Sara’s Story

by Sara Gilbert

In February of 2010, I received a phone call from my dad saying he’d been to the emergency room for a headache. The doctors ended up finding a brain tumor. I flew to Florida from Michigan to be with my dad while they performed brain surgery to remove the tumor. After nine hours of waiting, the brain surgeon said the words I had been dreading.

My dad had brain cancer.

The surgeon was able to remove about 80 percent of the tumor, but he explained that it was a very progressive type of cancer. My dad would most likely die anywhere within six months to two years. My dad, who was 62 years old at the time, had just retired and was beginning to enjoy his lifelong dream of living on the beach in Florida. After talking things over with my sisters, we decided to move him back to Michigan. He didn’t have anyone to help him with doctor appointments or general care in Florida and he would likely receive better medical care in Grand Rapids.

The next few years were a blur of doctor appointments and hospital visits in helping my dad fight cancer. I watched his health slowly decline and I went from being a daughter to a caregiver.

I struggled. I had always been a daddy’s girl. My dad and I had a special bond. He was always my rock as I grew up. Now I had to be his. Though my sisters began to develop a closer bond with my dad, my relationship with him was harder. We still loved each other, but I had to become a different daughter to him. As a result, my relationship with God began to falter as well. I was having a hard time believing that God was real because my dad was a good man. He didn’t deserve to get brain cancer so young. He had worked so hard his whole life. It wasn’t fair.

In the summer of 2015, I heard about an opening for a full-time team captain position at David’s House. My first job in direct care had been with David’s House in 2006, from which I had moved on to work at another large organization in Grand Rapids and was quite happy with my choice. I wasn’t really looking for something different when I heard about the opening at David’s House, but I filled out an application anyway. Shane asked me to come in for an interview. Before I went, I visited my dad to help him with his personal care. He and I would often go out for lunch afterwards, but I told him I couldn’t that day because of the interview. I told him I wasn’t even sure why I had applied because I wasn’t even interested in working at David’s House. He simply replied, “God works in mysterious ways; you never know what he has up his sleeve.”

As I talked with Shane and Jeremy at the interview, I realized how much I had missed David’s House. When Shane offered me the team captain position, I decided to take it.

I started the position that August. At the beginning of September, my dad was admitted to the hospital after a fall. After a MRI, they found that despite radiation treatment, the tumor had begun to progress again. We made the difficult decision to put my dad in hospice. On October 21, 2015, my dad went to heaven. I had only been working at David’s House for a few months, but my coworkers were amazing. People picked up my shifts, prayed for me and supported me. I was still struggling in my relationship with God, but my coworkers showed me his love through their words and actions. The residents showed me his love as well in simple ways of being who they are. The parents of the residents told me they were praying for me, and I felt those prayers. As I was reminded of God’s love and grace, I could feel myself beginning to heal from the pain of seeing my dad struggle through nearly six years of brain cancer.

My dad was right: God works in mysterious ways. I needed to come back to David’s House to be restored. I’m thankful every day for the wonderful ministry that David’s House is and how I can love and support the amazing residents and families we serve.

Sara Gilbert is a member of the Direct Care Staff at David’s House.

Read more about Sara here.