Jan was 14 years old when she became a Christian at the local Baptist Church. A few years later, she met Norm, an avid sportsman. ”My whole life was sport. I didn’t grow up in the church. But I gave my life to the Lord when I was 16.” Two years after they met, they were married. They’ve been married 55 years.
Their Christian faith became the driving force of their life.
Norm was an electrician by day, but the young couple shared a passion for sharing the Christian message with young people. “Jan and I ran the youth group at the local church. We did lots of different things with the kids, including an open house at our place on a Saturday night. We’d have 40 or 50 young people. We had a really good time, actually!”
Early on, for a bit of adventure, they moved to Queensland. Norm picked up a good job, they joined the local church, and got involved. Before long, Jan was running the Girls’ Club, Norm was running the Boys’ Club, he was also Sunday School Superintendant, and Jan turned out to be a gifted church singer. Soon they were four: daughters Rhonda and Brenda had arrived. “So we had a busy life” says Norm. They wouldn’t have it any other way.
Six years on, back in NSW, they again took up leadership roles in the local church, sharing their faith. And soon they were seven: Sandra, David and Peter arrived. Norm was only in his late forties, when he was offered a redundancy at work. They were closing the plant down. Norm was delighted. “The payout meant that the house was paid off.” And Norm and Jan turned their full attention to their church work.
They became pastors at church, involved in teaching and worship, camps ministry, and Jan was still sought after for her singing. Parenting and pastoring, full time, it was a busy and fulfilling life and the family thrived. Norm recounts the golden days - holidays were fishing and camping, Christmas was big family get-togethers. Eventually there were 11 grandchildren and now, a great grandson.
Five and a half years ago, it all changed.
“We went to bed that night as normal. When we woke, Jan couldn’t get out of bed. When she tried to speak, she couldn’t get the words together. I realised straight away she’d had a stroke.” Within the hour, the doctors told Norm it was all over. Jan won’t make it.
Four days later, Jan was still unresponsive…but she was alive. The specialist came in for a conference with the doctors and then took Norm aside. “Reading the notes, it’s a miracle that your wife’s alive.” Norm explained that church friends all over Australia had been praying for a miracle. “Well, tell them to keep going, because it’s working.”
At this point in our conversation, Jan, listening and lying quiet in her bed, begins to laugh. Soon she’s laughing so much she’s weeping and eventually we’re all laughing. It’s a surprising moment of gaiety. It seems that the experience has been deep and profound in ways that only Jan can know.
The family made a decision. They wanted Jan home.
Negotiations began with the hospital, the family rallied round, a new room was built, care plans were developed, special equipment was found, and eventually, Jan came home. It had been five and a half months.
And it was a good decision. Against all odds, with the loving prayers and care of her family, and with support from Anglicare, Jan is still with us. She’s made a remarkable recovery. She’s able to eat and talk, and share in family life, though still bed bound. The hospital staff feared it couldn’t be done. It’s an amazing achievement for the whole family.
Norm says that Anglicare’s support is intrinsic to the care plan. “Lynn-Marie from Anglicare could not have been better. The carers come in and help with showering, and all the care Jan needs. We share the load. Jan feels secure with them, which is so good.
“And they were able to provide continuity of carers – so important for someone who is disabled and feeling insecure anyway. And I get respite – so each week I can get away a couple of times. I get some golf in sometimes, and catch up with the shopping, and even get together with some of my mates. This just wouldn’t have happened without Anglicare – we wouldn’t have made it. They share the burden for us.”
For us, it’s a privilege to see Jan at home, with the family, and to have been able to lend a hand when we can.
Thanks Jan and Norm for sharing your story with us. Some names and details have been changed to protect privacy.