DAVIDSONVILLE – The love Lisa Jacobs has for her husband, David, was evident as she talked about him.
“He can be a sweetheart,” she said, showing video of him happily dancing.
Jacobs shared stories of her spouse over lunch at Holy Family Church March 30, when the faith community in southern Anne Arundel County held its fifth annual Pampering and Prayer Day.
Sponsored by the Faith and Abilities ministry and supported by additional parish groups, the day brings together those who care for family members with illness or disability.
Lisa and David Jacobs, who reside in Bowie, have been married for 14 years. He was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2010. She is his primary caregiver.
“I enjoy the time to sit and worship. I don’t get the time to go to church on Sundays,” Jacobs said of the event at Holy Family. “I love the pampering. It’s ministry for the body, mind and soul. You really do feel rejuvenated. You’re around other people who go through what you go through. These people really understand it.”
The outreach is coordinated by Maureen Flanagan and Mary Ann Sabo, the mother of two young adults with disabilities. After attending similar events for caregivers in Pennsylvania, Sabo partnered with Flanagan in Faith and Abilities to create something similar for local caregivers that would not involve lengthy travel.
“It’s a way of giving back,” Sabo said. “It’s a day for them to relax and put everything aside and be pampered.
“We really wanted families from here to be able to attend. The first time we had it, we had three or four people. And it’s just expanded.”
More than 60 caregivers, mostly women, attended this year. They were cared for by as many volunteers and service providers.
The day began with a blessing of the caregivers’ hands by Father Andrew Aaron, pastor of Holy Family.
“It’s important to have that TLC when you’re a caregiver,” Father Aaron said. “We’re honoring the work they do. It’s one of the things that’s holy about this. You’re honoring the work of Jesus in what they do. That’s what I think church is about, to rejuvenate each other.”
Betty Ryon, a volunteer, said, “These caregivers work tirelessly for children and spouses and we can give them this little break.”
Ellie Isaac donated her services as an acupuncturist, helping release some of the physical stress caregivers carry. As a former caregiver herself, the blessing of hands has special meaning.
“I want to remind them that their bodies are healing all the time,” Isaac said. “Our society is about doing, doing, doing. Today is simply about being. A caregiver doesn’t get to do that.”
Anne Stag and her friend Lynn Kramer, both from Arnold, each have teens with Down syndrome. They came to receive support, and give it.
“We’re sharing something in common,” Stag said. “We’ve been through this. Maybe we can help someone else.”
Asked why she came, Kramer said, “Someone to take care of me for a day. It doesn’t happen very often.”
Guest speaker Sib Charles of Joni and Friends Ministry, whose husband was paralyzed in a farming accident, instructed caregivers to find supportive people and accept their help.
Charles related the story of the man who could not walk, and of his friends who took the roof off a house to lower his mat down to Jesus to be healed. She encouraged the caregivers to look around for the “mat carriers” who supported them and helped them to be in the presence of Jesus.
“Maybe this morning some of you need healing from something in your lives,” Charles said, such as depression, anxiety or grief. “We need to acknowledge it – that we’re feeling overwhelmed, that we’re missing out. But don’t stay there. I honor you, I celebrate you.
“You’re not just doing for your loved one, you’re doing it for our Savior.”