Another Mother who Doesn’t Know my Name

It’s hard rearranging my time, schedule, home and life around someone who doesn’t know who I am anymore. But it’s even harder for my husband. Because it’s his mom who doesn’t remember us.

My 95 year old mother-in-law has lived with us for almost three years now. At first she didn’t remember our names, but she knew how we were related to her. Now we are “the people who run this place”.

But she has no memory that this place is her home now. When she sits with us in the living room, and her bedroom is out of sight, she wonders how she’s going to get home and if we will drive her. We tell her she lives here and she laughs and shakes her head with disbelief.

Her short-term memory has gotten so poor that we leave her supper dishes out in front of her until she goes to bed, because several times she hasn’t believed that she had supper. Once, when my daughters were caring for her, she insisted on three full meals, in the couple hours they were with her, because she kept forgetting that she’d just eaten and didn’t believe them when they told her she had.

We can’t leave her alone anymore, so my husband and I have lost the freedom of running off spontaneously on his days off. We need to plan ahead. We’re thankful we have family close by that are willing to help, but it’s still an adjustment.

Sometimes the emotions of being forgotten gets to my husband. Sometimes seeing a new decline in his once very intelligent mother, breaks his heart a little more. But I’m impressed how strong and steady and kind and patient he is. God gave me grace for my own mama, but I was still very emotional and often came home after caring for her in tears.

I love and care about my mother-in-law. I want to do the best we can for her. But caring for her doesn’t seize me emotionally like caring for my own mama did. Maybe I’m tougher for what I’ve already been through. Or maybe the attachment level just isn’t the same. Probably both. I don’t break down crying, but I don’t have the sweet joy moments either.

Just the littlest things would give me joy with, Mama. Like when she’d want to sit by me, or put her head on my shoulder. Or when she’d give little love taps to my arm or back. Or when she remembered anything. Even just my middle name. Like this night that I journaled about, five years ago…

I was visiting with Mama, sitting next to her and holding her hand, when she abruptly asked, “What do you want me to do?”
I answered with the first thing that popped into my head, “Be happy.”
“I am,” Mom said. And then added, “I did that.” And she looked at me expectantly, like now that she’d done that I should tell her what to do next.
“I love you, Mama.”
“I know,” Mom said matter of factly.
“Do you know who I am?”
“No,” she answered, with no hesitation or remorse.
“I’m Cheryl. Or Sherry. You can call me Sherry if you want.”
Mom was leaning over in her rocking chair, her head almost resting on the arm of her chair. She looked up at me and said, “Sherry…Sherry Lynn?”
And even though in days gone by, hearing my middle name often meant I was in trouble, now it meant that some part of Mama remembered my name. And I was happy, too.

Now I know Mama is truly happy, because she believed in Jesus and is with Him. And I know I will see her again someday! And she will know me and my whole name and all the precious memories we shared!

Meanwhile, God has given me another mother to love. Another mother who doesn’t know my name. But He gives grace for this, too.


“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (KJV)




What Mama Said and I Say Too

The other day I had a mom moment. It brought me back in time. I’d asked my twenty three year old daughter, who was heading out on a date in zero degree weather, if she had gloves and a hat. She said, “It’s not that cold,” and gave me one of those “Oh, mom!” looks as she headed out the door. (With no visible gloves or hat in sight, I might add, though I took some comfort in the fact that she was wearing a scarf.)

I remember having those feelings myself. I remember how it annoyed me when my mom worried over me and cautioned me. I was fine. I knew what was best for me. Why was she so anxious about things?

I don’t remember when she stopped advising me. I don’t think I even realized how much I missed her gentle words of mama concern. Until I heard them again.

Now, years later, I still remember the day when Mama said two simple words to me, that left me choked up for hours…

I’d spent a couple hours at Mom and Dad’s that afternoon cleaning up messes, bathing Mom, and shampooing the carpet. It was tiring, but satisfying to see things get clean and to see Mama content and cuddling up next to Dad.

And then as I was getting ready to leave, Mama said two words that warmed my soul. She said something that I’d heard often when I was younger and never valued then. I thought it was just something my overly worried mother always said. Maybe something all mothers said.

But her words stood out that day, fresh and bright, because she hadn’t said them to me for years. And it felt like a moment back in time, with my mom caring and worrying over me and loving me so.

Because that day as I was going out the door, Mama said, Be careful.” And that simple message still brings tears to my eyes.

I miss the years I had that Mama love. That faithful devotion that I so easily took for granted when it was abundant. Her concern for me was overflowing. Her willingness to talk and care and listen was endless. Somehow I thought it could never run out. I wish I had cherished the Mama love more.

And I wish I had cherished Mom more when she knew me.

I wonder if this is a common wish. I wonder if my own sweet children will say the same someday…

Let me reassure them, if they ever do have such doubts. I know that you love me. I know that you’re busy and we don’t have as much time together as we’d like.

But know that my mama heart takes joy in seeing you productively working, serving in your church, growing in skills and abilities, spending time with friends, loving your wives and babies and living your lives. You are flying and I’m proudly watching from the nest.

Our time together these days is limited, but it’s always a blessing. I know you love me. And you know I love you.

And when you don’t have your mom with you anymore, remember that. And then take comfort in the truth that your Heavenly Father is the one parent you’ll always have near. He’s always there to listen and care. He’s always watching you. I hope He’s always proud.

But when you fall short, remember Jesus paid the price for our sins, and ask forgiveness. Trust Him and stay close to Him always. Then we can all know that we will be together again some day and for eternity.

Until that day, please be careful. And wear your hat and gloves. And call your mom when you can.