Grace in the Storms

Thunderstorms are in the forecast for later, so I go over early to give Mom her bath. Afterwards I sit by Mom on the love seat, and the rain begins to pour, and the thunder claps, when she says, “You are me and I am you.”
I’m not sure how to respond to that. So I say, “I love you, Mama”
“I love you, too,” Mama sweetly answers. A bit later she stares at my face and abruptly asks, “Who are you?”
“I’m Cheryl.”
“Who are you?” she immediately asks again.
“I’m Cheryl.”
“Oh,” Mom smiles, “YOU’RE Cheryl.”
“Yep, I’m Cheryl. Who are you?”
“I’m Nina Fay.”
“You’re Nina Fay. Do you love me?”
“Well,” Mom says cheerfully, “I used to.”

I’ve noticed a scratch on her arm and so I rub some ointment on it while I tell Mom what I’m doing. She says, “Bless your little heart!”

There’s a break in the thunderstorm, so I get up to leave. Mom gets upset and urgently shouts, “Stay here! Stay here!” She’s never done that with me before, so I settle back down next to her. She seems reassured and she pats my arm and tries to rub away my freckles.

And I think now what a strange conversation Mama and I’ve had. And I know a few years ago it would have broken my heart. Well, actually something similar did I’m sure. Alzheimer’s is a journey of heart breaks.

But please hear this…God keeps healing the brokenness and the cracks. His love seeps in and soothes and repairs and heals until you find out that your heart is much stronger than you ever thought it could be.

And on this unwanted journey, God keeps raining grace us on. He gives strength to get through the day. He sends lessons we would have learned no other way. He gives tender moments and smiles that are more precious seen through the pain.

My dad was just saying today, as we heard the thunderstorm crackling overhead, that he liked to sit out on the porch during storms so he could hear the power. I know what he means. God is powerful and mighty and there is something about a thunderstorm that reminds us of that.

And there is something about walking through Alzheimer’s with a loved one that reminds me of His power, too. Because I know I couldn’t bear it without Him. I know He is surrounding us with His love and growing us in new ways. I know He is with us through it all.

So I can sing the words of a favorite song of mine, (by Casting Crowns) with confidence and faith, “I will praise You in this storm….”
“……And every tear I’ve cried, You hold in Your hand. You never left my side. And though my heart is torn, I will praise You in this storm.”

He is so good. He is worthy of our praise!

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Learning Trust

Mama said such an unusual thing to me last night. Maybe she didn’t even know what she was saying. But sometimes I think God is sending me lessons through her random words. And some things stand out crisp and sharp.

After our visit, right before I left, Mom was walking down the hall and I held my arms open wide and said, “Can I have a hug?”

And Mom said, “Sure!” and walked into my arms. And as she was giving me a sweet, long hug she said something I’ve never heard her say before. She quietly said, “I trust you.”

“You trust me?” I asked, checking to see I’d heard right.
“Yep,” Mom said. And then she walked over to her rocking chair and sat down.

I’ve been thinking about it, on and off, ever since. And it’s hitting me that people with dementia have no choice. They have to count on the people caring for them, whether they understand what trust means or not.

People with dementia are vulnerable. If they don’t like how a care giver is treating them, what can they do? They are totally dependent on those who love them to look out for their best interests and make wise choices for them.

People with dementia need someone to be sensitive to their needs as they become less and less able to express their needs themselves. Someone has to care about what they eat and what they wear and when they get bathed. Someone has to be counted on to notice medical concerns and get appropriate help.

Someone has to be trusted to do what is best for a person when they can’t figure that out for themselves anymore. Someone has to stand guard and make sure they are not neglected or abused. Or forgotten.

The person with dementia is dependent on the mercy and compassion of others. Someone has to be tuned in enough to notice what calms fears. And to care enough to show love and affection. And to bring moments of joy and laughter.

Someone has to be trusted. Someone has to be faithful. Someone has to keep loving through the storms and messes and tantrums.

What a challenging job it is to be that “someone”. I’m so thankful for the steadfastness of my dad in that role, and I’m honored to be on his support team.

And when things get overwhelming, I’m so grateful we have Jesus watching over us. What a privilege to know that we can take shelter under His wings, and bring Him all our problems and needs. And that we can say with confidence, “I trust You.” And know absolutely that He is worthy of that trust and that He is faithful always.

Counting With Mom

Learning lessons of counting and time…

Mom’s bath is over and she sits on the love seat next to me, her damp head leaning up against my arm. I hold her hand and gently feel the arthritic bumps of her knuckles under her baby soft skin. I quote Bible passages and sing a few songs, and she seems deeply peaceful—like a young child about to fall asleep.

Dad and my brother come home with groceries and lunch, and Mom eats her salad and then a piece of pie. Then Dad and I move into the office to go through the mail. Soon we hear Mom shouting, “Don’t do that to me! Don’t do that to anybody!”
Dad asks, in his teasing way, “What did you do to her?”
“I left her alone,” I admit.

Mom finds us in the office and sits with us as I finish the mail. As we leave the room Mom walks into the kitchen and begins loudly counting, “One, two, three, four, five….” I stand nearby, curious to know how far she can count. She makes it to twenty perfectly and then abruptly stops.

She comes back into the living room and sits in her rocking chair. I help her put her feet up and cover her with a blanket. Dad didn’t get much sleep last night and is hoping they will both doze off as they listen to a book on tape.

And I think now about how many baths Mama helped me with in this same house. And about how many stories she read and songs she sang to me sitting under this same roof. She’s the one who taught me to count to twenty within these same walls. And she’s the one who held my hand and comforted me and let me crawl up into the safety of her bed after scary dreams.

I think of the countless memories I have, with my precious mama, in this very house. And my heart is full of love and I want to hug her close and surround her with every sweet joy and comfort. I want her to always be safe and to never feel alone.

And I think of our days left together on this earth. And I know they are numbered. So, I pray God will give me strength and guidance to honor my parents and meet their needs, as the time ticks away.

But oh what overwhelming peace there is in knowing, that those who love Jesus will have an eternity together with Him. Our joy will be beyond measure! And time will never need counting again.