The eight of us—my mother-in-law, Judy; husband, Eric; our five kids and I— would be spending the week there. It was our first vacation in more than two years. I should’ve been excited. Instead, all I felt was crushing guilt.
My father-in-law, Larry, had recently passed away. We’d helped care for him over the past couple years. I’d spent the weeks since his death feeling ashamed of myself for my relief at no longer having to look after Larry, a man I loved as if he were my own father. As I surveyed the sparkling waters of the lake, my kids chattering excitedly in the background, all I could think was I’m a terrible person. I don’t deserve to enjoy this.
In January 2015, Larry had suffered the first in a series of strokes that left him completely incapacitated. Before his strokes, he was kind, capable and caring. He had a sharp wit and was always looking out for us. The strokes took away most of the man we once knew, leaving Larry confused, irritable and unable to walk or even stand on his own. It was heartbreaking for us all. Larry and Judy lived across the street from us. An in-home nurse wasn’t financially feasible for our family, so Eric and I played a key role in Larry’s care.
It turned out to be harder than any of us anticipated. Every morning began with Eric rushing across the street to help Judy bathe and dress Larry. One of Eric’s brothers would come by to help him into bed each evening. The other siblings lived farther away and would help out on the weekends.
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