Back in Time

It finally came!

My aunt had called me several weeks ago to check in about Mom. She’d mentioned that she’d found a few pages from a letter from my mom, in one of my grandma’s old cookbooks.

“The letter has a recipe for doughnuts in it.”

“I don’t ever remember Mom even making doughnuts.”

“Well, you must have been young when she wrote this, because Michael wasn’t born yet. She says she made cinnamon rolls too, that your dad loved. Would you like the letter?”

“Yes! I’d love it!” I answered.

“Okay, I’ll mail it to you.”

And I’ve been checking the mailbox daily, like a child waiting for a prize to come, ever since. I almost missed it today, as it hid between bills and charity requests. And then I saw it– and my heart soared!

I do have a few recipes in Mama’s handwriting already. But letters and cards have sadly disappeared over the years. And something about reading a letter Mama wrote herself to her own mama brought me back in time.

Back to a time when Mama was younger than my oldest daughter, but living a whole country’s length away from her own mama.  A time when long distance calls were expensive and no one had computers or texting. A time when thoughts were written by hand on paper and a stamp was required. A time when Mama didn’t have her own car and had to figure out a way to get that stamp.

A time when doughnuts were homemade by Mama and her cinnamon rolls were loved by Daddy. A time when she had to stop writing so she could go take care of her little daughter, Sherry.

I wish the whole letter had been saved. But reading even these two pages paints misty memories of a sweet, joyous era. I can almost smell the freshly baked cinnamon rolls. I see my smiling Mama carrying me into the kitchen. The letter to Grandma is still on the table, waiting for that stamp. I see Daddy coming home and enveloping us both in a big hug.

I choke up just picturing the tender scenes. I read the pages through blurry eyes.

It was such a precious time. And now as we take care of Mama, it’s a challenging time, but still rich with moments to treasure. There are still cuddles. There are still sweet words shared and moments of laughter. There are still songs sung and soft touches. And I think the love keeps growing even deeper. More sacrificial. More full of tender mercies.

We haven’t had any homemade doughnuts or cinnamon rolls for decades… maybe I need to make that happen.

And I know I need to remember, that even the very best memories I have here pale in comparison to the ones we’ll make together someday in heaven, because of the love of Jesus and His sacrificial love for us.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”    I Corinthians 2:9 (NKJV)

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Oh The Things Mama Says

A couple weeks ago, Mama looked right at my oldest daughter and said, “I want to buy you a duck.” And Amy and I both laughed. And we wondered where that thought came from.

I often wonder about Mama’s thoughts and words.

Some days now she is so quiet. Sometimes I feed Mama a whole meal, and she opens her mouth faithfully to eat, but doesn’t say a word, even though I try to engage her. Some days she doesn’t even look at me and just gazes off at random things. I often wonder what she’s thinking.

And even when she does speak, and her words are clear enough to understand, I still don’t know what she’s thinking.

A few days ago, I was feeding Mama lunch, and she kept looking right at me.

She asked, “Did you?” And she looked at me intently, waiting for a response.

“Um-mm, maybe.” I said. “I might have.”

“Did I do it?” Mama asked, with a concerned look on her face, her eyebrows knitted close together.

“I don’t think so,” I answered.

A bit later Mama said, “No one knows.”

“Well, that’s true,” I replied. “There is a lot that no one knows.”

A little while later Mama randomly asked me,”Why do they do that?” her blue eyes fixed on me expectantly.

I was thankful Mama was actually talking, but I wished I could understand what she was thinking about. I longed to truly communicate with her.

After lunch and clean up, I cuddled in bed with Mama for a little while. I quoted Bible verses. I sang hymns and other songs. I told her that I loved her.

Finally I said, “I need to go now, Mama. Should I go get Dad to come take a nap with you? Would you like Raymon to come in here?”

And Mama very clearly said, “Oh, shut up!”

Well, at least I understood that!  And though it’s still strange to hear Mama say words she never said when her mind was strong, I laughed. I think it was just refreshing to hear a whole thought from her that I could comprehend.

But as Alzheimer’s progresses, and language dwindles, every word becomes more precious. It’s a clue to what is going on in Mama’s thoughts. Or at least I want it to be a clue. And I search for meaning. And whenever she mentions my name or speaks of love, my heart is thrilled.

A week or so ago I told Mama I loved her. And she answered, “I know that.” And my heart was warmed and I smiled. Because even though she doesn’t know who I am, or what my name is, or if she loves me — if she knows that I love her, I can be content.

Because someday we will be together with God, and Mama’s mind will be restored. Then she will know my name again. And I will know her Mama’s love again. How sweet and perfect that will be!

And then I’ll just have to ask her– why did you want to buy Amy a duck? And I can see us laughing together about that one!

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What a Friend we Have in Jesus

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear…

I was in tears. Becky, the music therapist, came again today. Dad requested more hymns this time. And hearing Becky sing How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace was balm to my soul.

Because it’s been a tough week. A few days ago I had called 911 for my mother-in-law with fears that she was having a stroke. Thankfully she wasn’t, and she’s doing well now. But she spent a night in the hospital with all the anxiety that surrounds that.

We’ve had other stresses I won’t share here, except to say caregiving can strain relationships. And life doesn’t stop because you are caregiving or since someone you love is in hospice. It keeps flowing on, and problems and conflicts and emotions keep crashing like waves, threatening sometimes to flood your heart and pull you down under.

But something about hearing the strum of a guitar, and a lovely voice singing, O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer, becomes a life raft to collapse on in the storm.

I looked at Mama reclining in her chair, as Becky sang. Mama looked so pale and still. She seems more quiet this week and I’m afraid maybe I really am losing her. Because even though she’s in hospice care, there’s a big part of me that’s in denial. I’ve heard of people living two years in hospice care and I’ve been counting on that all along. At least two years.

But when I see her eating less. And talking less. And moving less– it’s harder. And more fearful. I looked at her today and made sure she was breathing. I remembered how, a few years ago, Dad had called me to come help because Mama had fallen. When I’d walked into the living room Mama was lying on the floor on her side singing, What a Friend we Have in Jesus. And I thought, at the time, what a perfect song to sing when you’re stuck on the floor and waiting for help.

And I wished Mama could join in and sing with us again. But she just rested, pale and quiet. And I blinked back tears.

Dad told Becky that he had altered some of the words to You Are My Sunshine. Instead he sings:

You are my sweetheart, my only sweetheart. You make me happy when days are gray. You never know dear, how much I love you. Won’t you be my sweetheart today.

So Becky sang the song Dad’s way. And Dad’s chin quivered. And my eyes watered. And Mama opened her eyes. So Becky sang it again.

It’s been a tough week. It’s been a hard day. But I’m thankful for the support of our hospice team as they surround us and hold us up with love and caring hearts and hands-on help.

And I’m thankful for the gift of music and the comfort it shines on us, like sunshine breaking through a storm cloud. It’s still raining, and yet somehow we are warmed and cheered in a ray of sunlight at the same time.

And most of all I’m thankful that we truly do have a friend in Jesus. And He does bear my sins and griefs. And I can go to Him in prayer and pour out my heart to Him and know that He is carrying me, and Mama and Dad and my family. We are in His strong arms. We can trust Him always.

Jesus won’t drop us. He won’t let go. He can calm the storm or He can walk on the waves. I can rest in Him and know that He is faithful and good always. What a friend we have!

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