I recently visited Alaska, which has been on my bucket list. Thanks to my daughter, wife, and Mom’s caregiver I was able to leave my mother for a week. Though I’ve always wanted to visit the forty-ninth state, I never planned to visit during the winter. However, the opportunity arose, so I snatched it. My brother and I went there for the last few days of November, and my trip lasted until December fourth.
Though most tourist sites and many remote gas stations were closed, there was plenty of nature to appreciate. On our first day, we traveled north from Anchorage to Denali, and we were fortunate to see the mountain. Only thirty percent of the tourists see the peak due to fog and clouds. The locals call the unlucky ones the seventy-percent club. However, the clouds parted briefly, and to our excitement, we could see the snow-capped peak.
On our second day, we left our hotel in Anchorage heading toward the Whittier Tunnel. At 2.5 miles long, it is the second longest tunnel in North America. Construction was hastened during WWII so ships could offload cargo at the port town of Whittier to avoid Japanese submarines in more dangerous waters. In the mid-sixties, the railroad began to load vehicles on flatbed railcars so they could be shuffled through the tunnel. It was later modified and opened to one-way vehicle traffic in the year 2000.
Our plans were altered by a 7.0 earthquake when we were just a mile from the tunnel entrance. We opted to turn around and try another day after a snow plow operator warned us that we were in a potential rockslide and/or avalanche area. The expression on his face told us, he didn’t want to be there, either. We quickly turned around and drove south to Homer arriving after the tsunami warning was canceled. The next day we visited Seward and then headed back to Whittier to pass through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel.
It was open to the almost nonexistent traffic; however, the area had fourteen-hundred tremors since the quake. I wouldn’t have proceeded inside if I had that piece of information. However, it was not until we returned to Anchorage and watched the local news that we learned the police were advising people not to travel on the Seward highway (our route) due to potential rockslides and avalanches. I also later read, though the tunnel wasn’t damaged during the earthquake, it had shed ten-ton slabs of rock a few years ago. As I mentioned, the shaft was open, though only one vehicle of novices entered, which was us. I can imagine the lone toll operator thinking, “Somebody has to go through to see if it’s safe. Might as well be those two.” He probably called someone on the other side to see if we exited.
So, our adventure began. Once entering, I noticed it’s depth. I couldn’t see the other end. Two and a half miles is a long way to look down a narrow tube. They said it usually takes ten minutes to traverse the tunnel, but, since we were the only auto inside, we made it in six. I felt relieved after a while when I could see the light at the other end. Thankfully, it wasn’t a train headlight but daylight peeping at me.
About halfway through, I thought of the common phrase, “I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.” In our journey as caregivers, we can’t see the light at the end of our tunnel. I’ve spoken to many who have been in their situation for eight or ten years, some even longer. Recently a lady, whose husband is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, asked me, “How long will this last?” Unfortunately, no one knows.
In Psalms 77:7 the Psalmist wrote, “Will the Lord reject forever? And will he never be favorable again?”
It can seem like forever when dealing with the everyday struggle of caring for a dementia sufferer. In fact, most (if not all) of us at some point feel resentment toward our loved one for our plight. Some people blame God, too. We shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves because those type feelings are normal. Even though we caregivers are performing superhuman feats, we are just human, after all. Wanting relief from a painful situation is normal. Most likely our family, friends, and neighbors won’t understand our feelings because they have never experienced the situation
However, it helps to discuss our feelings with a counselor, pastor, or support group. Another option is to converse with someone who has been through the same experience—even if it’s just a hotline. Their knowledge and understanding will encourage us. Speaking of comfort, as always, I suggest leaning on God. Though we may blame Him at times, He understands our suffering. When we call on Him, he comforts us in our time of distress.
Psalms 30:5 explains, “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.”
There is light at the end of the tunnel, even if we don’t presently see it.