Betty Watson knows first-hand how important it is take a break when you are a caregiver. Betty began attending the LSS caregiver discussion group in 2010, and in May, 2011 she determined she would accept volunteer respite help. She came to understand how it would benefit both herself and her husband, Dalton.
She wanted a male volunteer to help her husband when she was not home, but at the time there were no male volunteers available. LSS put an ad in Betty’s church bulletin, and within several days Gene Baasen stepped forward.
Gene took training offered by LSS at the Hutchinson Baptist Church, and was introduced the same day to Betty and Dalton Watson. They set up a weekly schedule so that Gene could provide respite while Betty took a break by shopping, walking and having coffee with friends.
Changing health led Dalton to the local nursing home in the fall of 2011, where Gene continued to visit him and support Betty. About a month before Dalton’s death, Betty asked Gene if he could write a poem about the time he spent with Dalton.
The words tell of a relationship between Gene and Dalton that grew into much more than a weekly visit between a caregiver and receiver.
Dalton passed away on January 13, 2012, and Gene read the following poem at Dalton’s funeral a few days later.
My Unexpected Friend
God put a man in my life.
I don’t recall the particular day.
His life was not as it was.
What part in his world would I play?
Asked to do some respite care.
A family caught in stormy seas.
A wife needing time for herself.
A husband battling a crippling disease.
When he looked at me and stared.
I could see his illness was taking its toll.
The sad moving picture I saw in his eyes.
Traveled so deeply into my soul.
Struggling to hold his cards.
We played cribbage at different times.
How difficult for him it must have been.
What kind of thoughts lived in his mind?
Knowingly I would make a poor play.
Because I wanted him to win.
The line between not giving and giving.
I soon realized, could be very thin.
I saw a man who was trying his best.
To maintain some dignity.
Wanting to slay the monster in his body.
But all I could do was to give him company.
Reading from the Bible and my poems to him.
He would doze off as I spoke the words.
Trying so hard to tell me something.
But I couldn’t make out, what I heard.
His breathing would become shallow and noisy.
He would say. “I’m sorry, I‘m interrupting you.”
I thought, “How could a man be that humble.
How could a man hurting, be so cool.”
One day he said, “I Love You.”
At first, I did not understand.
He was thanking me for being there.
Gratitude coming from a suffering man.
The hours I sat with him.
Gave him companionship and peace.
I knew someday in heaven.
His life would be given a new lease.
God once again has shown me.
What true giving can be.
I found out what I had given to Dalton.
Was far less than what he had given me.
God brought me into his life to be a friend.
It was unexpected at the time.
But as I had become part of his life.
He too had become part of mine.