Caregiver’s Words of Wisdom from Mrs. Barbara Seals
Mrs. Barbara Seals Interviewed by Personal Life Editor Brittany Rudolph; SE Alabama/NW Florida District, Posted April 17, 2015
Rudolph: Tell us about yourself.
Seals: Hello my name is Barbara Seals. I'm married to Kenneth Seals and we have two daughters. My oldest daughter is in the United States Army and my youngest daughter is a senior in high school. I was born in Dothan, Al. to Mr. and Mrs. Willie C. Poke and I was reared in Ashford, AL. I have two older brothers, a younger sister, and a younger brother. I graduated from Ashford High School and I received an Associate’s degree from Wallace Community College in the field of Applied Science. The past 20 years, I've worked at Dale Medical Center as a Registered Respiratory Therapist. I'm a lifelong member of Church of God by Faith.
Rudolph: Tell us about your mother
Seals: My mother, Annie J. Poke, and she comes from a large loving family. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Smith moved from Pike County to Houston County and affiliated themselves with Grant Chapel AME Church of Ashford, Al. My grandmother, Mother Rosie Lee Smith, was the one to lay the Christian foundation for the family. Momo, as we called her, was a praying, singing, and woman full of faith as well as a strong disciplinarian. I believe she was saved at the age of 13 and lived a holy life until she was called home. She taught her children about God, Jesus, and salvation, they would have frequent "fireside teaching" in which attendance was mandatory and she kept them involved in the church.
In the 1950's, the Church of God by Faith started having street meetings, services in private individual homes, and from there to tent meetings. My mother's sister, the late Rosie B. Smith Fields asked her mother if she could attend these meetings, she told her mother that she wanted to really know the Lord and her mother consented to this. Mother Fields was the first one of her siblings to get saved and filled with the Holy Ghost. She was the catalyst that influenced her brothers and sisters to seek and receive salvation.
There were four girls Mother Princess Smith Fortson, the late Mother Rosie Smith- Fields, Mother Annie Smith-Poke and Mother Susie Smith- Jackson, along with 9 boys, Elder's J.C, the late Willie C., Moses and Noah Smith, Deacon Leroy Smith and Bro. John Henry Smith. Two brothers died tragically and one brother died as a toddler.
They were being saved and they associated themselves with the Church of God by Faith. This was a prayer being answered for my grandmother because above all she wanted her children saved and living a holy life. She did all she could to encourage that and was very supportive of her children salvation and the Church of God by Faith.
My mother was saved during one of these meetings and joined the Church of God by Faith as well. Until her decline in health, she worked faithfully in the church doing all she could for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. When my mother was saved, there was no permanent meeting place for the Church of God by Faith in Ashford, she along with so many others worked tirelessly to help get the church established. Mother Poke worked faithfully in the church, serving many capacities such as usher, choir member, WWC president, missionary along with other assignments. Anything she could do to help the church. In 1995, due to the illness of my dad, my mother retired from the Sony Corporation and prior to that she had worked at Wex Tex, a local sewing factory in Ashford.
Rudolph: How did you become her caregiver?
Seals: I would say the foundation was laid when I was in the 6th grade. My mother had major surgery and had to be home for an extended period of time and my dad couldn't take off to care for her due to his job. So my older brothers and I were given the task of staying with my mom. We would each take a day staying out of school; my day was every third day, to be with my mom until she was able to stay alone. So it was just natural for me to take on this role. Whenever she was sick or after surgery, I would bring her into my home to stay until she recovered. I must admit this has been the longest assignment. What I thought would be a six week assignment has turned into an ongoing one. I can't really complain, my mindset has always been when I couldn't take care of myself my mother was there for me so it's only right for me to take care of her. My mother is a widow so it's what the Lord require of me as one of her children.
Rudolph: How do you stay strong and keep the faith during the hard times?
Seals: By standing on the word of God and from encouragement from family and friends. I've had plenty of examples to follow, my grandmother took care of my grandfather when he became ill and passed. My mother took care of my dad until his passing. Doing what those before me has done, seeing how God gave them the strength to do all that they needed to do as they worked and took care of the rest of the family.
Rudolph: Do you have assistance with your mother?
Seals: I do. Mother Mary Smith, Alabama District Elect Lady, comes on Tuesdays to help out and we have a sitter service on the weekends. Don Poke, my oldest brother, comes from Germany twice a year to help with my mom and my husband and children pitch in when they can. There are other family members that have been through the same thing that I'm going through and will come by for a visit, call to check on us and to encourage or send items that we need.
Rudolph: How does this affect your family?
Seals: It has been a strain. I've had to rearrange my work schedule to accommodate my mom's dialysis schedule (Monday, Wednesday and Fridays) so I work on Tuesdays and the weekends. I've missed important events within my family, like my daughter's graduation from basic training and AIT. I've missed special moment in my youngest daughter senior year. Children want their parents to be a part of their special accomplishment in life or just events that they are participating in. I've missed several of these but my children understand why.
Rudolph: What words of encouragement would you give women out there who must balance a career, family, church, and being a full time caregiver?
Seals: It can be done. Stand on the word of God. I'm always with you, I'll never leave nor forsake you, and I can do all things through Christ. Having a personal relationship with God makes a tremendous difference because he will deliver on his word. There are times when I get tired but there are times when I have this strength that can’t be explained by the natural. He will give you favor whether it on the job, in your community, in your home, even with strangers.
Seals: I'm most thankful that my grandmother cared enough about her family to teach them about God and the wonderful gift of salvation that he offers through Jesus Christ. The holy life that she lived before all of us who was privilege to know and love her. She was not a person that said do as I say and not as I do. Her word and lifestyle lined up with God and it was passed on from generation to generation.
Thank you for the opportunity to share.