Our niece Ashley, Priscilla’s sister’s daughter, had been talking with us on and off about coming to help with her care. At the end of the summer of 2015, she offered very definitely to come. We felt that the time was right for us to accept. Just a couple of days later, the young woman who’d been helping us for nearly a year with laundry, vacuuming, cleaning, dusting, etc. told us that she was going to take a full-time job and would no longer be able to work for us. God knew what help we needed and put it on Ashley’s heart to offer to come at just the right time.
She arrived in mid-September and immediately was a huge blessing to us. She jumped right in and picked up the work our former helper had been doing. She also took over many tasks that I’d been doing, such as serving meals. This allowed me to concentrate more on Priscilla’s direct care and to conserve my energy a bit.
One day shortly after she arrived, we realized that she’d already finished all the household tasks I would otherwise have had to do. We actually had some free time, so we set up the portable ramp and drove Priscilla out to our back patio to spend two glorious hours out there on a warm, sunny afternoon. It was only the third time she’d been able to go outside all year.
Ashley added many bright touches to our lives. She’d studied floral design and became our “in-house florist,” creating bouquets from the gardens and also caring for arrangements that others sent. She played upbeat music in the background as she did her housework, and she got us hooked on the current season of a singing competition. We’d watch episodes over the Internet, using a laptop computer perched on Priscilla’s knees, and then offer our opinions on the competitors as amateur judges.
Ashley learned some of the direct care tasks herself so that she could do them if needed. She quickly learned to use the wheelchair attendant controls so that either one of us could help Priscilla get around the house. Priscilla eventually needed oxygen all the time, so when I moved her from place to place within the house, Ashley would pick up the long cord that led to the compressor and keep it out from under the wheelchair. She also learned how to do the upper body range-of-motion exercises. We’d do them together, standing on either side of Priscilla, and this took less than half the time it took me alone.
Though Priscilla’s condition was downright scary at times, with prolonged episodes of desperate breathlessness, Ashley always stayed bravely at her post. She kept the house running and never “freaked out.” She knew we’d call her if we needed her to help with any of these episodes, and that otherwise we needed her to keep doing what she was doing.
By mid-October, Priscilla was no longer able to chew and swallow solid food. Ashley, it turned out, was a gifted and adventuresome cook, and she found a variety of creamed soup recipes on the Internet and adapted them for Priscilla’s needs. We hadn’t known we’d need an in-house chef to prepare foods for a specialty diet, but this was one more way, we realized, in which Ashley had come at just the right time. We asked her to create meals that we could all still eat together. As we explained in an email to our Dear Praying Friends, “Jesus said, ‘Life is more than food.’ We find that much of the ‘more than’ comes from sharing the same food at the same table. It’s our goal to keep doing that for as long as possible.”
When Ashley first agreed to come, we arranged for her to go home for two weeks to spend Christmas with her family. She left on December 22 and we expected her back on January 5. We didn’t realize that she’d actually completed her work with us. She’d been an invaluable help to us in so many ways, and beyond that, she’d been a cheerful and encouraging companion throughout those three months. Priscilla said to her when she left, “You’ve made this a happy time.” She told many a friend while she was with us, “Ashley has been an angel sent from God.”