The Bucket List Trip

My late wife, Benita Kepler, with the Atlantic Ocean behind her on Thursday, August 11, 2016. The location is Rye North Beach, New Hampshire. She is wearing her signature smile as well as compression lymphedema sleeve and gauntlet (glove). I always told her the gauntlet (glove) made her look like a rock star referencing Madonna’s fingerless glove look from the 1980s. When in junior high school I lived in New Hampshire. I lived in Rye Beach before moving to Portsmouth.

Let me tell you my story.

In August of 2016, my wife Benita and I took a lengthy “bucket list” trip. In our forty plus years of marriage, she had never been to the northeastern USA. She had heard stories from my early teens when I lived in New England as a military brat. She also had never been to New York or the middle Atlantic states.

The trip wasn’t easy.

The trip wasn’t easy. Even with her terminally ill with Melanoma cancer her employer initially said no to her being off work for multiple weeks. My day job also lacked compassion. We both found the situation frustrating as we had more days of vacation accrued than needed for the trip. Finally, both employers agreed to let us off work.

Refrigeration required.

The trip required a small refrigerator for the car as her chemotherapy prescription meds required refrigeration. The bulky lymphedema therapy machine had to be loaded and unloaded each day along with scheduling time for her to do an hour’s therapy per day.

Dallas, Texas to Northern Maine.

Many days it would be as later as 10 AM before we were able to get checked out of our hotel. Most days we were checked into the hotel by 5 PM in the evening. When you drive those few hours in a day it takes a long time to drive the over 2,500 miles from Dallas, Texas to Northern Maine and the just under 6,000 total miles round trip.

Places we visited.

Out lengthy trip included stops at places like Niagara Falls, NY, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory just outside of Burlington, Vermont. We visited university campuses like Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, Bowdoin College, Brown, Yale, Virginia Military Institute and their libraries.

Miss Benita saw where I attended junior high school as a military brat in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and the famous Phillips Exeter Academy. She saw the Atlantic Ocean for her first time.

The State of Liberty and NYC and Philadelphia were on the bucket list as well. We also went to Gettysburg, the Hershey Chocolate Factory, and all the Washington, DC sites.

Places we skipped.

We skipped the National Football League Hall of Fame, Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She said I could go back to those places after she was gone as she had no interest.

The trip was hard but rewarding.

The trip was hard for her. She was so glad we made it. She told me she appreciated my patience. She knew I was up hours before her. I sat patiently while she slept and rested. I also sat reading when she did the lymphedema therapy. She had the TV remote in the hotel.

I couldn’t trust the bellhop.

I got very tired of hauling the luggage, medicines, and medical equipment into and out of the hotels. I admit that. I couldn’t trust the bellhop at the hotels to treat the medical equipment with the tender loving care it needed. The only time I entrusted the equipment to one I found disconnected hoses and a power cable that had fallen off and was in the middle of the hallway.

I could trust God.

The entire bucket list trip was an adventure in trusting God. What if we had trouble with her chemo meds while 2,500 miles from home? We did and God cut through the red tape to take care of it.

My attitude, trust in God, and love for my wife somehow allowed me to navigate the journey he had for my loved one and me. He’ll do the same for you.

Learning to Care.

Part of learning to care for a person with a chronic or terminal illness is trusting God. When dealing with a protracted disease sometimes it is tough to maintain focus or have peace of mind.

It can be hard.

The person battling the ailment often finds themselves dwelling on what is happening to them physically, fiscally, and thinking if they’ll even have a future. It can be hard.

As a caregiver you may feel like all you do is manage schedules and provide taxi services. You find yourself longing for the good old days before the illness took over your life.

Focus on God, not your problem.

Here’s a Bible verse that gives us hope as it tells us peace of mind is available. The way to peace is to focus on God, not your problem. It is to trust God.

Isaiah 23:6

Isaiah 26:3 (KJV), “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”

The key word is trust.

The key word is trust. We have a requirement to trust God. Trusting in God, that is when our mind is focused on Him, not our troubles, allows us to be kept in God’s perfect peace.

Pray Using Scripture.

  • Heavenly Father help me to keep my mind steadfast on you.
  • Thank you for the peace of mind that can only come from God.
  • Lord Jesus, help me to take my refuge in you.
  • God, I know you are my only hope in battling my chronic illness.

Questions to ponder.

  1. Name one area where you need to let go and trust God.
  2. Are you thanking God daily for guiding you through the daily challenges? If not, do so now and every day.
  3. Are you truly trusting God? Ask God to help your unbelief and lack of trust in and for all things.

Photo source:

Taken by Jimmie Aaron Kepler on Thursday, August 11, 2016, at 2:38 pm. The photo location was Rye North Beach, New Hampshire. The Atlantic Ocean is behind her. I can still recall the broad smile and wide eyes when she saw the Atlantic Ocean. The response was unusual for her as she preferred the mountains over the beach and had said no many times to a beach vacation.


This blog post was adapted from the book,

“Caregiving: Biblical Insights from a Caregiver’s Journey” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler available in ebook from these ebook stores and in print from Amazon.

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