Category Archive: Family

Preparing for Death of a Spouse: Using Family Medical Care Leave

hospital bed 1My late husband was critically ill. Because of a tracheotomy in his throat, he couldn’t speak for the last two months of his life. Touch became even more important than it had been. Knowing I was there, holding his hand, talking to him, being quiet with him, helped ease his sense of isolation. One day my brother was visiting and encouraged me to go back to my apartment for a much-needed nap. He would stay with Jerry. When I returned about two hours later, I saw my husband, lying in his hospital bed, eyes closed. My brother, sitting at his side reading, was holding Jerry’s hand. That image is indelibly stamped on my mind.

I was blessed in being granted an eight-month leave of absence (quite a bit more than required by law) to care for, advocate for, and be with my husband during his illness–treasured time for both of us. You, too, may be eligible for unpaid Family Medical Leave (FMLA) if your spouse is seriously ill.

FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT (FMLA)

“FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. These employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:

  • for the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;man in wheelchair
  • for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.” https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla

For additional information and eligibility requirements, see https://www.thebalance.com/family-and-medical-leave-act-fmla-2058514?utm_term=what+is+family+leave+act&utm_content=p1-main-1-title&utm_medium=sem&utm_source=google_s&utm_campaign=adid-b2d52b33-ace1-4b0c-a162-3a3e8c075923-0-ab_gsb_ocode-4573&ad=semD&an=google_s&am=broad&q=what+is+family+leave+act&o=4573&qsrc=999&l=sem&askid=b2d52b33-ace1-4b0c-a162-3a3e8c075923-0-ab_gsb.)

While a 12-week Family Medical Leave is generally unpaid, the Leave Act protects your job and requires that your group health benefits remain intact during its duration. Discuss your options with your employer’s Human Resources department. Perhaps you can use some of your sick time for pay during the Leave. Your employer may allow you to work from the hospital or home on some days. If you can’t afford to take unpaid leave, can you arrange for others to check on your spouse during the day?  Talk with his caregivers about effective ways to communicate if you continue working during your loved one’s illness.

This is a difficult, challenging time. I treasure the scripture found in Psalm 56:8:

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.” (NLT)

If God collects our tears, records them in His book, how deeply He must love us.

Next week we’ll discuss financial issues.

Gatherings

Sitting at breakfast, Don and I watched through the window as a quail flew onto our fence. Another flitted up behind the first; and a third soon joined them. We often see groups of quail, eight or ten little ones scurrying about collecting whatever worms or insects they find, while two or three adult quail sit on the fence, watching for trouble, guarding those focused on the earth.

My dear friend Susan Swain captured the beauty of our need for each other in her alcohol ink painting “Gathering.” (used by permission).

We gather for many reasons.

  • Celebrations like weddings and holidays.  On the July 4th weekend Twin Lakes Church provided a petting zoo, bounce house and slide, hot dogs and watermelon for all. Just a reason to be together as part of the family of God.

    Tents going up for conference

    Tents going up for conference

  • People of Faith gatherings – before moving to the Soquel hills, we were warned that this season was crazy along San Jose-Soquel Road because of the attendees at the Seventh Day Adventist conference grounds just down the road from us. In addition to the many folks who come with fifth wheels or trailers, rows upon rows of camper tents are put up in preparation, along with enormous white meeting tents. But we’ve always enjoyed this time. True, we’re retirees and don’t often have to be somewhere at a specific time. But the conference provides their own people to direct foot and vehicular traffic, and we’ve never been held up long. Rather, it’s lovely to see knots of people tailgating for meals around various trailers, walking in with their Bibles for worship and teaching.
  • Memorials – Last week I mentioned my brother-in-law, Wally, whose memorial we had attended. As family gathered, we told stories, shared memories, and reconnected with each other. We come from a variety of political, faith, and personal backgrounds; but we came together to honor one we all love.
  • And in tragedies like the recent shootings of young black men as well as the five police officers gunned down in Dallas; destruction by earthquake, fire or flood; we gather to grieve, to support, to help where we can, whether that’s rebuilding homes, or walking alongside those who are creating a new normal, changed forever because of loss.

We’re not created to live life solo, but in community. Whether married or single, we need each other–for fellowship, forgiveness, healing, accountability, support, help. “And one standing alone can be attached and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT.

Who are some of the cords in your life?

Remembering, with Thanks

O say does that star-spangled banner still wave ...

O say does that star-spangled banner still wave …

This weekend we thank those who have served our country, giving time, commitment, sometimes their lives in order that we could remain free. While I appreciate all who have served honorably, I am thinking especially today of our World War II veterans, who are slowly leaving us. My brother-in-law, Wally Loewen, is among those. Wally passed away just over a week ago at the age of 95, joining his Savior, Jesus Christ, his beloved wife Esther and their son Paul, both of whom preceded Wally in death three years ago.

And while I was raised in a conscientious objector tradition among peace-loving Mennonites, I respect and appreciate all who served in a variety of ways to maintain our freedom to worship, think, and speak freely. That thanks extends beyond the service men and women to the families who prayed, believed, hoped, loved, and sometimes buried them.

My husband believed it was his responsibility to serve his country, joined the Army, and trusted God to place him where he should be. Billeted in the Medical corps, Don went to sanitary technician school, where he learned how to keep food, hospitals and fields sanitized to inhibit the spread of disease. In chauffeur school, he also learned to drive all sorts of transport vehicles. During and after the end of the war, Don spent sixteen months in Okinawa, working primarily with mosquito abatement to prevent malaria spreading among the troops and on the island.

His older brother, Wally, went into alternative service where he made prosthetic limbs for returning servicemen. When Wally was transferred to Camp Barkley near Abilene, Texas, his new bride Esther didn’t know where he’d been sent. Determined to start her marriage WITH her husband, Esther persisted until she learned Wally’s new posting.  She promptly boarded a bus and followed, surprising him on her arrival. She repeated that persistence when he was transferred to Ogden, Utah. Gutsy lady, committed to her man and her marriage.

There’s an even greater freedom that Jesus came to give us. Galatians 5:1 states “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” His sacrifice frees us from the burden and power of sin and guilt, from the necessity of following a set of rules that bind us rather than setting us free. His atonement brings us into relationship with the God of the universe, Savior, Lord.

So this weekend, my thanks are first to Jesus Christ, who set me free from the power of sin and death; and also to those men and women who have faithfully and honorably served our country to maintain the freedoms we still enjoy.

Who are you remembering and honoring this weekend?

Promises Kept

DSC00203

“Love, love will keep us together …”

Just below a beautiful cathedral atop a hill in Linz, Austria, is a chainlink fence covered with padlocks. Each is a symbol of love between two individuals. Since the keys have been thrown away, the myth is that as long as the padlock is secure, the love will remain. The couple are locked together in love.

In 1975, the Captain and Tennille sang Neil Sedaka’s “Love, love will keep us together …” but sadly, divorce has separated the Captain and Tennille. So, what is it that will keep us together?

Promises made ... and kept

Promises made … and kept

72 years ago yesterday, June 25th, my parents married in a small town in Manitoba, Canada. They had high hopes–family, and domestic mission work in an even smaller village where three of their children, including me, began our childhoods. Despite Dad’s shy nature, he pushed beyond his comfort zone to preach on street corners and teach Bible school; while Mom’s beautiful, well-trained soprano solos, which she accompanied on her accordion, invited passersby to stay and listen. Together they invested in the lives of children and teenagers, some of whom are still in touch with my mother today. Their love and commitment bore fruit.

And there were sacrifices … Mom put the possibility of a music career on the back burner to be wife and mother first. Perhaps not necessary in our day and age, but in their time and culture, more so. Dad returned to school to become a carpenter. When the frigid Manitoba winters became too difficult, Mom left her close-knit parents and siblings in Winnipeg to move with Dad to California, where the housing industry was booming. Dad obtained his contractor’s license and went on to build beautiful, luxury homes in the Los Gatos/Saratoga sections of the Bay Area. Mom taught music to private students, raised four children and made a warm home into which she and Dad also welcomed all our friends. The Froeses’ was a good place to hang out.

Friday nights were family night. Since we didn’t get a television until I was in high school, we played games together, made popcorn, watched 16mm movies borrowed from the library (we had the projector), and laughed and prayed together. As soon as my younger brother, Bob, turned five we taught him to make the popcorn, thereby working ourselves out of that job!

When Dad was eighty-five he was diagnosed with acute leukemia, and passed into glory exactly a month later. One night he asked Mom if they were going “home” that night. “Not yet,” she replied. “But Jesus is building a mansion for you in heaven” (John 14:2). A builder at heart, he looked up. “I’d like to see the specs.” He asked if she would go with him. “I’m not coming now,” Mom told him through her tears, “but I’ll join you there soon.”

This is a promise kept. A faithful marriage through good times and hard, joy and sacrifice, for fifty-eight years. No padlock kept them together, but their promise to each other before God. Promises made and kept. And reunion to come.

Who has been an example to you of promises made and kept? How has that person/persons impacted your life?

 

What I Learned about God from my Father

I am blessed. Through the grace of God and absolutely no merit of my own, I had a terrific father. Perfect, no. We had our tiffs. But I always knew he loved me and wanted the best for me. Here are a few of my memories.

One of my favorite photos of Dad and Mom. Dad's been in heaven fourteen years already.

One of my favorite photos of Dad and Mom. Dad’s been in heaven fourteen years already.

  • Dad held me, his four-year-old, on his lap. The storm raged outside our living room window as, together, we watched the stunning pink and blue Northern Lights flit across the Manitoba sky. I was terrified, yet felt completely safe in my daddy’s arms. I have no idea what the rest of the family was doing but that memory will never leave me. I’ve been in life storms since where, but for the assurance that I was being held in my Savior’s care, I would have despaired.
  • Dad’s 1000-watt grin and clear grey eyes often reflected his love, his pride and joy in life choices I made. When I was growing up he punished me (which evidently I deserved far more often than I thought) when I disobeyed. But Dad wouldn’t let me go until he explained the importance of obedience–to him and Mom, and more so, to Jesus; and until we hugged each other. And it had to be real, not a fake ‘let-me-out-of-here’ hug.
  • Dad led our family in reading the Bible and praying together regularly, showing by example how important God’s Word was to our home.
  • Sometimes Dad put me in my place. Once he told me I was getting very bossy. Had to consider that one!
  • By his example, Dad helped me understand what it meant to have a man treat me with respect and kindness, and what it meant to be a lady. When I was a teenager Dad took me on dates where the two of us connected over cokes and conversation. I’ve been married to two wonderful men, clearly influenced by Dad’s influence.

In so many ways my father taught me how to live–with faith in Christ, integrity, respect.

Then, in his last month on earth, Dad taught me how to die. When a hospice social worker asked whether there was anyone he needed to make things right with, or if he desired any spiritual counsel, Dad responded: “I’ve tried to live my life in such a way that when there was a problem, I worked to make it right as quickly as possible; and I’m confident the God who has led me for 85 years will meet me on the other side.”

What if you didn’t have a good father, or were abandoned or orphaned early? Pastor Rene reminded us tonight that, no matter what kind of earthly father you had, we have a heavenly Father whose love is complete, who has promised He will never leave us.

Psalm 68:5-6 (NLT) says:

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
    this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God places the lonely in families;
    he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!