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I just finished reading a book that I would like to share with you. The Best Seven Years of My life: The Story of an Unlikely Caregiver by George Shannon and Chad Patrick Shannon. Here is their website.
A Summary From the Authors
“Nobody ever expects to become the caregiver for someone they love, but the reality is most of us will be at some point. This all-too-common scenario is exactly what author George Shannon encountered, which took him by surprise and changed the course of his life forever. He details his surprising journey into being a caregiver in his new book, The Best Seven Years of My Life: The Story of an Unlikely Caregiver (December 2018) which he co-wrote with his son, Chad Patrick Shannon.
With retirement approaching and his marriage on cruise control, George left for a much-needed vacation with his wife Carol. Their lives changed forever on their final night in Cabo San Lucas, when George awoke to find that Carol had suffered a debilitating stroke. As they rushed back to their hometown of Pittsburgh, questions, doubts, and fear consumed George’s mind: Would Carol survive? What level of care would she need? Would George be up to the task of serving as her caregiver, a role he knew nothing about?
During the next seven years, George and Carol would face a series of medical and personal challenges that would relentlessly test their resolve. Every day, George would help Carol meet her needs, and every night, he would go to bed wondering whether he had done enough. He soon discovered that the caregiver role comes with unexpected rewards–gifts that would leave him a better, happier, and more fulfilled man. The Best Seven Years of My Life is the story of a man blessed with the amazing chance to fall in love all over again.”
Why I Read The Best Seven Years
When I was approached about writing a post about this book and using the copy as a giveaway (which I will, just stay with me), I thought it was a great fit for our Caregiver Category. It’s not a long book but it bounces around through the 40+ years of George and Carol’s marriage. It gives us an idea of their relationship with each other and with the world around them.
I found two themes in this book. The first is about falling in love all over again with the person you have spent the majority of your life with. I absolutely loved this about this book. The other theme throughout the book is about the character building that happens as we meet the needs of another being over our own. The perspective of the author is that he had a lot of time to make up for because he felt he had put his own issues before his wife’s happiness for many years. It has made me stop and think about how I react to Handsome Husband when I am stressing about my own life. I need to be more aware of those closest to me.
What is a Caregiver, Anyway?
Here at Montana Bowl of Cherries, we consider a caregiver to be anyone who takes care of the needs of someone who isn’t able to take care of those particular needs themselves. In that case, we all need caregivers. As we have discussed before here, we need to allow others to live as independently as possible while giving assistance where we need to. In our minds, that makes us a caregiver when we nurture children, mentor teens, help a sick friend, come to the aid of someone who can’t do the things that they used to or help someone who is terminally ill prepare for the adventure after this life. It also makes us a caregiver if the beings that we help are animals. The fine lines come when we have to decide what is helping with what cannot be done and what is keeping another from doing more for themselves.
Some Things I Learned
As I read The Best Seven Years, I came across many truths about caregiving. George shares with us his journey to patience. At first, outings were difficult as they both struggled to find a routine. George relates one incident where he ran out of patience when they forgot one item on their shopping list and had to go back out. Every little task has so many steps. As the book progresses, we learn about the emergency bag that he has prepared to remove some of those steps.
While this book is written as a story, we have access to the thoughts of one of the main characters as he is also one of the authors. I loved watching him realize over and over again what he has always loved about his wife.
After Carol’s strokes, she struggled to learn to speak again. She had never been overly talkative but she was very funny. After the strokes, her social filter was gone. Carol still didn’t speak a lot but she expressed her opinion more often and punctuated that opinion with very colorful language. However, she still treated her caregivers with gratitude and respect.
During the time that George took over Carol’s duties, he learned about her service to those around her throughout her adult life. It was fun to get to know this woman through the eyes of her husband.
George realized early on that he was out of his depth and he began to pray for help. At one point an old friend let George in on the greatest secret of caregiving when she told him he was doing the Lord’s work.
“‘You know,’ I said, ‘it really bothers me that I haven’t been to church much over these past few years.’…
‘You don’t worry about that!’ She searched my eyes for any confusion about her instruction. ‘You’re doing God’s work right here.’ Her expression warmed as she waited until my gaze met hers.
Just like that, she’d lifted a heavy and self-inflicted burden from my mind.”
The Best Seven Years of my life
The hard things that we do in life, build our character. At every point in our life, we face choices and we can choose to do what is right or to do what is easy. We can keep commitments when we are under pressure or we can decide to sit back and revel in self pity. Will we be gracious and kind to those around us or harsh and ungrateful? Circumstances can control our lives or we can actively search out the attributes we need to acquire in order to thrive in those circumstances.
You can find this book on Amazon right now. Subscribe to Montana Bowl of Cherries before March 4, 2019 to be entered in a drawing to receive a copy of The Best Seven Years of my life; The Story of an Unlikely Caregiver. Subscribe here https://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/d.jsp?llr=yo5kbm5ab&p=oi&m=1132127943128&sit=l7yv6odnb&f=e1e22891-c16a-475a-9875-d34da2ea2a5b