Lessons of Let it Be

Learning lessons of life and letting it be from my mama…

I went through the normal struggles with Mom’s bath tonight. Then I sat with her and helped her eat her supper while Dad took his shower.

After her meal, Mom looked at one of her story pages. She was only able to read a couple of the words. And she didn’t recognize herself or me or Dad in the photos. I told her, “Mom, that’s a picture of you and me!”
She smiled and said, “Oh, my goodness!”

She didn’t know John 3:16, or name her sibling’s as she usually does. And she only sang a few words of familiar songs I tried to sing with her.

I don’t usually ask her anymore, but for some reason tonight I said, “Do you know who I am?”
She looked right at me and said, “You’re Cheryl, aren’t you?”

Such a surprise! Such a gift! I treasure the words because her memory is so fleeting and sporadic, and I never know when it will be the last time she knows me.

A couple times tonight Mom randomly said, “Let it be.” She’s not a Beatles fan. She doesn’t know the song. She just said, “Let it be,” for no reason I could figure out.

But I’m thinking she’s giving me a wise philosophy for dealing with Alzheimer’s. Maybe life in general. Obviously I have God-given responsibilities that I have to do my best with. But there are many things I have no control over.

There are so many things I tend to worry about, that I need to give to God instead and trust Him and let it be. Just let it be.

God is wise and powerful and strong and in control. I need to do what He tells me to do and let the rest be on His shoulders. His mighty shoulders that can handle everything. I can take a big breath, and exhale and let it be. I can trust Him and let it be. Just let it be.

Not Ready

Wow. I wasn’t ready to hear what Dad said today. I don’t know if I’ll ever be. I’m still reeling…

The visit started out pretty normal. I found Mom looking at the story pages I’ve printed up about her life. I asked her who she was and she promptly said her own mother’s name.
So, a little later when I was trying to get her up for her bath, I said, “Let’s go find Nina Fay!”
Mom hollered back, loud and angry, “Nina Fay is here!” She pointed to herself and shouted, “Nina Fay is right here!” At least she knew her own name again.

Dad told me Mom had been up until 3:30 in the morning talking and hollering. When he woke up in the morning he found his pistol in bed with him. He didn’t think Mom could reach it on the shelf where he kept it. Thankfully it was unloaded and just a BB gun anyway.

The hard part came when we were opening the mail. We had a letter from her long-term care insurance company. They offer a 5% increase in coverage every year to cover inflation, with a correlating increase in payment if you agree.

Dad said, “We better check out prices of good nursing homes, and see if we need to increase the insurance. I think Mom will need to move to one sometime here.”

I felt weak. I felt shocked. We had spoken of it in the past, but Dad has been so determined to take care of her at home as long as we could. I thought it was still working. I’m guessing Dad is just planning for the future, when things get harder. But I was too emotional to even discuss what he was thinking.

I know there are good nursing homes in the world and caring, competent professionals. I can even believe that someday that environment may be needed and best for her.

But I am not ready for it now. It crushes me to picture her in a strange environment with people who don’t really know her and love her. It’s hard enough to know how agitated she gets when she has all the comforts of home and her husband right with her always.

As I was opening the rest of the mail today, Mom suddenly blurted out loudly, “I’m a good person!” Dad chuckled and took her hand and said, “Yes, you’re a good person.”

I don’t know what motivated her to say that. I know we are all sinners and only God is truly good. But Mom loved God and loved others. She was a thoughtful and caring person and everyone who knew who were would say she was good.

But I think of how Mom is now, and she’s so different. Yelling and swearing sometimes and resisting what needs to be done. She can’t help it. But it bothers me that people meeting her now don’t get to see the same sweet, wonderful woman that I know. That all her friends and family knew.

My mama is a treasure, and I don’t want anyone ever taking care of her who doesn’t realize that. And so I weep just thinking that she might someday be in a place where I can’t control who is caring for her.

I went home as soon as I could after opening the mail with Dad, and talked to my husband and cried. He said, “You know your Dad likes to plan ahead. We need to trust God and just take one day at a time.” And I know he is right.

God is worthy of our trust. He is always with us. So, with His help, I’ll keep praying and counting on Him to guide and provide. I’ll hold His hand tightly and rely on His tender mercies. I’ll hide under the shelter of His wings, cling to Him as I cry, and then press on in this journey held up by His grace. One day at a time.

He is good. He is faithful. Always.

The Hug That Will Heal

 

I wish I could give my mama a big hug and comfort her enough that her fears and worries would dissolve away. She seems agitated so often.  Dad told me last week that one night she lay in bed talking until 1:30 in the morning.  I asked him what she was saying.

“Oh,” he answered, “Things like, where’s my mama?  Where am I? I don’t know where I am. I want my mama!”

It hurts to think of her so confused and scared and unable to sleep because of it.

Last night I visited with Mom awhile so Dad could have a shower without worrying what she was doing. She is really in to moving things around these days, which is tough on Dad especially since he has so little vision left.

Mom seemed pleasant with me at first. As we were talking she’d respond to things I shared with, “Oh my goodness!”  Or she’d laugh.  I could almost pretend she was her old self. But then she’d start talking gibberish. And randomly say things like “funny bunny” or “Annabel”.

She also often says, “Butter up! Butter up! Butter up!” Over and over. And then, “Buh,buh,buh,buh…”  And then brrrrrrrrddd, rolling her tongue.

I can tell when she’s getting tense because her voice gets louder and more strident. When that started happening tonight I began singing with her.  She joined in on “You are my Sunshine” and seemed to calm down.  She said, “That’s good.”

But soon she started asking where Dad was and getting up and wandering around and hollering. Later in the evening Dad called me to find out what time it was.  He has a talking watch, but he’d forgotten to put it on after his shower and Mom had moved it somewhere.  I could hear her shouting at the top of her lungs in the background.

I’m often amazed at how Dad manages diabetes and blindness and a wife who needs constant care and is often hollering and making messes and moving his things.

And though he has his moments, most of the time he’s cheerful and pleasant and thanking me for what I do. He prays a lot and listens to his Bible and is such an example for me of pressing on and doing what needs to be done—relying on God for strength.

I wish I could give Dad a big hug and somehow hug away all his stresses and health issues.

Sometimes their hurts weigh especially heavy on my heart. I just want everything to be better for them. And though I’ve often prayed for healing for both of them, God hasn’t granted it yet.

He’s allowing us to stay in this shadowy bog for now. Maybe there are lessons that we can only learn in this place. Maybe there are ways we can glorify Him as we plod through these muddy waters.

I don’t know His purposes exactly.  But I do know that we are never alone here.  Our Shepherd is always  with us. He will lead us to times by still waters and rest in green pastures. His rod and His staff will continue to comfort us.  He will never, ever leave us alone.

And someday he will hug each of His own close to His heart and all the stresses and health concerns and every problem will melt away for eternity.

 

 

 

 

Remembering to Rejoice

Last Easter I  learned another lesson from my parents. After church all my children, my parents, and my mother-in-law came over for the afternoon. Mom was okay while she was eating and even said she liked the food. But before and after the meal she was restless.

She kept asking what we should do. She wanted to go home. She wanted to go see her mama and daddy. She wanted dad to drive her home. She wanted to walk home. It was pretty distracting. We sang with her. I found a story for her to read. These things helped while they lasted, but then she wanted to go.

Dad answered her by saying, “When we get home you’ll just ask where everyone is. And you’ll want to come over here.” He didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay until we had cake and ice cream. He wanted to doze off, sitting on the couch, as he listened to the conversations around him.

Eventually our crowded living room dwindled down to just my husband and me. Our grown kids went home and brought younger siblings with them for the evening. Our parents left, too. I started thinking about the days when my children were all home.

The days when Easter was a flurry of egg hunts, church, and family time that didn’t end with a good-bye at the door. We had bedtime songs and cuddles and siblings fighting and laughing. And now the house is so quiet, and sometimes I miss the blissful, blustery chaos.

And, though part of me wants my children younger again, another part of me yearns for the future. For children happily grown and settled with spouses, and bringing me adorable grandchildren to cuddle and marvel over. I want to see each of them find their niche and productively use their gifts and be everything God wants them to be.

And I see that in many ways, I’m being like my mom. I’m being restless. Wanting the past. Wanting the future. But what about now? I need to learn from my dad. I don’t want to miss a second of the present, because I’m restless for something else.

This time, right now, is a precious part of the journey of life. My parents are still living. My children are just the ages they should be. Right now. This is a time to be grateful for. This is a time to joyfully soak in. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Looking for Me!

The other day I found Mom walking around in the hallway.  “What are you doing, Mom?”

“I’m looking for something.”

“What are you looking for?”

She shouted, “ME!”

Today I asked Mom what her name was.  She answered, “Annabel.”

“Your name is Annabel?”

“Yep.  Annabel,” she calmly answered.

“Where’s Nina?” I asked.

Mom glanced around and said, “I don’t know where Nina is.”

I felt discouraged that she didn’t even recognize her own name.  I held out my hand to her, as she sat in her rocking chair. “I want to hold your hand,” I said.

Mom slipped her hand in mine, and her face lit up in a sweet smile as she said, “I like you.” Oh how my heart was warmed.

“I like you, too!  And I’m so happy you like me!” I answered.  We chatted some more, and I reminded her of some parts of her childhood. She ended up naming all nine of her siblings.

Mama doesn’t know her own name today. But I will hold the memory of her soft hand holding mine, and her bright smile, and her volunteering that she likes me as my treasures today.

And I will hold the truth of restoration in Heaven as my treasure for eternity. There Mama will no longer be looking for herself.  She’ll know her own name again. She’ll know mine, too. And what a tender, precious hug we’ll have when we first meet up again there.

And then we’ll hold hands and her face will light up in a smile.  And I picture her saying, “You are my daughter, Cheryl.  And I love you.” And I will weep with the joy of it all.

How Long Has It Been Since…

Learning lessons in the ‘durned’ if I know what she’s going to do adventure of it all…

Mom was quite pleasant and charming today, in between the times she was yelling and shouting. She smiled and laughed and used interesting phrases. I tried to mirror back to her what she was saying, even though it was often nonsensical.

I would repeat her phrase or thought as a question. And she would nod yes and seem to feel understood.
She said things like “How long has it been since?”
And she said, “Maybe they’re doing what they’re doing.” (She could be right. They probably are.)

When she asked me, “Are you crazy?”
I answered, “I try not to be.”

I started singing “Amazing Grace” to her. When I sang the verse, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years…” Mom interrupted and said, “Wow! That many?”

She wandered into the bathroom at one point and I heard her loudly ask, “What’s she gonna do?” And then she answered herself just as loudly, ” ‘Durned’ if I know.”

I feel that way about her often. ‘Durned’ if I know what she’s gonna do next. It’s all an adventure, in a way.

Life is an adventure, too. It’s uncertain. And we really don’t know what’s going to happen next.

And just like Mom’s yelling and shouting are difficult and challenging, so is much of life. And often life doesn’t make sense and doesn’t seem fair. And you might wonder if you’re crazy. Or if someone with you is.

And maybe we can learn something from Mom’s question, “How long has it been since?” Maybe we need to ask ourselves that. How long has it been since….I had a good cry? I had a good laugh? 

How long has it been since I took a walk with a friend? Or, sat and watched waves? How long has it been since I poured out my soul to my Heavenly Father? How long has it been since I sang songs of worship to Him until I wept with joy?

How long has it been since? It’s a good question to ask with a heart listening to the Spirit’s promptings. 

And when I’m tempted to compare my life to others’ lives that seem better and brighter, I need to remember Mom’s phrase, “Maybe they’re doing what they’re doing.” And realize that maybe they are doing what they’re doing because that is God’s plan for their life.

And I’m doing what I’m doing because this is where God has me right now. And then I can let it go and trust God to take care of His own servants in His own way and in His own timing.

I hope I will remember to notice the sweet and charming moments of this life adventure…because there are many interspersed with the challenging stuff. And I want to keep a thankful heart.

And I hope we will all remember that the best is yet to come. All who believe in Jesus and trust Him with their lives can know that when we’ve been with Him for ten thousand years, we’ve only just begun.


And like Mom said, “Wow! That many?” Yes! And more than we can comprehend!

No One Cares

I sat down in a chair by Mom and started with greetings and small talk. Then Mom suddenly said, “No one cares.”
“Why do you think no one cares, Mom?”
She looked up at me, seeming surprised that I would ask. And then she said, “No one touches or talks.”

I hope it was just a momentary feeling of neglect that she had. Because I always try to take time to talk with her and hold her hand and give her hugs. And I know Dad does, too.

But my heart hurt that she would feel unloved for even a minute. And I wonder now how many people feel that way for days at a time. Or sadly, even longer.

And I think Mom’s explanation for feeling that no one cares, was poignant and full of simple wisdom. When no one touches us or talks to us it’s easy to feel that no one cares.

On the other hand, that doesn’t sound so hard to fix either. It’s not hard to pick up a phone and call someone who might be lonely. It’s not hard to offer a hug or a hand to hold either. We just need to be thoughtful and do it.

So, I told Mom I did care and that I loved her so much. And then I gave Mom her bath and ate lunch with her. Afterwards I sat by her on the love seat. We sang songs and laughed. We looked at family photos.

We played with her baby doll. We remembered people’s names together. I held her soft hand as much as I could. And she kept licking her finger and trying to rub freckles off my arm.

Oh sweet mama, I know your memories are fading away. But I pray you will never, ever forget how much we love you and care about you.

And I myself need to remember, at times when God feels distant and I doubt His care, that He is always loving me and providing for me and protecting me in ways I don’t even realize. And He loved us all so much He sent Jesus so our sins could be pardoned and we could have a relationship with Him forever.

And I pray that we all may”…have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.” (Ephesians 3:18-19, NLT)