My Camelot Moment

I’m having a hard day for many reasons. I still have so much to be grateful for, but I wish I could hug my Mama. Or hear her say one of her quirky, funny things that could just make me smile.

Today I will content myself with a memory I wrote down years ago. Such a sweet memory overflowing with tender mercies. A perfect “Camelot” moment…

February 6, 2013

Moments to remember today…. Mom was in bed napping when I came over. When she opened her eyes and saw me she said, “Oh, you can lay down with me. Come on.” So I snuggled next to my mama, recalling the instant feeling of security and love that spot gave me as a child, when I couldn’t sleep or had had a bad dream. I asked her who I was, and she quickly said, “You’re Cheryl.” And I felt warm and safe like that child of years ago.
Later in the day I said, “Mom, do you love me?
She answered instantly, with enthusiasm, “Sure, I do!”
So I held my breath and braved the question, “Do you know who I am?”
“You’re Cheryl! Aren’t you?” she said. She knew my name and was sure she loved me—such a gift!
Later in the day, she was again asking my name. But I had my brief, shining “Camelot” ….and it will not be forgot.

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Hugging Mama

This week marks nine months since Mama went Home to Jesus. I miss her so much. It feels like anything and everything can remind me of her. Maybe because she’s never far from my thoughts.

I just want to feel her close to me again. I know aromas can bring you back in time, but Mom didn’t use perfume, so I wonder if scrubbing the bathroom with Comet and Lysol would bring a sense of her presence. Do they even make that original liquid extra strength Lysol anymore?

Baking is another idea that comes to mind. But I’ve been using Mama’s recipes ever since I got married, so the memories they evoke aren’t just mama related now. They are a sweet mix of history, and growing children, and family parties past and present.

I just want to hug mom. I just want a big, long, warm hug of her soft motherliness. I picture a memory I have from five years ago that is so vivid I can almost feel it, and it brings back a glow of joy…

When I went to visit Mom and Dad today, their front door was locked. Mom tried to unlock it on the inside, while I used my key on the outside. When I finally got the door open and walked in, Mom’s face lit up with such delight and she wrapped her arms around me to give me a hug. Even though she struggled to remember my name, the sweetness of her smile and hug is still warming my heart.

Oh how I’d love that hug right now!

And it makes me think how Mom must have been welcomed into Paradise. Imagine the hug her own mama gave her! And the hugs of brothers, friends, a sister and others that have gone on ahead of her! And I can picture Jesus hugging her, too!

It also reminds me of the verse, “Look! I stand at the door and knock! If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in…” Rev. 3:20.

Jesus not only knows all of our names, He even knows the number of hairs on our heads. Imagine the warmth and delight of His love, when one of His children opens the door of their life to Him!

And what a merciful comfort to know that someday I will hug my precious mama again.

Meanwhile, I do have some Comet, and my bathroom could use a good scrubbing. Maybe it’s worth a try…

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Mama’s First Birthday With Jesus

Mama’s first birthday in heaven is coming up in a couple days. I know it will be amazing for her! Back here on earth, I’m struggling and feeling emotional. These holidays seem to pull me from what I’ll call “adjusted mourning” back into deep mourning. I’m not crying, but I feel like it almost constantly.

I decided to spend some time on Ancestry.Com, to honor Mama and our heritage. So I’ve spent some hours delving into the past, learning things about great-great-great grandparents…imagining what life must have been like then. It intrigues me to think of this chain of people that were crucial to Mama being born. And to me being here now.

The DNA of people I’ve never met, are woven into who we are. I wonder how many of them Mama is meeting for the first time in heaven. I wonder how many of them knew Jesus and trusted in Him.

This will be my first time ever not celebrating Mama’s birthday with her. The last few years our celebrations have been “interesting”. I still smile when I think of the one in 2014…

I baked a cake for Mom and brought it to her house. She sat with me and I asked, “How’s my Mama?”
Mom answered, “I don’t know. I didn’t ask her. Ask her… Esther? Where’s Esther?”

She started shouting, “ESTHER!” (As far as I know Mom has never known an Esther.) Mom shouted, “CRAZY PEOPLE!” Then she started singing random words. 

“Mom,” I said, “It’s your birthday.”
“It is?”
“Yes… You’re 81.”
“Eighty-one?” She said some words I didn’t understand and ended with, “It’s possible.”

I started singing, “Happy Birthday to you…”
Mom shouted, “ME! NOT YOU!”
I started singing again, “Happy birthday to you…”
And Mom sang the next line in rhythm, “…said somebody but you don’t know who….” And we both started laughing. 
I started singing again, “Happy Birthday…”
And Mom jumped in with, “…to me, Happy Birthday to Nina Fay….” And then she kept singing but with different words and melody, “What a wonderful day…oh what a wonderful day…”

I wrote her name down for her and she said that it looked right. Then she suddenly burst out singing, “What a friend we have in Jesus…” and sang the whole chorus word for word!

We gathered around the kitchen table to have her blow her candles out. Dad says birthday candles have always been important to her, but she didn’t want to be at the table and she didn’t know how to blow out the candles. He kept trying to talk her into it.
Finally I said, “Mom, look at me, I’m going to blow out one candle and you blow out the other.” As she saw me blowing, I think it reminded her how to do it and she also blew one out. Hurrah!

She ate her cake, but was agitated and restless and wanted to leave the table. At one point she shouted, “Go home!”
“Do you want me to go home?” I asked.
Mom cleverly answers, “That’s a good way to get there.”

 

Oh, Mama! I never knew what I’d get from her in those years. But she made me laugh and cry and love her more. And I just miss her now.

I don’t know what I’ll do this year without her on her birthday. I’m thinking I may bake her a cake and bring it over to Daddy. I’m guessing I’ll cry, since I am right now just thinking about it.

But I can also rejoice. Because I know Mama will be having her best birthday ever, with her friend Jesus. And I can imaging many of these ancestors I’m researching now are gathering around her and finding out how warm and fun and sweet Mama is. And they are laughing with her and loving her more and more.

And for her it will be a wonderful day. Oh, what a wonderful day!

“And Jesus replied, ‘I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.'”

Luke 23:43 (NLT)

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Sending Love to Louisiana and Texas

My Mama was born and raised in Louisiana. She left everyone she knew at the age of twenty one when she married my daddy and moved about a thousand miles north. She lost her southern accent, but she never lost her love for her family and home land. In her last years she was still saying, “I want to go home. I want to see Mama.”

As long as she could use a phone, she called her family and friends often, even in the days when long distance was expensive. When she was a stay-at-home-mom, earning extra money babysitting and sewing for neighbors, she would save her earnings to pay for trips back to Louisiana to see her precious family.

It didn’t matter if she had to sleep in the back of a station wagon. It didn’t matter if she had to sleep in a leaking tent trailer. It didn’t matter if she had to eat baby food, because the park stores weren’t open when we arrived for the night. She would do it all cheerfully and without complaint to see her people.

And now one of Mama’s nieces and one of her nephews are in Houston, dealing with floods in and around their homes, because of Hurricane Harvey. And Louisiana is getting hit with rain and storms. And in the midst of our whole country’s concern for the region, I feel Mama’s passion for her home town and her people. And I pray and cry as I watch the news. And I smile with pride as I see people sacrificially helping each other.

The reports of damage are overwhelming and heartbreaking. But the people are brave and strong. Like Mama.

I remember a night, three years ago, when Mama taught me a lesson that still comes to mind today…

Dad called and said that Mom had fallen and he needed help. I rushed over and heard Mom yelling as I used my key to unlock the door.

She was shouting, “Mama! Come here and tell me what to do!” And then, even though it must have been scary for her to be stuck on the floor unable to get up, she abruptly switched to singing. As I opened the door I found her lying on her side in the middle of the living room calmly singing, slightly “warbly” and off-key, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus…”

Thankfully, Mom was okay and between my daughter and dad and I, we were able to get her up. But the lessons from Mama linger…

When you need help shout for it. And then, while you wait for help to arrive, stay calm and remember the Friend who is always with you. Sing and pray. God is near and help is coming.

“What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer!”

This was the last hymn Mama remembered. The last hymn she sang on her own. And one of the most memorable lessons she taught me.

We’re praying for you Texas and Louisiana. Stay strong and remember the Friend that is with you always!

Mama and I send our love.

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Seeking Peace

 

Finding peace for my mother-in-law is an ongoing battle.  She’s almost 95 and she’s getting more confused. She often looks perplexed and says, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.” It has become one of our biggest challenges to find things she still can do, so she can feel satisfied and happy.

She was active with quilting, church activities, puzzles and reading before dementia took it’s toll a few years ago.  She’d already given up reading and crossword puzzles before she moved in with us two and a half years ago. Sewing, and even simple jigsaw puzzles, are difficult now.

We’re thankful she’s taken to adult coloring books. She colors every page of every book we have bought for her and treats it like her mission. Sometimes she says it’s fun. Other times I think it just gives her a sense of accomplishment.

She enjoys a few old tv shows, some music, seeing her great-grandchildren, and sitting outside on a nice day. Sometimes she likes to look through her photo album or help mix up a cake.

But her days are still long. And more often we are hearing that refrain, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

I don’t remember having this issue often with my own mom. But it came up now and then. Like the day I wrote about a few years ago, because it had a happy ending…

I was visiting with Mama, sitting next to her and holding her hand, when she abruptly asked, “What do you want me to do?”
I answered with the first thing that popped into my head, “Be happy.”
“I am,” Mom said. And then added, “I did that.” And she looked at me expectantly, like now that she’d done that I should tell her what to do next.
I didn’t know how to respond, so I said, “I love you, Mama.”
“I know,” Mom answered matter of factly.
“Do you know who I am?”
“No,” she said, with no hesitation or remorse.
“I’m Cheryl. Or Sherry. You can call me Sherry if you want.”


Mom was leaning over in her rocking chair, her head almost resting on the arm of her chair. She looked up at me and said, “Sherry…Sherry Lynn?”


And even though in days gone by, hearing my middle name often meant I was in trouble, this time it meant that some part of Mama remembered my name.

And I was happy, too.

I miss my Mama now every day. She went Home to Jesus almost two weeks before Christmas of 2016. Often my mother-in-law’s confusion reminds me of things we went through with Mama. And though I have more experience now, having already completed a “tour a duty”, I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I think I don’t have any.

I often pray words like, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. How are we supposed to handle this? What do You want me to do now, Lord?”

I don’t always get a clear answer. But I know, even when I’m muddling through in my own confusion, that Jesus knows my name. First, middle, and last. He knows everything about me. And He loves me anyway.

And that’s why, when I focus on Jesus and trust Him with everything, I can find peace in this challenging journey of seeking peace for Mom.

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  John 14:27, NLT

 

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Trusting in God When Mountains Crumble

Sometimes when mountains crumble it is good to be still and know that God is God…

I’m reminding myself of this again, as I see my mother-in-law struggling to remember. She’s almost 95, and has been living with us for about two and a half years because of her dementia. She struggles daily now to know who we are, where her bed is, and what she just did. She was a very intelligent woman, and now so often she shakes her head, and puts her hand to her forehead, and says, “I’m all mixed up. I’m so confused.”

It’s so hard to see her go through this. But it was even more emotional going through it with my own mother. Each new loss wrenched my heart. I still remember the day my heart crumbled…

I had been visiting a few minutes with Mom when she looked at me, as she often did, and asked that familiar question, “Who are you?”

“I’m Cheryl,” I replied.  Usually this answer would cause her to smile and say, “Oh, Cheryl.” Or to ask “Cheryl Lynn?” with some recognition.

But that day she said, for the first time, “Cheryl…Who’s Cheryl?”

“I’m your daughter.”

“Oh,” she answered blankly.  And then politely added, “It’s nice you came.”

I said, “I love you, Mama.”

 “Oh, you do?”

“I do!”

“Okay,” she replied.

I told her about her four children and named all of them. She bit her fingernails and seemed uninterested.  I told her she was a good mama to us and took good care of us all the time. And she answered, as if I was speaking of strangers, “Is that right?”

And I was sitting with Mom in the same living room where she watched over me when I was a little girl, where she threw me birthday parties, where she handed out Christmas presents with joy, where we read our family devotions every night, where she rocked her grandchildren with love…and she was asking me who I was.  And wondering who Cheryl was.

And my heart crumbled and I fought tears.

I took a small Bible out of my purse and asked Mom if I could read to her and she agreed. I opened to the Psalms and read from chapter 46 (NLT)…”God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.  So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea…”  And a little later in the chapter…“Be still, and know that I am God!”

Alzheimer’s is a changing world.  It keeps quaking and shifting.  And things we thought were strong and forever, like mountains and like a mother’s love, crumble away and slide into the sea.

There is no safe place in Alzheimer’s. You can never expect things to be better tomorrow. In fact you can be pretty confident they will be worse.

There is no safety or security in Alzheimer’s.  But there is in God’s arms. He is our refuge and strength.  He is our help. He didn’t say we would get through it all without tears.  But He says we can do it without fear.

I can trust Him and be still and know that He is God.

I can’t control this disease.  I can’t make my mother-in-law’s mind remember anything. But I can know that God is with us and that He will help us today and through it all. And I can know that in the end we will be with Him for eternity and all will be restored.

So today I will rest in that.  And I will be still, as the mountain crumbles.  And I will know that He is God.

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Where is Home?

I learned so many lessons as I helped care for Mom. Sometimes people with dementia speak with profound wisdom. Or maybe God is sending a message through them. I remember one day, being amazed by the clarity of truth in Mom’s words…,

Mama was sitting in her rocking chair, in the house she’d lived in for over fifty years, when she said, “I want to go home.”

She said this often. So instead of explaining to her again that she was home, I tried a different approach. I asked, “Where is home, Mom?” And without pondering or delay Mom spoke such clear words of discernment, that I still marvel at them.

“Home is where they want you,” she replied.

I was so struck by this response that it took me a minute or so to reassure Mom that of course we wanted her here. I don’t actually think she was looking for reassurance though. And I’m still not sure if she even knew exactly what she was saying.

But what an insightful definition—home is where they want you. It rings true to my heart. Home is where you feel comfortable and wanted. Or at least where you should feel that way.

It reminds me how important it is to live life in a way that shows people how wanted they are. Because we all want to be wanted. We all need to be wanted.

And what a comfort to remember that we all ARE wanted.

We can know this because Jesus says in John 14:1-3 (NLT) “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me, where I am.”

Everyone is wanted. All who put their trust in Jesus have an eternal home. Jesus wants us with Him. Always. The Creator of the universe wants us with Him so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins. We are wanted. We are loved incredibly.

On this earth some people are homeless. But in eternity no one has to be. Home is where they want you. And we are all wanted.

My precious Mama is Home with Jesus now. We miss her here, but she is wanted there. She is home. And we will all be Home together someday.

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