I fell in love with her forty years ago. Our relationship has been stormy at times, and we’ve experienced happiness that only love can bring. We faced struggles together, shared dreams and forged an unbreakable bond. She has been at my side when I faced death, and she has prayed me back to life. She has lifted me from the floor when I could not stand, and eased my pain at its highest points. My wife is a gift from God. I haven’t always treated her as the gift she is, and those memories make me sad, but redouble my efforts to let her know she is the most important person in my life.
Sue has been at my side the majority of my life and she has cared for me every moment of everyday. Sometimes I don’t say thank you for what she’s done for me, but after forty years we’ve learned to talk honestly and kindly to each other. It’s in those moments that I remember, or she reminds me, what she has done to ease my pain all these years. Every person who has chronic illness or pain has a caregiver. They may not call themselves caregivers but that’s who they are. She rubs my leg when the ache is so bad that I can’t stand. She holds my hand as I walk down a gentle slope, reminds me to take the medicine, makes sure I rest and a dozen other things that make my life so much better. It hasn’t been easy for her or us, but we agree that we’d never leave or want to be without the other.
I live today because of my wife. She has pushed the doctors to look for alternatives that can ease my pain and she’s told me to get up when I’ve wanted to stay down. I cannot imagine life without her. I love the feel of her hand as it folds inside of mine and the encouragement she gives me on difficult days. She’s gone into the bathroom and prayed to God to give her the strength to keep on helping me, but she’s never complained once about being there when I needed her.
Caregivers are the forgotten heroes. They are always in the background listening to people ask their suffering partner how they’re doing, what they can do for us, and that they’re praying for us. When I say "us" I mean the people with the illness or pain, not the people who take care of us. I want people to look past me and wrap their arms around Sue and ask her what they can do for her and that they’re praying for her. Unfortunately, she and all the other caregivers are invisible. They look healthy and happy. No one sees their sadness, frustration or fear in losing the one they love. Caregivers are grateful that people are concerned but they can feel lonely when forgotten. I’ve asked our Pastor to do a message on caregivers, but other than Jesus I could’t find one. I mentioned this to my wife and she pointed to the Book of Ruth.
In the time of the judges, a man from Bethlehem married a woman named Naomi. During a time of famine they and their two sons left Judah to find food in Moab. Ruth’s husband died and her two sons married Moab women. When her two sons died, she and her two daughter-in-laws were left alone. Naomi received news that God had blessed Judah and there was now food in Judah. She decided to leave Moab and return to her home. She encouraged her daughter-in-laws to stay in Moab and find husbands. Both daughter-in-laws were distressed when Naomi decided to return to Judah. As they wept together, Orpah decided to stay in Moab but Ruth refused to leave Naomi alone. Ruth told Naomi that wherever she went Ruth would go with her. Naomi’s home would be her home and her people would be Ruth’s people.
Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem at the time of the barley harvest. Ruth asked Naomi for permission to go and glean the fields after the reapers gathered the crop. Boaz noticed Ruth and asked about her. He learned that she was a Moabite who would not leave her mother-in-law to live alone. Ruth approached and asked Boaz if she could please glean his fields. Boaz told her that he heard how she cared for her mother-in-law and had left her home and people to care for Naomi. He told her to glean only his field and stay close to the other young women. The men were instructed to not touch her and she could drink from the water they drew from the well. He told her that the Lord of Israel would repay and reward her by placing her under the wings of those with whom she now worked and lived. After Ruth departed, Boaz instructed his men to allow bundles of barley to fall on the ground so Ruth could find them.
When Ruth returned to Naomi with the abundance of barley, Naomi instructed her on how to approach Boaz. Naomi told Ruth to anoint herself, put on her best garment and go to the threshing floor. Ruth was not to make herself known until Boaz was finished with his evening meal. That night, Ruth slept at Boaz’s feet. Boaz was startled at midnight when he noticed someone was at his feet. He asked who was there and Ruth told him it was she, his maidservant who now lived under his wing. Later in the day Boaz gave Ruth six ephors of grain and told her to take it home to Naomi. Upon returning home that day, Naomi instructed Ruth to sit still because Boaz would not rest until he concluded the matter that day.
Boaz went to the city gate and waited for Naomi’s closest relative. When her relative arrived, Boaz told him about Naomi and that she had sold his brother’s land. By law and tradition, her relative could claim the land and Naomi if he bought back the land. Her relative was willing to buy the land but when he learned that he also had to take Naomi and Ruth he declined to buy the land. Boaz, in front of ten elders, asked to buy the land and take Naomi and Ruth into his household. The relative agreed and affirmed the decision by trading sandals in front of the elders. Naomi and Ruth were now legally under the care of Boaz.
Boaz took Ruth as his wife. She gave birth to a son named Obed, the father of Jesse who was the father of David. It can be said that the House of David was born in the womb of Ruth, the caregiver of Naomi. This simple story shows the effect and influence of caregivers. Ruth was not looking for fame or fortune, her only concern was the wellbeing of Naomi. From that concern and love the nation of Israel was formed by a man after God’s own heart.
The next time you meet a caregiver remember Ruth and the consequences of her love. Then remember that the care and love of Ruth is no different from today’s caregivers. Please do not let them be invisible any longer. One caregiver changed history, all caregivers change lives.