Keep the Love

Sometimes I truly believe God speaks His wisdom through Mama, despite her severe dementia, and sends me the words I need to hear…

It has been such a hard week. Without going into details, let me just say, that when a family is sharing caregiving responsibilities, people can feel over worked and overwhelmed. And when we see a loved one declining emotions run strong, and sometimes too loudly.

Even the most loving people can disagree about what needs to happen when and how, and what is best for all concerned. And sometimes people speak in the stress of it all and say things they don’t really mean. And backs and bodies can be injured moving Mama and feelings can be injured by attitudes and words.

Sometimes you cry the whole drive to church and wonder if you should even go in to offer worship to God  when you know there is a whole wall of hurt between you and a family member that needs to come down and the weight of it all sits on your heart.

And I’m thankful for my wise husband, who sympathizes with me, but urges me to give grace. And reminds me of the stress we’re all under and the grieving we are all going through. And he says to me, “The important thing is to keep loving each other.” And keep forgiving. And don’t let Satan win ground here. And I know he is right.

So some of us apologized. And talked. And we cried and hugged each other. And others of us somehow found a wordless peace.

And then my daughter texted last night, as she was putting Mama to bed.

And the text read, “Grandma says…’Keep the love.'”

And my eyes misted and my heart warmed. And I felt like God was advising me through my Mama once again.

Keep the love.

What perfect words.

Yes, Mama, with God’s help we will. You raised a loving family. And you nurtured us well. And you poured love into your children and grandchildren. You filled us up, Mama.

And I pray that through all these challenges we won’t lose a drop of that love. I pray rather that our love will grow stronger, for God and each other. And that He will help us persevere through the hard stuff. And I pray that His love will fill us to overflowing and spill out so all around us know His love.

And I pray that you feel and know that love, Mama. I pray that you know how cherished and honored you are.

And with God’s help, we will keep the love, until we are all gathered together again for eternity.






Lessons in Aging

A couple years ago I had a day of lessons in aging…

Mom asked me twice how old I was. The first time I answered, “Fifty three.”
She said, “Oh my goodness!” I asked her how old she was. She tilted her head back and said, “H-mmm, let’s see…” And then she abruptly looked at me, startled and with wide opened eyes and said, “I don’t know!”
“Do you want me to tell you?” I asked.
“No,” she replied, suddenly unconcerned.

A few hours later she again randomly asked me old I was and I told her. This time she calmly replied, “Oh, fifty-three…okay.” So I asked her how old she was and she replied, “I don’t know.”
“Do you want me to tell you how old you are?”
Her eyes sparkled, as if I was letting her in on a great secret, and she replied, “Why don’t you!”
“You’re eighty years old,” I said.
“EIGHTY!” she exclaimed, in a loud shocked voice. “You’re CRAZY!!”

I was still visiting with Dad when an aunt called. She is in her eighties and lives in a house by herself in the country. Thankfully she has relatives that live close by. She told Dad that her brothers and sisters all call in and check up on each other every day or so.

Shortly after I got home another elderly relative called me. She is in her nineties and had gone to see “The Church Basement Ladies” with a group from her own church. Though not a weepy person, she said tears were streaming down her face as she watched this comedy—because it reminded her of her own mother who was always cooking big meals in their small town church basement. After the show she went home and got a phone call about her older sister being moved to hospice care.

It all makes me think how brave older people have to be. The longer they live the more people they have to miss and the more adjustments they must make.

I suppose that’s one of the reasons why God planned families and children and grandchildren. And why God so often speaks of caring for the widows.

Growing old is shocking and crazy. Losing loved ones is brutal. But knowing you have family and friends loving you and checking in on you can make all the difference.

Today I read a quote from Mother Theresa, “Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right where you are—in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools…You can find Calcutta all over the world if you have eyes to see…”

I pray I will do a better job of caring for the lonely in my own world. Someday Jesus will call all who believe in Him Home and age will be meaningless in the glow of eternity. But meanwhile, the elderly are treasures that we are to tenderly cherish and care for. And in that tender caring there are special blessings found no where else.

God's Grace and Mom's Alzheimer's photo.

A Tender Mercy

Sometimes, in this heart-wrenching journey with Alzheimer’s, God sends moments of blessings that need to be gathered up and held close to the soul, and never forgotten…

Last night, after I fed Mama supper, I cuddled next to her on the bed. She was propped up on pillows, so I was lower than her. And from that angle her face looked thinner and older. I put my arm around her and laid my head next to her shoulder. And I cried.

And Mama kept tapping my arm and stroking it softly, as she lay there half asleep. Patting and tapping with her hand is a habit she has now. In reality it may not have meant anything to her.

But it still was a tender mercy to me.

Because I felt like my Mama was comforting me again. Like somehow she knew how I was already mourning her, and she was reassuring me with her gentle flutter-tapping on my arm. And her moments of mothering felt like a gift from God to be treasured.

And it felt like Mama was saying, with her tap-tapping, “I know you’re sad. I’m sorry it’s hard. It will be okay. Mama’s here.”

And then I said, “I love you, Mama.”

And she replied, “I love you, too.” And the moment was perfect.






Where Does My Help Come From?

On Saturday I held my newly born granddaughter for the first time and I slipped my hand under her blanket and felt the soft smoothness of her shoulder and back and tiny feet and I soaked in her sweet beauty as she slept in my arms.

And today I cuddled Mama in her bed. She was so weak this morning, we didn’t dare get her up. We propped her up for a sponge bath and a change of clothes and some food. And later I eased her back down to one pillow for a nap.

I combed my fingers through Mama’s hair and patted her back. I said, “I love you, Mama.”

She answered, “I did, too.”

“You loved me, too?”

“Sure!” she answered. And my heart smiled.

I lay close to Mama, with my back to her, like Daddy sleeps. And Mama put her arm around me and flutter tapped my tummy. And I reveled in the cozy warmth.

As I laid there my thoughts drifted to yesterday, when I got a call from Mama’s care giving agency. I was told one of our favorite care givers, “Patti”, is leaving us, because she just thinks she can’t do enough for mom. She says she loves mom and us.

The manager who called said Patti  even cried about resigning  from us. I wonder if it’s too hard for her to see Mama declining. And I wondered if the manager could tell that I was crying over the phone, hearing about the resignation.

Because it’s difficult to find care givers that are excellent. And when you are blessed with one it hurts so much to lose them. Especially when you need them more than ever.

I prayed when I heard the news. “Lord, what are we going to do? How are we going to get enough help?”

And I immediately heard in my heart, “Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121: 1b-2

And I smiled. And I nodded. Yes, Lord. My help comes from You. You–the Creator of heaven and earth. The Creator of everything! You are certainly able to help with our problems. With anything. I will trust You my Abba Father. And I will know that you will give grace and strength and provision as we need it.

I turned over in bed and faced Mama. And I stroked her face and her arm and marveled how the softness reminded me of our grand-baby’s skin. And I snuggled close to Mama and her peaceful beauty as she slept.






Sweet Support and Stories

I love hearing from readers, even though many of your stories are heartbreaking or bittersweet. You have all been a support group for me through this journey. You have blessed me, encouraged me, and prayed for my family–even though most of you don’t know me.

And occasionally your stories make me smile.
Today Dona commented on a blog post What I’ll Say to my Children if I’m Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s and I just have to share it…

“My 89 year-old mom, too, had Alzheimer’s. It was during one of her more lucid days that she said, ‘I don’t know why God just doesn’t take me now. I’m ready to go.’

I went into my preaching mode and reminded her that Jesus said he was going to prepare a house for her and when her house was ready, I was sure he’d come for her.

She replied ‘I can just live with my mom and dad! They won’t care!’

Thank you for sharing Dona! And a big thanks to all my readers! I can’t even express how much you lift my heart! May God bless you all and give you each grace for your own journey.


Two Brief Shining Moments

Today my daughter came home from feeding Mama breakfast excited to share the news. “Mom,” she said, her face glowing, “Grandma smiled today!”

Neither of us had seen Mom smile for months, maybe longer. We had pretty much decided she didn’t know how any longer. “What?! Grandma smiled?” I asked, teary eyed with awe.

“Yes,” Annie said. “I was telling the hospice aid about Grandma and mentioned the town where Grandma grew up in Louisiana and she smiled! She didn’t show her teeth, but she smiled!”

We were both so thrilled! And I so wished I had seen it, too. We wondered if it had anything to do with the new anti-anxiety medication that Mom had started last night.

A couple hours later I went over to feed Mom lunch. And in the middle of it she looked right at me and smiled! A closed mouth smile–but definitely a smile! I was so thrilled! It was like the first time I saw my first child smile in recognition of me. It so delighted my heart!

And then a second later Mama hollered in complaint again. But I had seen that precious smile.

Mama also seemed more talkative today. She said, “I need something.”

“What do you need, Mama?”

“Something for me,” she replied, but she couldn’t tell me what.

“Are you in there?” Mama asked me.

“Yes, Mama, I’m here.”

At one point Mama seemed irritated and I asked, “Am I annoying you, Mom?”

And she answered, “It’s possible.”

And this whole conversation actually makes more sense than most of ours have lately.

But her walking  and standing were too scary tonight. So we propped her up in bed and fed her there. And I scrambled to mix an Ensure with some ice cream to get more of something in her, before she dozed off.

And then I cuddled up next to her in bed and put my head against her shoulder and quoted some Bible verses and sang some hymns as I held Mama’s velvety soft hand and as I stroked her hair and as I blinked back tears.

I came home exhausted, grateful my husband had picked up supper and ready to crash. This time of hospice is hard stuff. But God is with us. And His angels surround us. And the prayers of His people lift us.

And for TWO brief shining moments, Mama smiled!







My Anchor in the Storm

The hospice workers are pretty amazing. Such compassionate, gifted people. Today Mama had her hair shampooed and nails filed, by a hospice aid. And then a massage therapist came and somehow gently massaged Mama, as she reclined in her chair, for at least half an hour. And Mama never hollered once!

The hospice nurse visited as well and had some suggestions for us for her care. I’m so thankful for the support.

And yet I come home, after Mama is tucked in bed for a nap with Dad, and I feel exhausted. And I just want to curl up and cry.

It’s hard to see Mama struggling so much to get up. And to know she is bending over and struggling so to walk. It’s heartbreaking to see her stare blankly. I just want to do something to make her all better. I want my Mom back. I want to see her smile again. I want to hear her laugh.

I want her to look at me and know me again.

My eyes are misty. I feel weak. My heart literally aches.

As I fed Mama lunch today she reached out and gently patted my arm and played with my sleeve. And it was a sweet comfort. A loving touch.

And before Dad laid down in bed to nap with Mom, I took his place for a few minutes. And Mama snuggled against me and patted my back.

These are the tender mercies I savor.

I have brothers that do what they can to help. I am blessed with a husband who is so understanding and supportive and helpful. I have a daughter and son that are incredible caregivers to their grandma. And we have other great care givers that faithfully help us and now we also have the resources and support of hospice.

And these are the pillars I count on for help in holding Mama up.

And most importantly we have Jesus, the savior of our souls. And because of His death and resurrection, because He took the punishment for our sins, and because Mama believed in Him, I know she will be better than okay. She will be in paradise when God calls her Home. And we will be together again someday.

And then I will have my mom back. And I will see her smile again. And I will know she knows me. And I will hear her laugh once more.

And this is the certain hope I have, the anchor to my soul, in this turbulent storm.