She relays an intensely
personal account of love, devotion, and loss while exploring
the complexities encountered during her journey as caregiver
for her “mommy”. The “lived” or life lessons she learned
from this experience are explored in breadth, depth, and
The Hickmans invited Lewis
to live with them after her retirement from the Toledo
Public School (TPS) system. She had lived most of her adult
life Toledo, OH, where she had, raised four daughters,
buried her husband, and helped care for grandchildren.
She had helped educated
students of all ages for over 26 years. She was actively
involved in Phillips Temple C.M.E Church, Church Women
United, and many other community organizations. As a woman
of faith, she loved and trusted God and loved her family. So
after much difficult reflection, Lewis accepted that
In 1997 at the age of 77,
she left behind family and old friends to go and start a new
chapter of life in Texas with her daughter, Cynthia, and
son-in-law, Bernis (B.H.) Hickman.
Chapter six, “A Sign of
What’s To Come,” includes a speech her mother delivered on
September 30, 1990 at the Annual Missional Day at Friendship
Baptist Church (formerly on Nebraska Ave. in Toledo, OH)
where Rev. Duane Tisdale was then pastor. It contains
content with captivating implications which you may find
particularly intriguing and are encouraged to read.
Lewis was an active,
vibrant, intelligent, independent, and functional woman who
could cook, clean house, and drive. She embraced her new
life in Missouri City, Texas. She started attending the
local Willowridge Baptist Church, and relished participation
in the life of the Fort Bend Senior Center where she even
found a “boyfriend, Mr. Henry,” on her relocation to Texas.
The medical problems she
had were easily managed at that point. However, seasons
change. Like the pages of a book which unfold and disclose
the plot inherent, Lewis gradually began to experience
significant health-related changes over the ensuing years,
Lewis-Hickman explains. Her book describes evolving health
problems from multiple strokes and diabetes, to heart and
joint problems, which result in her mother eventually
becoming bedridden, unable to perform the most basic
activities of life.
But the author had
already resolved to care for her mother at home, knowing
full well the health risks involved in (some) long-term care
facilities from falls, infections, and bedsores. Such risks
are multiplied for patients with cognitive, speech and
mobility limitations, she considered.
Circumstances leading to
an ultimate role reversal wherein Lewis-Hickman became a
virtual surrogate parent for her mother developed in ways
she could have speculated or expected, based on her years of
nursing experience, but had never actually envisioned
The role and
responsibility of caregiver for chronically ill, cognitively
impaired, physically disabled, or otherwise fragile family
members and loved ones is fraught with challenges that
deserve our considerable attention and understanding. Her
insights linked with scholarly academic contributions in
this book adds to this endeavor, and makes this text
With a spirit of
excellence and doing all things as unto God, Lewis-Hickman’s
mission and goal became to provide a rich and full quality
of life for her mother, despite the inevitable ravages of
ill-health, immobility, and time. The author discusses the
joys, routines, duties, aggravations, stressors, and sorrows
of the progressively co-dependent relationship (of
necessity) unique to caregivers.
She helps us understand
the concept of “caregiver burnout” (sometimes called
caregiver syndrome) and offers examples from personally
Burnout is multifaceted.
It can mimic or result in post-traumatic stress disorder (P.T.S.D.).
Fueled by sleepless nights, it can manifest in anxiety,
irritability, depression, fatigue, and even further endanger
the health of caregivers. Lewis-Hickman presents the
experience of burnout with compelling and captivating
honesty, noting the sense of loneliness or isolation
(despite efforts of family and friends to assist); along
with feelings of anger, loss of freedom, and financial
In chapter seven,
Lewis-Hickman discusses the need of caregivers to have
respite; and the concomitant conundrum that make respite
difficult for caregivers who are overly enmeshed in their
Lewis-Hickman affirms that her faith in God provided the
strength and resilience she needed to accomplish the
Biblical commandment to “Honor… Thy Mother,” found in Exodus
Like Lewis-Hickman, many
others have accepted the awesome, often overwhelming, role
as caregivers for parents, spouses, or others they love.
Her particular advice for
caregivers is presented in chapter ten of this very readable
and touching treatise. By sharing her own journey,
Lewis-Hickman expresses the hope to educate, inform, and
encourage caregivers, their families, and the greater
community (laypersons, medical, and related professionals).
Her topic is timely in light of America’s aging population,
and the challenges this is expected to present for future
Born on August 13, 1920,
Lewis lived for 97 years and seven days. Chapter 8 of this
work, titled “Hospice, Heaven, and Homegoing,” tells about
the final hours of her life and describes the circumstances
of her death, for which Lewis-Hickman and her sister, Diana
L. Hughes, were present. Fittingly, somehow, she died early
on a Sunday morning, the Lord’s Day of rest.
Family and friends grieved
the death of Lewis. That grief was significantly more
profound for Lewis-Hickman, having been so close to her
mother for so long. Her mother trusted, depended, and
relied on her. Their lives had become intricately entwined
far beyond typical mother-daughter relationships.
Lewis-Hickman explained how writing this book helped her to
find solace and resolution of her grief.
For years, the lion’s
share of Lewis-Hickman’s life had involved meeting the needs
of her mother. Writing this book helped her come to terms
with the loss of her mother and to slowly begin to repair
the tremendous breach or vacuum in her life that resulted
after her mother’s death.
daughter, Brenda L. Lewis (a nurse educator like her sister
Lewis-Hickman) frequently avowed that “momma wouldn’t have
lived this long without Cynthia!”
These words of praise were
well-deserved. How can I make that statement? Quite easily.
I was privileged to witness this bitter-sweet love story
unfold. I have the highest regard for the loving, faithful,
and devoted care my sister, Cynthia J. Lewis-Hickman, and
her husband, Bernis E. Hickman provided for our mother.