A simple word that carries a profound weight to it, and includes a unique heaviness and devastation for both the one suffering, as well as the caregivers.
For Crystal Brandos, the past three years have been filled with heartache as she has walked through the journey of a dementia diagnosis, treatment and care for her mother. Though it all, however, God has shown up in a powerful way that Crystal believes is providing a purpose and hope in the midst of such pain.
Crystal has always been incredibly close to her mom, Debbie – a supportive and loving woman that has shaped her in many ways. From rescuing lost dogs to meeting the needs of friends and families, Crystal said her mom has always shown her what it means to love and serve others.“Her compassion for other people and animals has always been an admirable example to me of what it looks like to do God’s work,” Crystal said.
However, it was in 2019 that Debbie started forgetting some basic tasks, and as hallucinations started getting more troubling a short while later, Crystal and her father sought out more professional help.
Life as they knew it was never the same.
Right as the pandemic was hitting in 2020 and the tightest COVID restrictions were implemented, Debbie received the the progressive and incurable diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia. Due to extreme physical and mental ailments, Crystal and her dad determined that the best plan of care for her would be an assisted living facility, but the restrictions made it unable for them to visit Debbie in her new care home.
It was through this, however, that Crystal got a glimpse of what sacrificial and unyielding love looks like.
“We couldn’t be with my mom in her room, but my dad stood outside her window EVERY DAY,” Crystal said. “Rain, cold, wind… It didn’t matter. He was committed to showing her he was there. It was in these moments that I saw God’s work through my dad’s love, dedication and devotion.”
As restrictions decreased and Crystal was able to visit Debbie frequently, she began to get to know the doctors, care facility administrators, and nurses.
At this time, she also began to become more aware of the other residents.
“Through our continuous involvement, my dad and I began to see that there were countless other residents that never got a visit from a loved one. No window visits, no phone calls, nothing,” Crystal said. “It broke my heart… and I knew I needed to do something.”
Crystal said her mom has always been a source of comfort and safety. Whether it was a hug, a conversation, or a simple text, she brought comfort to everyone she encountered.So, as the end of 2021 started to roll around, Crystal began to pray about an idea that was forming in her head. Inspired by the warmth her mom always shared with others, she felt God nudging her to collect cozy blankets for residents at her mom’s care facility, in hopes that it might bring some love and comfort to them.
‘Debbie’s Comfort of Love’ was formed, and after Crystal shared her idea to social media, she was blown away by the outpouring of donations and support from friends and family – many of whom just wanted to show up as the Church, share the love of Jesus, and honor Debbie.
“My friends and family did not know the names of who were going to receive the blankets – it didn’t matter,” Crystal said. “They just wanted to bring someone some love and comfort in a time of sadness and loneliness.”
In just three weeks, Crystal managed to collect 165 new blankets for residents at the care facility. Some friends sent money directly to her, some dropped the blankets off at her house, and some ordered them online and had them delivered. Crystal’s office became a beautiful and visual mess of love.As the day rolled around to distribute the blankets, Crystal, her family, and Debbie got to love on the residents in a tangible way, and many of the doctors, nurses and residents were moved to tears.
“Emotions couldn’t be held back,” Crystal said. “I quickly realized it was so much more than a blanket to them. These residents finally felt loved, seen and wanted, like they always should.”
Crystal left that day grateful that her two young daughters got to witness the beauty that comes from serving others, and recognize that even in the midst of a heart-breaking situation, God can use our pain and our suffering for His glory and the good of others. He is always moving and always working.
“I truly believe that God makes beauty from ashes,” she said. “My prayer is that my girls would cherish this moment in their hearts forever, continue the legacy of their grandmother, and most importantly, carry the love of Jesus to others.”Crystal’s story is unique to her, but also a reminder that God can use each and every one of us right where we are to serve others, spread some hope, and share the love of Jesus. It is through our selfless and sacrificial acts that we can bring Light to a world that often feels dark and broken.
“You can make an impact right where you are,” Crystal said. “Even in the brokenness, sadness or pain, your small gesture can have an unmeasurable impact on someone else.”