Newport residents Peter and Andrea Devin’s world was rocked when Peter was diagnosed with ALS in September of 2009.
Peter wrote in his blog soon thereafter: “With just 3 words -‘You have ALS’- the future we thought we had planned was changed forever…Although this chapter in my life is the most difficult situation I have endured, I find real joy in looking back at the blessings in my life, and forge ahead living one day at a time. I find my comfort and peace from my family, friends, and most of all from Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. I choose Joy.’
Peter, Andrea and their family continued to choose joy, every day of the challenging journey they shared as Peter’s condition gradually worsened, until he passed away Dec. 30, 2012.
But Andrea never felt they traveled the journey alone. Besides feeling God’s presence and love, they were keenly aware of the presence and love of countless others in the form of an amazing network of friends they referred to as the Share the Care family.
“We would not have been able to get through this like we did, if not for Share the Care, Andrea said. “It made all the difference to have people coming alongside us, because, with a long term illness like Peter’s, you feel like you are drowning, like you are going under. The Share the Care people were the life savers that brought us back to the surface and held us up in ways that we never could have imagined.”
Andrea explained that her good friend, Leslie Ammerman, was the catalyst for the Share the Care idea.
“A year after Peter was diagnosed, I was recovering from knee surgery and in my immobility, I researched ALS and discovered a book called ‘Share the Care,’” Leslie explained. The book, by Cappy Capossela and Sheila Warnock, “outlines organizing a care group for the seriously ill. The intent is to provide support and relieve the family, so they don’t become overwhelmed with the care-giving needs. I sat down with Peter and Andrea and asked if it interested them, which it did.”
“The book suggests having a team that includes co-captains to share responsibilities to avoid burn out,” Leslie continued. “The Devins chose Casi Smith, a college friend, and Leslie Casserly, another friend with a nursing background. The three of us formed the team.”
The three co-captains held a gathering for Peter and Andrea’s friends to learn the specific needs, which they’d organized under the areas of House Cleaning, Meals, and Personal.
”Peter was so jazzed about all the people that were there that night, that they were going to walk through this with him,” Andrea said. “He could no longer talk, but had prepared a special message to thank them. People wrote down their interests and availability, and we had a special time of prayer.”
“God used everybody’s unique gifts in the way they helped through Share the Care, be it writing poetry, sending emails, visiting, gardening, cleaning, cooking, driving, helping with our daughter’s wedding, planning a baby shower for our son and daughter-in-law, figuring out insurance, or helping with living expenses,” Andrea added. “Peter loved the interaction when people came to the home. With ALS, his world got smaller and smaller, and it meant so much to him to connect with people; it was so comforting.”
Leslie explained that Andrea and Peter set up and updated their website, so people could learn the latest on Peter’s condition, pertinent issues or prayer requests. The co-captains sent out calendars with specific needs listed that volunteers filled in every month.
“God really orchestrated the whole thing,” Leslie said. “It was the most beautiful expression of God’s love; people really were the hands and feet of Jesus. People wanted to help because Peter and Andrea are treasured friends, and Peter was inspirational the way he never lost his joy, even when he couldn’t do anything on his own. We came to bless but we all were the ones who left blessed. Our hope is that our story will encourage the seriously ill and their caregivers to start a Share the Care group.”
“When dealing with a situation like ours, you have to decide to let others give to you,” Andrea said. “But we were so blessed; we were in this beautiful bubble of God’s love and presence with wonderful people coming into our home. I realized this was my time to receive and another time it will be my time to give.”
To read Peter’s story, go to peterhdevin.com
Cindy can be reached at [email protected]