You Really Do

Last night, after going through Mama’s night time routine, I tucked her into bed and then I climbed in next to her for a few minutes. The quilt was tucked up around Mama’s shoulders and underneath her chin as she laid on her side facing me. She seemed more alert than usual, and kept looking at me with her blue eyes wide open, looking so sweet and content all tucked cozy into bed, she reminded me of an innocent child.

I put my arm around her and patted her back. I recited a few favorite Bible passages. I stroked her hair and prayed with her and sang “What a Friend we Have in Jesus.” I reminded her what her own name is and listed her siblings and her home town and so forth. She didn’t respond, but she kept looking at me like she was interested. 

After a few minutes her eye lids began drooping, so I thought I should leave and let her sleep. I said, “I love you, Mama.”

I got no response. I tried again, “I love you so much, Mom.” Again, no response.

I kissed her cheek, and said once more, “I love you, Mama.”

And she answered, with no question in her voice, “You really do.”

“Yes, Mama. I really do.”

And I left smiling, with my own sense of sweet contentment. Dad would soon take his place in bed, cuddling up to Mama. God was watching over them both.

And Mama knew I really loved her.

 

“I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm4:8

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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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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.

 

 

 

Someday, Not Today

Sometimes Mama says such profound things that I can hardly believe it. Especially since she has so little vocabulary left and her sentences are generally very short.

Today my daughter and I were discussing summer hopes and dreams and vacations. And logistics. Because Mama needs so much help transferring now, and many of us have strength and back limitations, we have become dependent on a few for moving Mama. And sometimes the strong backs are the ones who need the vacations.

So we were discussing these things and figuring out alternate schedules that might work, so Mama still got some moving and changes of scenery, and a chance to stretch her legs a bit.

Later Annie went over to Mama’s to feed her supper. And she came back and said, “Do you know what Grandma said, Mom? She said, ‘Someday, not today, things will be different.’

And Annie and my husband and I all looked at each other amazed. One, because this is a long sentence for Mama to say at this point. And two, because there is so much meaning in that sentence.”

Because someday things will be different. Someday, only God knows how soon, we won’t need to plan around Mama’s care to go on vacation. Someday we won’t need to go over every few hours to feed Mama and change her and move her. Someday we won’t hear her yelling anymore. Someday we won’t be counting out her pills or talking to the nurse or bathing her skin. Someday we won’t be brushing her hair or helping her brush her teeth as she yells and bites the brush.

Someday, not today, things will be different.

Someday I won’t be able to feel her baby soft skin. Someday I won’t be able to smooth back her silvery hair and look into her blue eyes. Someday I won’t be able to hold her arthritic hand and feel her close her fingers around mine. Someday I won’t get to snuggle next to her at nap time and feel her put her arm around me and pat my arm and back. Someday I won’t hear the comments she makes and be amazed.

Someday, not today, things will be different.

Annie finished feeding Mama supper tonight and was saying good-bye to Dad and Mom. Dad said, “Good-bye, Annie.”

But Mama started saying, “Hello! Hello!”

Which makes me think, that the moment we say good-bye to Mama on this earth, she will be saying “Hi!” to Jesus in Heaven! Mama knew Jesus and trusted in Him when her mind was strong, so she will be with Him for eternity. And there with Him her mind will be healthy and clear again.

And I can picture her greeting family and friends. I can see her hugging her own mama. I see her smiling and laughing again. And never in pain ever, ever again. And I know someday I will see her again. And I wonder what our first words to each other will be.

Someday, not today, things will be different.

So today I will treasure up the sweet moments…the shared meals, the hand holding, the cuddling, the singing, and the words Mama says. Today I will hug Mama close and know that she is here and I am blessed to care for her and love her. Today I will kiss her wrinkled cheek and tell her that I love her.

And with God’s help I will serve faithfully on this holy ground He has given me as my mission now.

And I will remember…someday, not today, things will be different.

 

 

 

How Different Would Life Look if Everyone Did Their Part

Sometimes life is heavy. And though I cherish time with my Mama, I wonder if I’m really doing what God has called me to do.

I was reading today in Acts 13:2 and God clearly called out Barnabas and Saul and told the church to separate them to Him and send them off on mission work.

And sometimes I envy that a bit. Because my mission doesn’t feel very adventurous and I’m just trying to figure out what ways to serve in my church and how to find time to bring a meal to a new mom as I juggle helping care for my mother with Alzheimer’s and my mother-in-law with dementia.

And it’s not very glamorous. Or exciting. And often it is just plain hard work.

I was praying about it the other day and I randomly opened my Bible and it “happened” to open to I Timothy 5. And I read, “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable to God.”

And then in verse eight, of the same chapter, I read, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Wow! These are strong words! From God’s Word.

God IS calling me to care for my mother and mother-in-law. This is a responsibility He has given me, and really all believers.

It may look different for everyone. Some people live far from family. But that doesn’t excuse Christ-followers from making provision for parents and grandparents who need help.

It is our God-given job. And everyone can do their part, even if those parts look quite different from one another.

And it makes me wonder.

I wonder how loved and cherished aging parents would feel if each of their children and grandchildren did everything they could to meet the needs of their elders.

I wonder how many phone calls and meals would be shared. I wonder how many spirits would be lifted with cards, flowers, letters and gifts. I wonder how many songs would be sung together and ring cheer into hearts.

I wonder how clean houses would be and how lovely yards and gardens would be. I wonder how many errands would be cheerfully run and how many repairs would be promptly finished.

I wonder how many stories of the old days would be shared. And how many home-cooked goodies would be relished. I wonder how many puzzles and games would be enjoyed together and how much laughter would fill the rooms.

I wonder how many prayers would be lifted up together to our Lord. And how many wrinkled hands would be held tenderly by younger hands.

I wonder how excellent personal cares would be, and how comfortable and well fed every bed or wheel-chair-bound person would be.

I wonder how many loving hugs would bring tears. And how many conversations would build up faith and courage.

I wonder how many blessings would be poured down from Heaven.

If everyone did their part.

Because God is watching. And He sees the sacrificial love given by some.

And He sees the neglect and loneliness and unmet needs that wouldn’t have to be there. If everyone did their part.

Sometimes I struggle with my own attitudes and feel like it’s all too much. But this is the mission in my life right now. And I know I don’t do all I could do. And I pray that the Holy Spirit will direct me and help me so that I’ll make better use of my time for His purposes, in this season of precious ministry.

Because life isn’t all about personal pleasure or comfort, though God often blesses us with both. Life is about loving God and others. And that is where the real joy and fulfillment is anyway.

It reminds me of a quote from Mother Theresa…

“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right where you are—in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools…You can find Calcutta all over the world if you have eyes to see…”

Sometimes life is heavy. But I know I’m where I’m supposed to be. And I’m thankful for the grace and strength and blessings He gives for this mission.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Happy

I tried to talk to Mama as I fed her the Easter dinner I’d brought over. But she’d mostly either holler or speak gibberish.

It reminded me of the time we’d just had with my six-month old granddaughter. She seemed to have whole conversations with my husband as she stood in his lap and very expressively spoke garbled words.

And Mama would do that, too. She’d look at me and speak. Often I could tell she was asking questions, but I couldn’t decipher enough of the words to guess at what she meant.

Except for a few exceptions. “I hate you!” still came out clearly. I answered Mama, “But I love you. Do you love me?”

“No,” she answered.

And yet we had a couple sweet moments. My daughter and husband came over to help me get Mom up from her nap, because her walking is so bad these days. My daughter and I changed her and got her in a fresh dress. Then my husband came in and helped us get her into the wheel chair.

As I was rolling her out of the bedroom Mama said, “Thank you.” Which is pretty much unheard of these days.

I was so pleased and said, “Mom, that’s so nice that you said thank you!”

“Yes, it is,” Mama answered. And I chuckled.

And then later, as I was cleaning up the dishes, after Mama’s meal, she said, “Be happy. Be happy.”

And that made me smile.

Alzheimer’s is such a tough road. There is so much to be burdened and sad and stressed about.

But today I can rejoice that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, and because of that all who believe can be forgiven and have a relationship with God and eternity with Him in heaven.

And today I can take joy in the time I had with my children and granddaughter. And I can smile because Mama said thank you.

Today I can be happy, because my mama told me to be. And those sweet words bring tears to my eyes. Happy tears.

I hope you have some today, too.

He is risen!