The quiet ministry of a special needs grandparent

February 22, 1995.

When Mary Evelyn woke up that day, she had no way of knowing her life would never be the same. She got up, got dressed and went to breakfast with her husband. Her husband became a passionate student of the Bible after accepting Christ two decades earlier and had begun teaching Bible classes for fellow Catholics. After breakfast, she accompanied him to a nearby church where he'd been invited to deliver the eulogy at the funeral of a neighbor of theirs who attended his Bible classes. Just as her husband stepped down from the altar after completing the eulogy, he experienced a massive heart attack and was dead by the time his body reached the floor.

At around the same time in a world-renowned pediatric hospital 75 miles to the northwest, Mary Evelyn's only grandchild (at that time) was about to leave the neonatal intensive care unit for the first time on her 100th day of life. Shannon was nineteen ounces when she was born 15 ½ weeks earlier than expected after her mother's blood pressure rose to dangerous levels. Shannon would ultimately spend eight of her first thirteen months of life in the NICU, and was connected to a ventilator well into her early childhood.

Mary Evelyn may have found herself without a husband by the end of that February day twenty-two years ago, but she most certainly had a purpose. Shannon needed lots of care and support. Her premature birth and the years she spent connected to a ventilator resulted in profound speech delay. Before going to school, Shannon spent all of her time with in-home caregivers, her parents and Mary Evelyn. As sometimes happens in such circumstances, Shannon's mom and dad are no longer married. When Shannon's mom needed to go to work, Mary Evelyn was often there to get Shannon off to school and to greet her when she arrived home from school. She helped with meals. She was an extra set of eyes, ears and hands for Shannon's mom.

As she got older, Mary Evelyn developed more and more challenges with mobility. She eventually moved in with her daughter and Shannon. As she entered her ninth decade, she experienced a number of serious health concerns, including a stroke. Their little family cared for one another. Mary Evelyn continued to provide invaluable support to her daughter in looking after Shannon after she herself became a recipient of home-based healthcare.

When the ambulance came for Mary Evelyn this past Wednesday night shortly before she went to be with the Lord, Shannon found herself home alone at night for an extended period for the first time in her life. Mary Evelyn's daughter could well have experienced great relief at being relieved of the burden of caring for an elderly parent. Her first response was to wonder how she'd be able to care for her daughter without her mother's support.

How many grandparents quietly, day in and day out, without fanfare or special  recognition provide an irreplaceable blessing through the care they provide to children with disabilities? How many lend the additional hands necessary for their families to function after decades of raising their own kids? And what do we do to support them?

When my father's ministry ended on February 22nd 1995, my mother's ministry began. She, like many grandparents and extended family, stepped up to help without ever thinking of their actions as ministry. Jesus is pleased and my father is proud.

Well done, good and faithful servant!


Key Ministry helps connect churches and families of kids with disabilities for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ. In order to provide the free training, consultation, resources and support we offer every day to church leaders and family members, we depend upon the prayers and generous financial support of readers like you. Please pray for the work of our ministry and consider, if able, to support us financially!