Heavenly Dreaming

It’s a week shy of ten months since Mama passed, and last night I had my first dream about her. Or at least the first dream I have any remembrance of having.

In my dream, I was at Mom and Dad’s house, with my brothers and their wives, and a couple young children. We were working on some kind of project together and watching the children play, when I noticed that Mom was there and up and walking fine! As I watched her I saw that she was almost running gracefully in a circle in the living room! And then she did a ballet movement with pointy toes and everything!

I was amazed. “Mom is walking!” I said.

And my sister-in-law answered, “I know!”

And then all kinds of thoughts ran through my dreaming brain. She’s walking so well! Maybe the medicine they put her on messed up her walking. But no, she was losing the ability before she started the meds. But look– she’s fine! Why did we have a memorial service? Why did we tell everyone she died? She’s alive! She’s fine! She’s better than ever! I have to tell Dad!

Then I went looking for him. As I left the room, I heard Mama laughing with the children who had dressed up silly to surprise her. It was her beautiful laugh from healthy times, full of delight and love! It so warmed my heart!

I found Dad standing strong in a big work shop, busy making something like he used to love to do, with eyes that could see again. For some reason these changes in him didn’t surprise me. I told him, “Dad! Mom is walking fine! She’s almost running and dancing!”

And Daddy’s eyes teared up with joy. He wasn’t shocked that she was alive. He was just so happy that she could walk well again!

I woke up right after that. I yearned to go back to sleep and somehow get into the same dream and watch Daddy find Mom walking and dancing. How fun that would have been to see him marvel over her being alive and able to walk!

I recalled how painful it had been to see Mama’s ability to walk dwindle down to a hunched over mincing step. I remembered the day the hospice nurse said it wasn’t safe to have her even try walking anymore. And then many months later, I recall when the nurse said we should stop trying to get her out of bed.

Around that time Mama spoke some of her last words. She told my daughter, “God is here. He is bigger.” And when she passed home to Jesus, a week or so after that, Mama had such a sweet look of incredible peace on her face.

I remembered all of this, as I reflected on the dream that still seemed so real. Mama was alive and running and dancing and laughing with little children! I couldn’t stop smiling about that.

As we sipped our morning coffee, I told my husband about the dream. He smiled and said, “You dreamt about heaven.” And I agreed.

And though I’m in tears as I write this, I have a deep peace in knowing there is truth in this dream. Mama is able to run and dance and laugh with children today! I know because of Jesus it is true. And I know one day we will be together again for eternity.

Until then, I’m grateful for this dream that gives me a glimpse of Mama’s happiness now. Keep running Mama! Keep dancing and laughing! It blesses me so to know you are surrounded by God’s peace and love!

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (NKJV)

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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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Someday…and Their Love

Dad and I both had quivering chins and tear filled eyes. Becky, the music therapist from hospice, came again today. Dad requested love songs. And so Becky strummed her guitar and sang out one beautiful old melody after another.

She sat closest to Mama, who didn’t respond in any visible way to the music. Mom was settled in her recliner, mostly sleeping the whole hour. But across the room, in his recliner, Dad made requests. And his face lit up. Sometimes he clapped his hands and said, “That was good!” Sometimes he smiled and his eyes shone. And at least once I saw him wipe away a tear.

From where I sat I could see Mama’s pale, peaceful profile and Dad’s changing emotions. We enjoyed Tennessee Waltz and Let Me Call You Sweetheart and I Love You a Bushel and a Peck.  And many more I can’t remember the names of now.

The one that especially touched me though was “Somewhere My Love”. Dad used to play it on his keyboard. The melody is hauntingly beautiful, the words equally so.

Somewhere, my love,
There will be songs to sing
Although the snow
Covers the hope of spring.

Somewhere a hill
Blossoms in green and gold
And there are dreams
All that your heart can hold.

Someday we’ll meet again, my love.
Someday whenever the spring breaks through.

You’ll come to me
Out of the long ago,
Warm as the wind,
Soft as the kiss of snow.

Till then, my sweet,
Think of me now and then.
God, speed my love
‘Til you are mine again.

by Francis Paul Webster and Maurice Jarre. Also known as the Love Theme or Lara’s Theme
from the movie Dr. (Doctor) Zhivago

As I heard Becky sing these lyrics, I looked at Mama. Her eyes were closed. She was so still and unresponsive. I actually looked to make sure she was still breathing.

And then I looked at Daddy, his face so full of life and love and emotions, and my eyes filled with tears as I saw his do the same.

And though there was honestly sorrow in the tears, for what Mom and Dad have lost, there were also tears of hope. Because I picture them meeting again in heaven someday. And then Daddy will have his eyesight back and he will be strong and able again.

And I can just picture him looking for his first glimpse of Mom. And Mom will be vibrant and full of life and health. She will sing with Daddy again. Her face will light up for him like old times. And most importantly she will have her memories back. And she and Daddy can share them together once more.

I see the joy in their faces as they find each other again. I see the long hug and embrace. I can picture Jesus watching them and smiling.

I’m thankful Mom and Dad still have each other now. And I’m so grateful I still have them both. But I am immeasurably more grateful that they both have put their faith in Jesus, and have the sure hope of an eternity with Him to come.

 

 

 

Sweet Moments

A few memories of today…

I walk in the house and say hi to Mom and Dad. Mom, standing by the hallway, doesn’t look my way but asks, “Where are you?”

“I’m right here.”

“Oh, okay,” Mom responds happily, still without looking at me, and walks down the hallway.  I think she sees her own reflection in the hall mirror and believes that is me speaking to her, but who really knows.

I get the bathroom prepped for her bath, and then seeing her walking out of the bedroom, I open my arms for a hug.  She walks into my embrace and I savor the hug.  “I love you, Mama.”

She is quiet for a bit and then says softly, “I love you too, honey.” Such sweetness to my soul!

The bath and dressing process has its usual challenges. But then we sit together in the living room while Dad is busy with his own things. And we sing a couple songs together as she plugs in phrases here and there. And then I sing “How Great Thou Art” and she keeps gently nodding approval and at one point interrupts to say, “That is good.”

When Dad comes back in with Mom, I do some cleaning. I don’t enjoy cleaning, as some say they do, and yet there is something satisfying in seeing muddy floors made clean and crumbs swept and vacuumed and wiped up.

I sit to cool off a bit and wait for floors to dry.  Lawrence Welk comes on and I see Dad, closing his eyes listening, soaking in the sweet sounds. And I see Mom so peaceful, resting her head against Dad’s shoulder and gently patting and tapping her fingers up and down Dad’s arm.

And I think how very grateful I am that I still have both my parents.  And how very blessed I am to see Dad’s faithful, sacrificial caring for Mom. And how precious it is to see a love that has made it through sickness and health and through richer and poorer.

And how indescribably thankful I am that death won’t part us forever. Because of Jesus it has no hold.  Because of Jesus we will have eternity together in new bodies that are healthy and able. And I can picture Mom and Dad, walking straight and strong and sure on those golden streets singing, “How Great Thou Art.” And it is good.

But for now, they are snuggling on the love seat, and I will hold these tender moments in my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus, Please Take Your time

Oh Jesus, please take your time.

The phone call this morning was full of love and concern, but part of it made me cringe. An uncle called from across the country to see how our family was doing. I updated him honestly about my folks, and then he said, “Well, hopefully the good Lord will take her home soon.”

He’s done more care-giving than I have.  He was the only child of his mother, who he cared for while she died of cancer.  At the same time he went through twenty years of fighting cancer with my aunt. He knows more than I do, and maybe someday I’ll have the same thought. I know being with the Lord in heaven will be the gift beyond measure. But I’m in no rush to lose my mama here on earth.

Jesus, please take your time.

I know life would be easier if Mom was with the Lord now.  But we’d miss so much, too.  Mom’s life gives Dad purpose every day and grows his patience strong. His love and devotion for Mom is a beautiful testimony.

Jesus, please take your time.

If Mom were already gone, I would’ve missed this day of memory moments.  This day when I took Mom’s hand in mine, and she looked at me and said, “I like you.”

And then I asked, “Do you know who I am?”

And with no hesitation she calmly answered, “Cheryl.” There was no doubt in her voice.

Jesus, please take you time.

If Mom were already gone, I would’ve missed the interesting little things she said today.  Like when Dad and James came home with groceries and Mom lit up and said, “Hi!”  And then very matter-of- factually added, “We’re crazy.”

A while later she said, “Maybe you did, and maybe I didn’t.”  And “I think Daddy undid what he should have.”  And, “What do you do when you don’t?”

And maybe these are just senseless jumbles that mean nothing. But yet they make me smile and think.

Jesus, please take your time.

If Mom were already gone, I would’ve missed out on our time together on the porch today.  I wouldn’t have combed her silver white hair with my fingers. I wouldn’t have sung hymns with her or sat still next to her observing the day out her window.  I would have missed the long hug and the smell of her freshly washed hair.

Jesus, please take your time.

I don’t want to be selfish.  I don’t want to keep Mom from heaven and the glories of living with God. But these things are in His hands.  The Bible says, “Man’s days are determined; You (God) have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed” (Job 14:5).

So, I will trust Him to call her home at the perfect time. And I will believe that when He leads us into the valley of the shadow of death He will be walking with us, directing us, and comforting us.

And meanwhile, I will gratefully hug Mom and soak her up. I will put my hands on either side of her soft  face, and I will look into her blue eyes, and I will say, “I love you, Mama. I’m here. I’m Cheryl. We’re together today.  You’re my Mom and I love you so much.”

Dear Jesus, please take your time.