In March of 2018, my father-in-law, Gale, suffered a massive stroke that has since left him unable to fully communicate verbally or through written means. For a man who built his career on his ability to think outside of the box and be the life of any event he attended, this stroke has impacted him significantly. Many things he previously loved to do have had to be set aside in the last months. His life has changed dramatically.
When his stroke occurred, my husband was staying at his dad’s house for a work meeting. My husband will tell you that “in the time it took to brush his teeth, everything changed.” And, it’s true. He was down the hall getting ready for bed, when my father-in-law had his stroke. As we come up on one year since his stroke, I have been noticing how those in our family are different now. Because one man’s stroke has had a ripple effect of change on many people.
There have been obvious changes like my husband filling in not only his own role within the family business, but also his dad’s. But there have been other changes as well. Refocusing of family relationships and time spent with family holding more of a priority. And just as my father-in-law is learning who he is now in this post-stroke season of life, we are all learning with him.
In myself I have noticed more internal changes. My husband’s time, both physically and mentally, this last year has needed to be devoted to operating the family company. I am grateful that he is able to manage this all for not only the company’s sake, but for its employees and our family. This time away is not always easy for any of us. But I have been looking for the silver lining in all of this, as is my nature, and I think I have found it.
I am typically a pretty independent person who prefers to just take care of things myself. But, I am realizing that I have not been able to maintain this do-it-myself attitude this last year. I have had to learn to ask for help from others, and that is a humbling experience for me. It is easy to ask my husband for help in many areas, and he is always willing to step in with help or sound advice. However this past year, I have had to ask friends to pick up our boys or take them to different school events on many occasions. In the past, I would have only asked this of friends or neighbors if I was in a predicament like a dead car battery or something along those lines. I have also had to ask to step out of some of my hosting duties for church gatherings in our home. I love having people over, but this year it has felt at times more like an obligation than a joy. A dear friend recognized this and graciously offered to open her home for a few weeks at a time to take the task off of my hands. Lastly, I have learned to ask for prayer from friends. It can make you feel vulnerable to ask for prayer. To admit to a friend that you are struggling to keep things together or badly want healing for a family member has not always made me comfortable.
Through all of this asking, I have learned that friends and family are always willing to help. You literally just need to ask. They won’t grumble or complain. They won’t put you off. They will set down what they are doing and help. They will pray for you and then follow up to let you know they’ve continued praying for you long after you asked. So my silver lining self has found the most beautiful message in this last year in my friendships. Specifically, by recognizing that God has placed these friends in my life for a purpose beyond coffee dates and fun conversations. Friends fulfill an important role in my life, and I am learning to see that even more so now.
As our family rounds the one year mark of Gale's stroke, we are all so grateful that he is here with us today. Any number of events could have made his outcome far different. But it didn't happen that way. He is here with us, and we can continue growing closer together as a family and creating new memories with him. All of us learning, shifting and adapting together.