then out for Easter dinner.

My daughter joined us for the day, helping Robert in and out of the car and was even our own personal “paparazzi” – taking numerous pictures until I was finally satisfied with one.

We found a seat in the back of the church, at the end of the pew (close to an exit near the men’s room – you have to be prepared!). Robert sat down and took out his Bible. It was the most engaged I have seen Robert in a long time. Robert greeted everyone with a “Happy Easter” and shook hands with everyone who came by to welcome us. He stood for long periods during the service (which is not easy for him) and sang the hymns. Robert followed along in his Bible when passages were read. Robert clapped to the music the best he could. He even outstretched his arms when he was so moved. (My role was to place one hand on his back or hold on to his arm for the dual purpose of making sure he didn’t tip over and to be alerted to him having a seizure. Neither of which occurred, thank goodness).

Robert asked to speak to the Pastor after the service but it was very crowded making it difficult to do so (Robert didn’t just want to say hi. He wanted to tell him a story which could take quite a while.). Robert was not about to leave the church until he spoke to the Pastor but I convinced him I would call and have the Pastor arrange a home visit. This satisfied Robert and we were able to leave.

We came home and Robert ate lunch while watching an Andy Griffith Show marathon in my recliner. We played our usual three games of cards and then went out for Easter dinner with my husband’s family. Between cards and dinner, Robert had a seizure and fell in the bathroom. He landed between the toilet and the counter and I somehow managed to get him on the floor until the seizure stopped. (He said his usual “hello” when he came out of it which always reminds me of Frosty the Snowman saying “Happy Birthday!” when he wakes up.). After a very full and satisfying day, my daughter and I took Robert home in time to get ready for bed.

After seeing Robert so happy at church, I promised myself I will do better about taking him to weekly services. I will also make sure the Pastor can stop by for a home visit. As the Pastor said today in his sermon, God doesn’t care what religion you are, He just wants a relationship with you. Robert may not be able to attend service once a week and his epilepsy may not have been “cured,” but his relationship with God is unwavering.

Even though I’m not really an organized religion kind of person, I find Robert’s faith pretty inspiring.

Happy Easter.

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