I grew up in a very large, and loud, Italian family. Our home was intergenerational – my maternal grandparents lived on the first floor of our two family home, and cousins, aunts, and uncles were either at our weekly dinner table, enjoying Sunday dinner, or just visiting throughout the day. My grandparents came to this country and while they were learning all about this America they loved, they fell in love with each other, and with Jesus Christ. This changed the entire trajectory of their family – especially my family.
I was blessed to have Christian parents who taught me about Jesus. We attended a church that taught God’s Word. As a teenager, I made a decision to follow Christ, but as time went on, I went away to college and eventually drifted from the Lord. I married a wonderful man and together we embarked on a grand adventure. When we became parents, I found myself wondering what was missing in my life. We had a solid marriage, great jobs, and wonderful kids, but something was missing. A friend invited me to Grace Chapel and after a short period of time, I recommitted my life to Christ. Shortly after that, we moved to Lexington because I wanted to be closer to the church. Bob (my husband) believed that it was a good idea – as long as he didn’t have to come to church.
I soon left my position as a public school English teacher and entered full time ministry at Grace Chapel as Pastor to Women. This was a role I will always cherish. I remained in this position for 24 years, retiring in May 2014.
As I look back, over the many seasons of my life, I see that the seasons of deep struggle were also the seasons of deep spiritual growth.
- After many years of marriage to a non-believer, Bob accepted Christ and our lives began a new and wonderful adventure. We both served at church, and delighted to see our children grow in their faith also.
- We “survived” a long season of unemployment during a time when we were paying three tuitions – for private school and college!
- I experienced seasons of serious illness.
- In January 2014, my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and I became his caregiver. Bob died in October 2016.
No one likes trials and struggles, and most prefer to learn life lessons from a book. However, life lessons are learned most often in these dark seasons of struggle. What lessons have I learned: that God is indeed sufficient; that He is faithful and is filled with remarkable surprises to carry us one day at a time; that His plan is far better than any plan I could have created; that if I wait on Him, He will show me the way to go; that He is a loving God who strengthens me and comforts me – not necessarily removing the pain but showing me a way through it; that He does indeed restore the years the locusts try to devour.
While I still would like to learn some of these lessons from a book, I have now written a book! Days after Bob’s memorial service, I was invited to write a book proposal about our journey through the dark valley of Alzheimer’s disease. My book, “In the Lingering Light: Courage and Hope for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver” was released on July 9, 2019. Throughout our difficult journey my prayer was that my experience might help others. I am passionate about the day when a cure is found for Alzheimer’s disease but, in that season of waiting, I am equally passionate about caring for the caregiver and helping others to do the same. My prayer is that this book will be a gift to the Alzheimer’s world and a source of courage and hope for the Alzheimer’s caregivers.
I have learned to trust Him in the fire, in the sunshine, and in the rain. I am grateful for the stretching seasons, grateful for my growth, and grateful for His continual presence and guidance.
Cynthia Fantasia served as Pastor of Service and Women at Grace Chapel, Lexington, MA, and speaks nationally and internationally. She is the author of In the Lingering Light: Courage and Hope for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver, a contributing author in Mothers Have Angel Wings and 30 Ways to Embrace Life. Ordained in 2007, she received her Doctor of Ministry degree from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. She and her late husband have three adult children and five grandchildren.