The Unimaginable Ending

The year is coming to an end, and I completed my first read thru of the Bible Mom and Dad gave me for Christmas last year.  How precious to see their signatures on the inside cover.

And what a treasure of truth His Word is. As I read the last few pages of Revelation I couldn’t help but think of my dear parents. Because heaven is coming! And my parents know Jesus and their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And so I take such comfort, as I think of Mom even just yesterday, falling and confused and crying and hollering, that there will be a day that turns into eternity—where there will be no more sorrow or crying or pain.

And I think of my Daddy, shuffling around cautiously in the darkness of near blindness, and I know someday Jesus will be the light—and Dad’s world will be brighter than ever!

I’m thankful that Mom and Dad are still with us and they continue to bless our lives. I will soak up every moment I can with them now. But I’m so grateful to know that this is not the end.  We will all be together again someday!  We know the end of the story and it is better than we can imagine!!

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” Isaiah 64:4, NLT

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Baby Brother… Ally in the Battle

I was surprised Dad was calling back so soon.  We had just hung up after a pleasant chat a few minutes earlier and all had been well. I instantly heard the stress in his voice as he said, “Can you come over here?  Mom’s fallen.”

In a few minutes I was standing over Mom.  She was sitting in the doorway of her bedroom, hollering and wanting help.  But she didn’t know what to do or how to follow our directions. After her last fall we had ordered a special padded gait belt, with handles sewn in to help those lifting a fallen person.  I managed to buckle it on Mom and tighten it, but when I tried to lift her I couldn’t budge her.

Dad had already called my youngest brother, who had just left their house after having lunch with them, and was on his way back to work.  Thankfully he soon arrived, and the two of us were able to lift Mom easily. I then shooed the guys out while I cleaned up Mom and changed her. And then dear brother scrubbed up the mess she’d left on the floor.

I sat and visited with Mom and Dad for a bit.  And then I drove home thinking how grateful I am for my baby brother. I’m twelve years older than him and I thought he was adorable when he was born, even though I was sorely disappointed that he wasn’t the sister I was longing for. As I got older he became that pesky little brother who wanted attention when my friends were over.

And now that pesky little brother has turned into my best ally in this whole Alzheimer battle. He brings Mom and Dad lunch every day.  He visits with them and does little chores and errands and takes Dad grocery shopping every week. He works for my other younger brother, who owns his own company, and who gives J. freedom to take long lunch breaks and help out our folks.

And I think, with tears in my eyes, how very grateful I am for pesky little brothers who grow to be men of integrity, faithfully and quietly doing what needs doing. Every day.

All is Calm…All is Right

I was so exhausted after Mom’s bath.  I was praying for strength.  Mom was angry and hollering at me the whole time. I know she can’t help it and doesn’t know what she’s saying, but it’s still so draining to hear her vehemently protesting everything I’m doing, when I’m only trying to help her.

After I got the bathroom cleaned up, I sank into a chair as I joined Mom and Dad in the living room.  I chatted with Dad awhile.  I asked  if he’d listened to the Karen Kingsbury book on CD that I’d given him for Christmas.  His eyes twinkled and he said he’d listened to half of it on Christmas night and then decided he was using it up too quickly.  He now limits himself to one disc an evening.

He  started telling me the plot.  I asked if the reader of the audio book was good and he said she was and asked me if I wanted to hear some of it.  I agreed, thinking I’d be listening to a minute or so, just to get an idea of it. But apparently Dad was in no hurry to turn it off. So I settled back and put my feet up and listened to the middle of the book, a disc he had already listened to once.

The whole forty or so minutes we were listening, Mom sat next to Dad on the love seat quietly. She would pat his arm or pick and pull a bit at his sleeve. And she looked sweet and peaceful sitting by him.

My stress eased away as I soaked in the story and the comforting sight of Mama cuddling Dad contentedly. I smiled with gratefulness for Karen Kingsbury and because Dad was obviously enjoying his Christmas gift. Mama’s next to Dad, God is in His heaven, and all’s right in my world for this moment.

The Miss and Mix of Alzheimer’s

Today I sat with Mom so Dad could go out for lunch with my brother.  She was pretty mellow for most of the time, often dozing off and leaning her head on my arm. But at one point Mom randomly said, “I miss me.”

“You miss you?”

“Yep,” she answered.  “I miss me.”  I didn’t know how to respond, but I kept thinking that I missed her, too.

I stopped back at Mom’s this afternoon to drop some things off I’d picked up for them.  Mom and I sat and visited a bit. As I’d been driving on my errands today I’d wondered when Mom last knew me because it seems like months since she got my name right. So, as we sat together, even though I’ve about given up hope, I asked, “What’s my name?”

And she answered, “Cheryl.” I think I felt as thrilled as when my babies took their first steps!  I cheered and clapped.

And I think that Alzheimer’s brings such a mix. There are tears of profound sadness.  There is laughter that spills out from the jumbles of craziness. There are losses that feel unbearable. There are victories that bring dancing cheers.

And through it all Jesus is whispering, repeating words that I read often in my Bible.  Words like I just read in Haggai… “ ‘Be strong….and do the work; for I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” And again, “ ‘…My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’”

And I’m grateful for the covering of courage and comfort His presence brings on this journey.  And I’m thankful that I never have to miss Him, because He doesn’t change and He is always there. And I never have to wonder if He remembers my name, because He knew me even as He created me in my mother’s womb. And He will stay with me and carry me into old age until He draws me into the arms of eternity with Him. My Jesus is so good.

Very much Me

In the flurry of Christmas at my parents’ house yesterday Mom asked who someone was.  And in return someone asked Mom who she was.  She answered loudly, and with some gumption, “I’m me.  I’m very much me!” The problem for her family is that she is not talking or acting like the dear woman we knew. One of my brothers even said, “I didn’t know Mom was like this.”

And another brother answered, “That’s because you’re never over here. And this is why I have to leave … [after he’s been over awhile].

Mom is often in a hard place these days. She’s often yelling and hollering so loud it hurts your ears if you’re close to her. I had to change Mom during the party yesterday, and grandchildren down in the basement could hear her. She swears sometimes, to everyone’s shock, because she never, ever did that before.

Yes, we had some startled faces on Christmas Day. A sister-in-law came up to me after I changed Mom and said, “I think you need a hug.” It was sweet of her, but I told her honestly that I was pretty used to Mom’s hollering. It was only for a few minutes yesterday—she was pretty calm for most of the party. But I did admit that it was tough on Christmas Eve when Mom hollered, “I hate you and I’m going to kill you!”

I told Dad she yelled that at me and he said, “Oh, she says that every day now.  It’s just her way of objecting.” I know that’s true. I know yelling things like that is not the heart of my sweet mama. So why is it still hard to hear sometimes?

And then I think how I have a home to go to, away from the stress of it all.  But Dad doesn’t.  He’s there 24/7. And he’s 81 and blind. And I’m ashamed of myself for the times I feel reluctant to help him or think that he’s asking too much.

And my heart goes out to all the care-givers who don’t have another home to go to. And the ones who don’t have enough help. And the ones who pick up on tones of reluctance in the voices of those they are asking for help.

And I feel convicted to ask Dad, “What can I do?” before he has to ask for help. And I think Jesus is calling me to step up and do more. Because full-time care-givers are heroes. But they need support. They need time away, if even for an hour or two.  They need meals delivered and love showered on them. They need to be covered in prayer and held up with encouragement. They need driveways shoveled and lawns mowed and houses cleaned.

Some of us have more flexible schedules and can do more than others.  But how different would the world look if everyone did something regularly for even one care-giver they know? And to those who are truly alone, or abandoned in your life of serving and mercy, know that you are walking on holy ground when you are caring for the helpless. God is with you.

And as you feed and clothe and minister to your beloved stranger you are feeding and clothing and ministering to Jesus.  And He will not forget you. And someday He will look at you with love in His eyes and say, “As you were taking care of your loved one, you were caring for Me.  It was very much Me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honey for my Heart

 

I walked in the door at my parents’ house and Dad was snoozing in his recliner. Mom saw me and said, “Raymon, you have company.”

Mom followed me down the hall as I prepared things for her bath. Now days I give her a hug any time she is standing, for as long as I can, until she pulls away. I want to soak in every moment of closeness I can.

I opened my arms as Mom walked near me and she willingly wrapped her arms around me too, resting her head on my chest.  I didn’t say anything, I was just relishing the hug, but she said gently, “I love you, too.” And it was honey for my heart.

Maybe I am “Raymon’s company”—but Mama loves me.

Let it Be

I confess.  I’ve been feeling a little sorry for myself lately. I’ve even been feeling sorry for women in general.

It’s something about this stage of life. This stage where children are growing up and moving out at the same time as parents are aging and gradually leaving us, too. And lets just throw in The Change of Life for the fun of it.  And we won’t mention that the dog probably won’t be around too much longer. Everything is changing at once.

I loved being a mom of young children, my home full of rambunctious noise and chaotic joy. The warmth of all being together at each holiday for the whole day. Now sons have other family commitments and celebrations to attend  and that is good. I love the young women they have brought into our family and they add delight to our days.  But holidays are complicated. They will never be the same. I don’t even want them to be the same, because I value the relationships that have been added. But it’s different.

And as I adjust to that change, I’m trying to adjust to a mom who doesn’t know me anymore. Yesterday, I was sitting with Mom and I asked her, “Do you know who I am?”

And she answered, with no concern or embarrassment, “No.”

So, I said, “I’m Cheryl.  Do you know who Cheryl is?”

And again she simply answered, “No.”

And I miss the mom who knew me. The mom who called me all the time and wanted to listen longer than I wanted to talk and who worried more over my problems then I did. The mom who somehow knew just when to bring over a big pot of stew or a hot-dish. The mom who loved us all so well and so unconditionally.

And though my Dad is still strong in mind, he can’t see. And I miss the dad who could build anything and fix everything.

And I’m trying to get ready for Christmas and it all feels complicated and not the way it was. And I wonder why God has everything change at the same time in the lives of many women. Parents aging, children leaving, menopause… ALL at the same time? I don’t want to question God, but isn’t it all kind of overwhelming?

And I’m struggling to get in the “Christmas spirit” so I open my Bible to the first chapter of Luke. And I read about God giving Elizabeth a baby in her old age. I know it was joyful, but it had to be hard, too. Really hard.

And then God tells Mary she’s going to have a baby– though she’s not married. She knows that will be a scandal. And then God has her travel to Bethlehem when she is close to her delivery date. Nazareth is 70 to 80 miles from Bethlehem. According to some quick research, people traveled in caravans for safety then and typically traveled twenty miles a day. Can you imagine walking, or riding on a donkey, for twenty miles a day when you are quite pregnant? Mercy!

It all makes me think that God has always asked challenging things of women.  I mean, just being pregnant and delivering a baby is about as tough as it gets. He asks us to join Him in the incredible mission of creating life. What an honor! And then He asks us to love and feed and nurture and train His precious children. And then He asks us to let them fly and trust Him with their lives and to keep praying for them and keep loving them through it all.

And there are joys.  And there are tears. And life changes. And it brings new joys and new tears. And through it all God is with us, and He is loving us and He is giving us strength and grace for this journey. I read Luke 2:37-38(NKJV) ” ‘For with God nothing will be impossible.’ Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maid servant of the Lord! Let it be according to your word.’ “

And I think, therein lies all the wisdom I need… Nothing is impossible with God. I will get through all of this change with His grace. I am His maid servant. He will give me strength for whatever He assigns me. I can trust Him in everything and let it be. He is in control, I can let it be. I can be still and know that He is God. And I can let it be.