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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Have Faith

Being a caregiver has taught me, among many other lessons, that God has a sense of humor. And He often sends me a smile when I need one.

And I’ve needed them a lot lately. Because caregiving is hard. It’s stressful. It can be grueling.

The last few weeks have been especially tough. My daughter, Annie, and I feel the weight of Mama’s care and all the decisions and work and pressure that surround that. And my Dad has strong opinions and is grieving as he is slowly losing his beloved wife.

And sometimes the stress of it all clashes loudly and we say things we don’t mean and emotions pour out in strong words and flowing tears. And I cry out to God, “Lord, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are upon You!”

And then we pray. And we apologize. And God speaks wisdom through my husband. Calming wisdom.  And we are learning to walk in that wisdom, but stumbling along on the way.

As new challenges come up we have begun to tell each other, “It will be okay.” And “Have faith in God.” And we look for the next wise step to take.

Yesterday, we were having another challenge. Our caregiving agency had assigned a brand new caregiver without giving her any training with Mom yet. They usually have a new person shadow an experienced caregiver first. Thankfully, Annie was available to be over with Mom at the same time, or it just wouldn’t have worked.

Anyway, the good news is that according to Annie, the new caregiver has great potential! And when she was introducing herself to Dad, who is hard of hearing, Dad said, “Fay? Your name is Fay?”

And she answered, “No. Faith. Like faith in God.”

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.