Making a Plan for my First Mother’s Day Without Mom

I’m planning ahead this time. My birthday took me by surprise– I was so emotional the day before and the day of. I was missing Mom and at the brink of tears much of the time. I didn’t think my own birthday would hit me that way. But I’ve been somewhat dreading my first Mother’s Day without Mama. And now it’s nearing like an ominous black cloud.

So I thought I’d take some time to think and pray and prepare myself. And here’s what I’m thinking I’ll do, God willing…

I’ll remember that grief will be what it will be when it chooses to be. I can’t control if or when the waves of emotion hit.  I’m guessing Mother’s Day will be especially hard, but I could be wrong. Some days I can talk about Mom and feel strong. Other days I’ve had upbeat songs on comedy shows push me to tears! I just don’t know. But it’s okay. The Bible says, “There is a time to weep…” If it’s time, who am I to say it isn’t? It’s okay to cry when I need to. My friends and family will understand.

I’ll go to church, even though I know they will be talking about moms. I’ll go to worship God and to love my church family. I’ll remind myself that I still do have a mother, she’s just in heaven before I am. She trusted and loved Jesus and is with Him now having the best Mother’s Day she’s ever had!

I will take time to be grateful for the wonderful mother God blessed me with and for all the sweet memories we made together. I’ll look at some of our old photos. Maybe I’ll sing some of our favorite songs or write a letter to her. Maybe I’ll eat Pecan Delights because they were her favorites.

I will take time to enjoy being a mother and grandma. I will cherish whatever moments I have with my family. I will hug my grand-babies as much as they’ll allow and tolerate. I will kiss their chubby cheeks and delight in their charming ways. I will listen to my adult children and appreciate the people they have grown to be. I’ll even try to believe the sweet things their cards say. I will soak in the joy of seeing them together and feeling their hugs and love.

If weather permits, I plan to spend some time outside relaxing in sunshine and nature. I’ll picture how Mama brought me a small bouquet of lilacs and crab apple blossoms about twenty years ago, when my husband and I lost a baby to miscarriage. I found such comfort in those blooms grown in Mom’s own yard and picked by her own hand. I’ll pick my own bouquet and bury my nose in them and remember Mama’s love and thoughtfulness.

I’ll take some time to pray for others who are missing their Mama’s too. And I’ll pray for those who are struggling with other losses and hurts. I’ll pray for a mom I know who just lost her teenage daughter to suicide– a pain I can’t even imagine. I’ll pray for a dear mom friend who recently lost her own mother to cancer and now is facing her own scary cancer diagnosis with such faith and courage. I’ll pray for a young mom I know who is battling serious and debilitating health challenges. I’ll lift up family and friends to our  Abba Father who loves us all.

I’ll remind myself to depend on God’s grace. God gave me grace to get through more than eight years of Mom’s declining with Alzheimer’s. He gave me grace to keep her in her home and help care for her as she was fading away. He gave me grace to kiss her goodbye and sit down with my Dad and tell him myself that she had passed. He gave me grace and strength to do and bear things I never would have believed I could handle.

He will give me grace for each day, each hour, each moment of mourning that is yet to come. “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'” 2 Corinthians 12:9a (NKJV)

And finally, I plan to visit my Dad. And if I’m not choking up too much to speak, I want to tell him, “Thank you for picking such a wonderful woman to marry. She was an amazing mama and I’m forever blessed!”

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Mama’s Legacy

Four months ago today Mama had her last night on this earth. She was taking long gaps between breaths. Scary long ones. It seemed like she was taking her last breath a hundred times over. I remember shaking her arm and pleading with her to breathe. “Breathe, Mama, please breathe!” I felt like I was holding my own breath waiting for the next gasp to come.

I was crying and praying and calling for family to come over and be with us. And through it all I was somehow also praying for my nephew and his wife. Because I had gotten the message that they were at the hospital, in labor, struggling through the birthing pains of their firstborn.

Then I got the news. They had a healthy baby boy! I leaned close to Mama and said, ” You have another great-grandson, Mom! Simon has been born!” And I smiled through tears and prayed that Mama would make it past midnight, so she didn’t pass on his birthday.

And then, after hours of agonizing breaths, she started breathing regularly again. Only now there was a gurgling sound. And that was even scarier, in a different way. My husband called the hospice nurse, who got there about midnight. She confirmed that Mama was passing. It could be hours. “Make the most of this time,” the nurse said. “Talk to her.”

And I remember thinking, I’ve been making the most of this time for years now. I’ve spoken my apologies. I’ve expressed my love and gratitude. I’ve sung and read the Bible and told her stories of my life and hers. I’ve spoken to her about heaven and how beautiful it will be and who she will see there. I’ve reminded her that Jesus saved us and we trust in Him and we’ll all be together again.

I was thankful I’d said it all over and over again through the years of dementia. I only wish I’d said more of it while her mind was still strong. But I had taken the time to say every word I could think to say, every word I had needed to say, over and over again through the years. And now as Mama lay dying, I was at peace about that.

She never opened her eyes that night. I don’t know if she heard anything or not. But I played a CD of hymns and I held her hand and I told her I loved her, again and again. And I cuddled up next to her on the bed.

In the morning, as my daughter and I were giving her medications and repositioning her, we suddenly noticed she had passed somewhere in the process. The hospice nurse later told me this was very common. We cried. We sat on either side of Daddy and told him and we all held onto each other and wept.

I went to look in on Mama again, and I noticed a gentle smile on her face– so slight. And she looked so incredibly peaceful. It brought me such a comfort to see a peace I hadn’t seen for years– if ever. My daughter, and others, marveled at it, too.

And now we’ve been adjusting to life without Mama for the last four months. Last night I was babysitting my youngest granddaughter. I can’t see anything in her that resembles my mom, and yet she wouldn’t be here if Mom never had been. My sweet granddaughter is part of Mama’s legacy.

And then it dawned on me that God gave each of my brothers and I precious gifts, the same year he took Mama Home. He gave me my first biological grandchild in April. He gave my older brother his fifth grandchild in October. He gave my younger brother his first grandchild, as Mama was slipping away. And He gave my baby brother the news that he will be a first time daddy this July!

Mama, your love lives on! Your grandchildren and great-grandchildren are beautiful and strong! And I can’t wait to meet your newest grandchild this summer! Thank you for passing on a heritage of faith and love that is rich and warm and deep. Your heart beats on in the legacy you have left behind.

We will do our best to tell your great-grandchildren about you, Mama. And we will pass on the family recipes and songs and stories. And most importantly we will teach them about Jesus, and share the faith you shared with us. And someday, because of His tender mercies and our faith in Him, we will be together again.

My beautiful picture

My sweet mama with my baby brother

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until Then

This week I held my six month old granddaughter while my son offered her a spoon of her very first taste of solid food. She reacted with eagerness and grabbed hold of the spoon and all around the table her relatives delighted in her. And we laughed and smiled and took such joy in her first tastes of applesauce.

And then this afternoon, I sat close to my mama. And I offered her spoons of food because she doesn’t try to feed herself anymore. And Mama opened her mouth each time and she chewed the food as she stared blankly at me.  And my heart was heavy.

I tried talking to Mama, but she didn’t respond. I tried singing to Mama, but she didn’t seem interested. I told her I loved her many times. And she didn’t reply. And no matter what I did I couldn’t get her to smile.

And Mama shouted, “I hate you!”

And I answered, “Well, I love you.”

But Mama did reach out and pluck at my blouse. And she rubbed her fingers gently on my arm, as she usually does when I feed her. And that is about as connected as we get lately. So I savor those sweet touches.

But I long for her smile. And I wonder if I’ll ever hear her say my name or “I love you, too” on this earth again. And my heart crumbles.

And I’m reminded of the Bible verse I read last week, Psalm 35:14b (NKJV), “…I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother.” And I take comfort in the thought that King David and God know that there is a special kind of mourning for one’s mother.

It bows you down. It’s heavy. It’s hard.

I remind myself often that the end of the story is good. Because Mama knew Jesus when her mind was healthy and trusted Him with her life. And so I have the certain hope that I will see Mama restored when we meet again in Heaven. And her smile will be more beautiful than ever. And she will know me and say my name and hug me close.

And we’ll never be bowed down heavy again.

And until then, I can look for the blessing moments. I can treasure the tender touches Mama gives me. I can thank God for the loving care givers Mama has and for my son and daughter who are so helpful to their grandparents.

Until then I can hide under the shelter of my Abba Father’s wings and pour out my heart to Him and know the comfort that only He gives.

Until then I can marvel over my beautiful granddaughter and enjoy every first with her.

Until then I can trust that God will give us grace for each day. And I can know that He is faithful and that His tender mercies surround us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Miss Most Because of Alzheimer’s

A few years ago in this journey with Alzheimer’s, I used to ask Mom, “Do you know who I am?”
And she would usually answer, “Well, you’re Cheryl. Aren’t you?”
And knowing that she knew my name comforted me.

And then I gradually stopped asking her if she knew who I was. Because she almost never did. Instead I’d just tell her, “Mama, I’m Cheryl.”
And very often, her eyes would shine, and she’d smile brightly and ask, “Cheryl Lynn?” And hearing her remember my middle name would make my heart soar. And I would feel known.

And now, pretty much every visit, I sit down close to Mama, face to face, and I look right into her eyes. And I say, “Hi Mama. I’m Cheryl.”
And her eyes don’t light up.
And she doesn’t smile.
I try again, “I’m Cheryl, Mama. I’m Cheryl… Or Sherry… …You used to call me Sherry… Sherry Lynn…”

And Mama just stares at me. And her eyes and face look blank.

And I miss the smile. I miss the knowing.

But I hold fast to the truth, that this is not the end of the story. Mom knew Jesus and trusted Him for salvation, and He will never forget her. And someday Mama and I will be together again with Him.

And I can imagine the first time we see each other again in heaven. And I can picture Mama seeing me then. And I can hear her saying, “Cheryl! Cheryl Lynn!” And her eyes are bright and shiny again, and her smile is beautiful. And the warm hug we share doesn’t have to end.