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Caregivers = "Holy Watchers"




Hands Stan and Jue 

 (Stan and June's hands - Holy Spirit Chapel - October 2007)


"Holy Watchers"

(Pat  Samples)

“Much of our loved one’s suffering is invisible, at least to the outside world.

Sometimes we’re the only one who knows the pain is there,

where it comes from and how severe it is.

We try to explain it to others, but they aren’t around to witness it,

day in and day out, the way we are.

 We stand alone along side our loved ones as the vessel holding in...

all the fear and sorrow and hurt.

We are the “holy watchers,” the keeper of the flame of love.

Some day, just being there as caring witnesses is the most important gift we give.

Be with me dear God, as I say to my dear one, “Here I am.”


This beautiful definition of a caregiver as a “Holy Watcher” comes from the little booklet “Reflections for Caregivers” – “Comfort and be Comforted” by Pat Samples – 2001…This little booklet was given to me as a gift by my friend Dr. Don Fox in 2006. Don and I were both caregivers for our wives at the time. Both our wives were victims of Alzheimer's. Don's wife Gloria was in the Camilla Rose Nursing Home in Coon Rapids and my wife June was in the Benedictine Health Care Center in New Brighton.  (Above quote used with permission - ACTA Publications.)

The book focuses on Care-giving as God's Holy work. This one page in particular in this little booklet has inspired me more than anything I have ever read. It is one of the best and yet one of the simplest explanations I have ever seen of what care-giving is really all about. It summed up perfectly my relationship with June in her end times. I have difficulty reading the page without emotions, tears and reflections on June and her last two years. This little book high lights the importance of just being there.


What does it take to be a "Holy Watcher"? I think that it is all summed up in the two below described types of Love:


"Unconditional Love"

("Sacrificial Love")

Mark K. Shriver  discusses "Caregiving" and the need for "Unconditional Love".

"Caregiving is an inadequate's really LOVE­‐giving. You essentially need to be willing to give unconditional love to the person that's suffering from Alzheimer's." ...

"I grew to hate that word. It was inaccurate, belittling, and fell far short of the job requirements. You can summon the patience to be an Alzheimer’s caregiver only if you care a lot, care with all your heart and soul and guts...You have to be a love giver"


As the caregiver for my mother Ellen for six (6) years and my wife June for twelve (12) years. I find that I am totally in agreement with Mark Shriver's comments about a caregiver...


"Love Without Reward"

The “Wrinkle Think” Blog by Thomas Torrey, 19 September 2011 had an interesting story of a husband John who is a care giver for his wife who suffers from Alzheimer’s. His attitude is a model for all husbands who have wives with this terrible disease.

The husband, who is 78 years of age, has a wife in an Alzheimer’s facility in a South Carolina healthcare community. The husband John lives nearby in an apartment. They have been married for 55 years. Every day at 4 PM, John is said to visit his wife and feed her dinner and tell her of his day.

The blog interviewed the husband who was said to have spoken plainly: “without a hint of self pity”…

“When we were married we understood that that would be a life long relationship. That was important to both of us. She can’t carry her end of it now, but I can carry my end. And that’s enough.

I love her still. In fact, there is nothing bad that happens that doesn’t have some good to it. I truly believe that.

And I never knew how deep love could be until I was forced to love at a deeper level, without reward for it.

I think that John's concept of "love without reward" is the key to all caregiving where one marriage partner is deep into Alzheimer's or other such dementia disease and lacks the mental capacity to respond and show appreciation or provide a "reward" as John calls it. Of course there is the reward that God provides us in knowing that perhaps we have made this life just a little better, a little more comfortable and provided a bit of peace.



“Comforting Others”

Billy Graham

    Billy Graham         


 “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do…” 

(1 Thessalonians 5:11 – KJV)


“It is an undeniable fact that usually those who have suffered most are best able to comfort others who are passing through suffering. They know what it is to suffer, and they understand more than others what a suffering person is experiencing – physically, emotionally and spiritually.  They are able to emphasize as well as sympathize with the afflictions of others because of what they have experienced in their own lives.

Our sufferings may be rough and hard to bear, but they teach us lessons that in turn equip and enable us to help others. Our attitude toward suffering should not be, “Grit your teeth and Bear it”, hoping it will pass as quickly as possible. Rather, our goal should be to learn all we can from what we are called upon to endure, so that we in turn can “comfort each other and edify one another.” 


The Christian Bible and Love

The Christian Bible elevates Love to a position of primary importance in our our relationships with others, with our neighbors, our friends, our family and with God…1 Corinthians, 13: 1-8. This book of the Bible  makes it very clear why the love of a caregiver is so important and will spell our success or failure in this most important calling of our life…the Bible says that without love we are nothing…as Mark Shriver says above so clearly, a caregiver’s love can be nothing short of unconditional love…and in the words of the Bible as found in 1 Corinthians:

“13-1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will fail, where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”


Our Redeemer Lutheran Church Pastor's Sermon on Love

During our Redeemer Lutheran Sunday morning service on 18 September  2012, our Senior pastor David Glesne continued with a series of lectures on Love and the Bible commandments relating to love.

As a part of that sermon he discussed the four Greek words that define various kinds of love…we have one word in English but the Greeks have four words and each has a different kind of love in mind…what was the point of the Greek lesson?…much of the original old Bible came to us in the Greek language and it in turn was then translated and interpreted…

Pastor GlesneThe four Greek words from the Bible and their meanings are:

Eros – meaning sexual or romantic love.

Storge – meaning parent and child love.

Phileo – meaning brotherly love.

Agape – (Agapao)  - meaning sacrificial love.

As I listened to Pastor Glesne's sermon, I could not help but think of how “Agape” describes the love of many of our Alzheimer’s caregivers on a daily basis…so to all of you caregivers, take a bow, you are what defines the zone of love and comfort around the Alzheimer’s and other dementia victims that helps to ease their late stage tremendous burdens of daily fear!...and yes it is truly sacrificial love…all the studies show that the Alzheimer’s caregivers suffer a hit to their health because of the length of the time journeying through this always terminal disease…it is not unusual for this drain on their health to bring their own life to an end before the primary victim’s final bell tolls…

I am far from an expert on the Bible but much is said in the Bible about love between husband and wife...while the Bible instructs wives to love their husbands, it sets a very high standard for the husbands love of his the Book of Ephesians chapter 5:25. the husband is clearly instructed to love his wife with a sacrificial love...I quote a passage from the King James Version.

"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it."


This passage has been interpreted in various ways but it clearly says that the husband should stand by his wife even if it means his death would result from his thus protecting her. The Bible takes a very serious view of husband and wife love. I have always hoped that I could respond without hesitation in a like manner if called upon to do so. That is not the kind of love that is here today and gone tomorrow. The Bible would never excuse a husband caregiver from exercising anything but a sacrificial or Agape love for his wife. Pastor Glesne has verified that my above quotation from the book of  Ephesians, did in fact use the Greek word Agape in the original Greek Bible from which the translation was made into the King James Version in 1611..

"Husbands agapao your wives..."

Virtuous wives are treated with great respect in the Bible...the Old Testament  Book of Proverbs talks of virtuous wives having value far greater then rubies and that such a wife will do the husband good all the days of her life. It is little wonder that the New Testament Book of Ephesians later admonishes husbands to love their wives with "Agape" love...

June kept a quotation from the bible on the living room coffee table. The quotation defines "Love".  The quotation is from the Bible and is one of the versus (7) quoted above in another but similar translation:


  “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

1 Corinthians 13:7


This quotation also clearly describes June's love, the love that she gave me and it describes  the necessary love of a caregiver!.


For a companion essay, click on the below link: "God Records the Tears of the Caregivers":


"God Records the Tears of the Caregivers!"



Bonnie Seip

Stan's Comments: (22 August 2013) Today, I received a communication from a lady that tells me very clearly that she is and was a "Holy Watcher"....she was and is clearly a love giver...the lady is Bonnie Seip and she is from Ottsville, Pennsylvania…

Mr. Berg…I read your posts every day and I get chills up and down my body and many tears in my eyes. For the Love you have for June. I worked in many nursing homes with many residents and half the time, families just do not visit their loved ones... It saddens me to think they could be this way. I loved every resident I have ever taken care of in my 30 years of Nursing. Each and every one has left a mark on my heart…I'm tearing now as I type this. I can no longer work as a Nurse because of health reasons…I cried the day I graduated from nursing school with happiness and I cried the day I had to pack away all my scrubs . It broke my heart to not be able to give the care I once gave as a nurse. I still to this day visit the residents I cared for.” 

(See her daughter Tara's comments about her mother in the Reader's Comments below - 23 August 2013 and her daughter Jamie Pensyl on 27 August 2013.).





 June's Passing

After an almost 12 year journey into the shadows of Alzheimer's, early one morning in late October 2008, an exhausted June felt God's gentle touch on her shoulder and heard the words: "Come Home June!" As June lay like a wounded soldier on a battlefield, it was God's Angels that ushered June into a Heavenly Kingdom and into Jesus presence to the sound of a chorus of Angels...and June's new home, a "Mansion on the Hilltop", where there is no pain, nor illness nor tears...

June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website under the "In Memoriam" label - Click on:

"June K. (Rolstad) Berg - In Memoriam"