Faith and Family: FBC Trussville member shares firsthand experience

Faith and Family: FBC Trussville member shares firsthand experience

My wife and I had plans for a wonderful retirement — enjoying our children and grandchildren, taking trips and spending time together at our home. However, those plans changed as her dementia became readily apparent and got progressively worse as the years passed.

The dementia diseases are known as the “long goodbye.” As symptoms increase and victims’ actions change, stress on the caregiver, especially a spouse or close family member, increases drastically. I often wondered how a person who did not have the basic assurance of faith in God, His Word and prayer could face such a difficult situation.

A short time after my wife’s death, I felt a tremendous relief. I simply did not realize how great the emotional and physical burdens had been until they were gone. As I began to take stock of my own physical and emotional needs, I realized how important my friends were in everyday life.

My relationship with my son and his family also helped me during that time. In the last few months of his mother’s life, my son had been building an apartment in his home. I had assisted in that project, and a month after her death the apartment became my home. I had the joy of spending more time with my son, his wife and my two grandsons. They included me in many of their normal activities, including family gatherings and vacations. I also made long trips alone to see family in Colorado, New Mexico and Missouri. The long hours driving and the visits were soothing and relaxing for me.

My church life also was a wonderful help. The minister of our senior group at First Baptist Church, Trussville, invited me to accompany him on several day trips in the area and encouraged me to participate in various trips with the seniors of the church. As time went on I was occasionally asked if I intended to get married again. My honest answer was “no.” I was not interested at the time in dating or even thinking of getting married. While spending time around so many other senior adult singles, I had observed several different scenarios of how people dealt with their widowed status. Some appeared happy and content with family and friends nearby. Others seemed desperately lonely and were openly and aggressively searching for a spouse. Some were in between. They were lonely but not yet lonely enough to consider remarrying.

I was in that last category. As the months passed I did not feel overwhelmed by loneliness or desperately in need of a companion. From time to time though when observing a beautiful view or participating in an activity, I would think how nice it would be to have someone with me to share those experiences. Around that time I began to notice an attractive lady at some of our senior activities. I eventually engaged in conversation with her and then asked her to dinner. She had been a widow for several years and lived by herself in her own home. We discovered we had many mutual interests. I determined privately that a decisive test of our continuing relationship would be how she felt about my two small grandsons and how they responded to her. It was an instant success. Naturally my son was more reserved and cautious but he was very supportive of my decisions (see story, page 3). The same was true of our friends and our senior minister.

We prayed about our situation and we asked the Lord for guidance. We soon decided to get married but not everyone was happy with our decision. We encountered strong opposition from her daughter and son-in-law at first though the rest of our family and friends, especially the other seniors, were strongly supportive and pleased. Eventually her family accepted our news as well.

Our decision to marry was made more than eight years ago and we have enjoyed our lives together. We continue to pray and ask for guidance and we both believe we have been especially blessed to find someone to share life with after the loss of our first spouses.          

EDITOR’S NOTE — Jim Hickman and his wife of eight years, Jimmie Ann, live in Clay. They are active members of First Baptist Church, Trussville. Jim’s first wife, Delia, was a school-teacher and musician. They were married for 36 years and active in several churches before her death Dec. 18, 2004. A Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, Jim retired from the U.S. Forest Service in 1993 with 40 years of service, including military.