Stories of love for caregivers

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Many retirees whose nests have long been empty are finding themselves the caretakers of those who cared for them as chicks. Whether at home, or in a nursing home, many of these loved ones can become frustrated with their loss of independence and failing health. By the end of the day, the caregiver's seemingly unappreciated struggle can cause them to feel very alone.

Arlene Sikorski knows what this is like, having helped cared for her own father through the debilitating stages of dementia. In her book titled, Never too late: Stories of faith hope and love, readers who have become all too frequent visitors to nursing homes can find a glimmer of hope and lots of encouragement.

This small and unassuming book, with its hopeful title, packs a punch with every chapter. Each short story that spans just two to four pages elicits powerful emotions. Sikorski shares the personal stories of the people she has encountered in her years as an employee, volunteer and visitor to assisted living communities. Some accounts are humorous while others require a box of tissues.

Intermingled with the personal vignettes, she reflects on God's love and considers what allows individuals to hold on to their faith after witnessing tragedy after tragedy.

Sikorski never wanted to be so familiar with nursing homes. Her involvement and resulting ministry to the elderly is a situation that she came to "kicking and screaming," as she puts it. Over time and through God's help, she has come to see the infinite graces bestowed on the family and friends who find themselves in this painful situation.

She writes, "Nursing homes are not beautiful places … But, I have been taught, by someone far wiser and more compassionate than I am, that there is more love and life and longing hidden underneath all the brokenness."

The "friends" in her stories have a lot to teach us. One of the most important lessons is that it is never too late for someone to surrender themselves to the arms of Jesus' mercy. She has witnessed this firsthand in the residents who have found Jesus in the last year or the last hour of their lives.

Like the assisted living communities described between the covers, readers can visit this book for a couple pages or several chapters again and again, visiting the precious souls that still have so much love within them and so much love to receive.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016