Traveling together – alone

by Carolyn Ros

We do not start out on the journey called ‘marriage’ with the thought that there may be a season of having to travel alone. Johan and I had met, fallen in love and married with a vision to be a team that would work with young people until we were old and gray. From one day to the next, this dream came crashing down. A diagnosis of a brain tumor intrinsically changed our lives. The ensuing operation left Johan with a limited, fragmented vocabulary and the loss of memory of who we were as a couple and family. The children were 3,4, and 9 years old at the time.

The questions that flooded my soul revolved around how to parent when my spouse was physically present but mentally unable to interact? How do I regain a sense of the future, when everyday was reduced to bare survival? How do I impart hope to my children when my own battle with hopelessness was raging? Was it possible to instill a sense of respect in the children for their father, when he continued to forget who they were?

There were no simple answers or formulas to impart, yet the Lord did begin to show a few keys that would move us forward in life.
Having been youth pastors in a large church, I knew that the children should not be my source of comfort or counsel. They had enough to cope with, without me as a Mom, trying to regain my emotional footing at their expense.

Children have a need for love, stability, predictability, safety, fun and hope despite the uncertainty of life’s circumstances. I realized that the children would never learn to honor Johan if I did not treat him with respect and honor, despite my own pain and frustration of not being known or understood. I needed to open my heart to the Lord’s comfort and healing presence so that I could impart this hope to the children. Hope- not denial of the pain or disappointment regarding Johan’s limitations, but hope based on encountering Jesus in the midst of it all. It was a fine line of taking the leadership of the family, without being pushy, domineering or a control-freak. I cannot honestly say that I always succeeded, but asking forgiveness opens the opportunity to start again.

A prayer began to be formed in my heart:
“Lord, I don’t know how to do this thing called ‘life’. Show me how! Show me how to love when there is no response. Show me how to teach the children about You, even when our prayers seemingly remain unanswered. Show me how to create an atmosphere of welcome, kindness, fun and peace in the midst of life that seems more like quick-sand than solid ground”.

Impartation to children is more ‘caught’ than ‘taught’, as they watch actions more than the words.

I needed to create a daily space to draw freshness in my own spiritual walk with the Lord in order to have the resources to pass on to the children. Scriptures began to be the prayers that I prayed over our lives. I asked the Lord to turn the circumstances into ‘gold’ in the lives of each of the children. I also needed to speak words of life and blessing over my spouse. The ‘temptation’ I had to deal with was comparing our life with the lives of ‘whole’ families. Once this comparison kicked in, it was so easy to get caught up in the ‘I wish’ and ‘woe is me’ cycle of self-pity. In the simple act of repentance and relinquishment, a sparkle of hope was born. Little steps, daily steps, courageous steps to trust the Lord could give significance to our lives again, was born.

Years down the road, a son was born who became a harbinger of hope as his birth helped ‘awaken’ in Johan the memory of the other children.
We are years down the road now. The children have grown, married and the next generation has arrived on the scene.
God is a God of redemption, and now Johan has the opportunity to interact with our grandchildren in a way that he was not able to do with our children.
The Lord has given ‘beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness’.