Most caregivers are readily aware of their own mortality. Concerns about provision for our loved ones (who struggle with mental illness) after we ourselves are gone hover on the all-too-quickly-approaching horizon. Even when we are young-ish. Even when we are healthy. Even when we have ample resources for the future. When we are no longer able to be there for them, who will care for them like we do? Who will love them as we have? Who will understand them as we have learned to?
This came home to me recently when I faced my own cancer diagnosis. In the weeks before test results reassured us of a solid treatment plan and a very optimistic prognosis, I prayed daily for Douglas’ future. Despite the fact that he is very stable these days and has many other family members who will love him through the years to come, I still found myself needing reassurance that he will have appropriate attention when I am gone.
In support groups for families who care for loved ones living with mental health disorders I hear those same fears voiced often. We discuss some of the practical matters, like setting up a trust and designating trustees. We talk about some of the emotional matters, like the already familiar pain of seeing how “the system” fails to address our loved ones’ needs. And sometimes we pause to consider spiritual matters.
For example, we look at The New Living Translation rendering of Acts 13:36: “after David had done the will of God in his own generation, he died.” God had a plan for David’s life. It was to be accomplished within the bounds of the generation in which he was born. When that plan was completed, David’s life was also finished. Was there more to do? Yes. Were there people who depended on David? Yes. But David’s role was over. It was time for him to die and for Solomon to build the temple.
More from the book of Acts: There we find Peter performing miracles of healing in the same places where Jesus had also healed the sick. When Jesus died, there were still many needs to meet, much more work to be done. But those miracles weren’t for Jesus to do. As he said to the woman at the well, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.” (John 4:34 NLT); then at the cross, he uttered, “It is finished!” after which, “he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30 NLT) When Jesus died, was God done healing the sick or extending mercy to the poor? No. But following Christ’s death and resurrection came the ascension, and then came the Holy Spirit, who empowered others—the disciples—to carry out and carry on the mission of Christ.
So as the reality of our mortality taunts us, we set up the legal documents and tend as best we can to other practical matters. We grapple with the horrors of a failed system and try to mitigate its future inadequacies. In the end though, I believe we can trust that the One who called us to care for our loved ones in our generation will raise up others to carry on into the next. And He will empower them to do so, just as He has guided and strengthened us.