The Decline: Praying for Moments of Clarity

“Touch can reach through the fog, confusion, and fear of dementia. Reassuring touch grounds those who are spatially disoriented, bring people back to their bodies, and increases their awareness in present time and space. One touch can affirm that they are not alone and they are valued by the person who is beside them.”

Teresa Stecker, R.N., Hospice Nurse, excerpt from Creating Moments of Joy Along the Alzheimer’s Journey, by JoLene Brackey

Following mom’s recent and very life-altering stroke, I wanted to make sure my sister Viv would be able to share some special time with our mom. Between the restrictions related to COVID-19, my sister’s work schedule, and her car that needed tires and brakes, Viv hadn’t been able to see mom, and I felt time was running out. I phoned Viv and told her that I thought mom would be going Home to heaven soon and encouraged her to visit if she could.

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, visiting a loved one in a care facility was limited to window visits. But there was an allowance for residents who were in end of life or needed “comfort care.” Mom had been under hospice care for quite some time, but had now officially transitioned to end of life care, so family was permitted to gather as long as certain precautions were taken.

Viv didn’t have reliable transportation, but said she could come on Wednesday when her daughter would be able to bring her. In my heart, I was worried that mom wouldn’t make it until Wednesday, but didn’t want to burden Viv with trying to pressure someone else to bring her or tempt her to drive a car that was not roadworthy. By Tuesday, Mom was sleeping a lot and had completely stopped eating and drinking, so I prayed that Viv would be able to make it in time and that she would find a measure of peace for having been here.

I noticed that mom was a tiny bit more alert in the minutes immediately following being changed and turned, so requested that her caregivers do her daily cares shortly before Viv was scheduled to arrive at 1 pm. They say that when a person is in the end stage of life there is often a rally, or a short time of clarity. I hoped and prayed Viv would get one of those moments.

Mom was weak and groggy when Viv and her daughter Jessie arrived, but she had her eyes open and was more talkative than she had been since her stroke on Sunday. Viv lotioned mom’s hands while she visited, which was something that seemed to be very soothing for mom. Mom started talking and tried to tell her, among other things, that her arms and mouth didn’t work anymore.

It was the moment of clarity I had been praying for. My heart rejoiced seeing God’s answer to prayer as they had that little moment together.

May 20, 2020 – A weak, but sweet smile from Momma, pictured here with her youngest daughter Vivian and youngest granddaughter Jessica.

Falling for Dolly

Momma rested comfortably after Vivian and Jess left, so I decided to go home for a bit that evening to have dinner with Wayne and repack my bag. I knew in my heart that I would be staying with mom until the Lord called her home, so stuffed my backpack with a week’s worth of clean clothing, my Bible, a book, and a few movies to watch. I was just getting in the car to make the 12-minute drive back to BeeHive when I got a call from Kate, one of her sweet caregivers, who was calling to let me know that, weak as mom was, she had somehow managed to get herself out of bed and had fallen once again.

When I arrived a few minutes later, mom was back in bed and resting comfortably. The bump on her forehead from a previous fall had been in the healing stages, but now looked fresh again. Momma was chatty, but more difficult to understand. I did manage to cipher at one point that she was talking about her baby. Dolly was seated across the room in a chair, rather than in her customary spot in bed with her. It was then that I surmised Mom had been attempting to get out of bed earlier so that she could bring her baby to bed with her, but had fallen as a result. I placed Dolly in Momma’s arms and she patted her and spoke soothing words to her for quite some time.

I shared my theory concerning why mom had tried so hard to get out of bed with the staff. We all agreed that Dolly was very real in momma’s mind and that we should make sure Dolly was always in bed where Momma could see her.

I always loved watching my sweet mom tenderly caring for her beloved Dolly (and other dolls and stuffed animals), so I took a little video of Momma interacting with her Dolly that evening. When I would watch her care for Dolly, it seemed as though I had a glimpse of what my mother was like when I was a baby.

I will always treasure this sweet and special memory of Momma and Dolly.

Rewind: “He Meets She”

Today is our 44th wedding anniversary. On such an occasion, I thought it would be fun to reminisce about how we got here. I thought I’d bring a few of you, my friends, along for a little retelling of the story. God is good.

Barefoot Lily Lady

Seventeen letters from her and eighteen letters from him later, and it was time for “he” and “she” to finally meet one another in person. The letters between them had been filled with bits and pieces of thoughts shared and information that helped them “get to know” one another. Each letter revealed just a little bit more about the person holding the pen.

About a month before he came home on leave, he sat down to write. The mood struck him to write another poem. The poem took her by surprise – for it was on the theme of love. To this point, none of their letters had even hinted that they might at some point date, let alone fall in love. Yet, she read with interest what he had to write and wondered if it was a measure of what was in his heart:

“Love” – what is it?

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July Gardening – Time for Daylilies to Shine

It has been sheer joy to be in my garden during the beautiful month of June. It has been a few years since I’ve had this much time to play in the dirt. There’s plenty left to do, but they are looking more cared for than they have in a long time.

Momma moved to heaven in May, so being able to tend to the minutiae of my flowerbeds without the extra responsibility of caregiving has been cathartic and heart healing. As I pull weeds with my mom’s favorite garden tool, I think of how much my mom loved to weed gardens. When I don her gardening hat, I see myself looking a little bit more like the remarkable woman my mom was. Flowers that I transplanted from her garden are now blooming in mine and my heart is reminded of her once again. It is so very comforting and beneficial.

Momma in her gardening hat – 2018

Now it is July and the month when my garden explodes with daylily wonderfulness. A few of my daylilies are opening, but many more are standing in the wings with bud-laden scapes, ready to burst into glorious blossom. Oftentimes I look at lilies and I think of a passage in scripture (Matthew 6:25-34) which reminds me I am under God’s care and that there is nothing to be anxious about. I especially love this bit:

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Matthew 6:28-29
Stella de Oro ‘Happy Returns’

Yellow is such a happy color. I love to sprinkle it liberally throughout my flowerbeds. Stella de Oro ‘Happy Returns’ daylily is one of my favorites. A front of the border reliable rebloomer, it stands about 12 inches tall and boasts almost a continuous blooming habit from spring until frost, especially if spent flower scapes are cut back. It comes in many colors, but I think yellow is my favorite (although ‘Ruby Red’ runs a very close second).

Second-hand birdhouse with a fresh coat of paint

Hubby and I stopped at a Goodwill store in Wausau in the Rib Mountain area. Best. Goodwill. Ever! We admired how nicely displayed everything in the store was, how clean and tidy, clearly marked social distancing, friendly staff – you name it, this store was doing it right. Wayne found a birdhouse (see above) that he thought I might like to spruce up a bit. We bought it ($2.99), I (re)painted it, and it has found its place in my yard and is already attracting the attention of potential tenants.

Most of my hostas are flowering now. Isn’t this one sweet?

First zinnia to bloom this summer.

We have three small raised beds – about 4’x4′ each. One of the beds is devoted to strawberries, and the other two have typically been for a few veggies. Other than a single tomato plant, I decided that we’d give vegetable gardening a rest this year and plant zinnias. When I got home from a little holiday weekend today, I was happy to see one lovely pink zinnia had opened.

My guy chose me as his wife 44 years ago when we married on July 3, 1976. I’m thankful for Wayne in so many ways, including his support of my barefoot gardening endeavors.

I’m also thankful to be part of a group of gardeners from all around the world who can be found walking around their gardens snapping photos to post every Saturday. The group is called Six on Saturday and is hosted by The Propagator, who provides the inspiration and forum for a weekly tour of gardens – six photos at a time. If you’d like to take a peek at the gardens too, just hop on over to the Propagator’s site and give his weekly post a read, then scroll on down to the comments section where you’ll find loads of links to explore. See you next week for another six.

What I Think Dad Might Say if He Could Talk About the World Right Now

This is so worth reading – I was so moved by this post today. I can imagine my own dad telling me some of the same things. If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s too, this blog is one I would recommend following.

God's Grace and Mom's Alzheimer's

I’ve been wishing I could talk to Dad about all that ‘s been going on with the pandemic, and world unrest, and heated debates about to mask or not mask, etc. Dad was so intelligent and usually had an opinion. But he’s been with Jesus for over two years now. I can’t discuss anything with him but I can remember his example and learn from it…

I can remember the days, when Mom’s walking was getting weak and unsteady, I’d have to put a gait belt on her and coax her to stand and hold onto her as we walked. Dad was blind by that time and not as steady on his feet himself. But I would notice, as I was walking with Mom, that he’d be whispering fervently. And I’d catch words and realize he was praying. And he’d keep praying until I had Mom settled wherever I was…

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Rewind: Ice Cream & Car Keys

Another look back at defining moments in my Alzheimer’s journey with Momma. This is a subject that comes up often in caregiver circles: I know my loved one needs to stop driving, but how do I take the car away? This is how our story of that defining moment unfolded . . .

Facebook Journal Entry – September 15, 2015

Momma loves ice-cream. She often tells me she has not met a flavor she does not like. But, it is quite obvious she absolutely loves butter pecan.

My mom oftentimes reminisces about a favorite childhood memory while enjoying her favorite treat.  In this memory, her family would take her grandmother grocery shopping every Thursday evening in Clarksburg, West Virginia. On the way home, the Peet children just knew their daddy (equally passionate about the creamy confection) would stop and treat them all to ice-cream.

Momma’s paternal grandparents, Wilbur and Bessie Peet

This story is deeply etched into mom’s memory – a lovely memory that rises to the surface whenever she scoops her favorite treat. I love to hear my sweet momma share the stories from her youth, from her days in nursing school, from my childhood, and from her many years dedicated to her profession of nursing.

The memories that are stored in this special place deep within her mind come easily. Sadly, not all things in life are so easily remembered for mom these days. We all sometimes forget where we put our phone or our car keys, or struggle to remember a name. This is different. Mom’s memory loss is no longer confined to temporary lapses like occasionally forgetting the name of a friend at church, or where she put her purse, or what she ate at her last meal. The disease that is robbing her of memory has now captured her short-term knowledge of whether she has eaten at all. She will sometimes serve herself bowl after bowl of butter pecan ice-cream, single-handedly polishing off an entire carton in a few hours, then ask if we can go shopping because she hasn’t had ice-cream in ages.

Many other changes are evident to her family and friends, and it is very concerning.

Today is the day we have to tell Momma that she can’t drive anymore. Our family has discussed this and we all believe it is time. My heart has ached all day in anticipation of our talk with Mom. How grateful we are for our friends and family who are praying for us as we have this hard discussion with Mom.

We enjoyed dinner together while listening to Momma tell her stories and ask the same questions over and over again. Wayne and I give one another knowing glances, acknowledging that the time is now. After clearing the table, we sit with mom in the living room. I fidget quite a bit then begin by saying, “Momma, you know that Wayne and I love you very much, don’t you?” Oh, yes, she acknowledges. She knows that full well.

“Momma, you know we would never do anything to hurt you, don’t you? You know that all we’re doing for you is with your best interest in mind, don’t you?” Well, yes, she knows that too. Then Momma starts to fidget and get a little worried look in her eyes.

We share with her that we have decided that it is time for her to stop driving. As we gently shared with her the reasons why, I could see the tears brimming in her eyes, ready to spill at any moment. I think Wayne’s eyes were tear-filled too, but I couldn’t rightly tell, for my own eyes were stinging as I fought back the urge to cry.

The discussion was at times difficult, then sweet, then funny, but always with a heart-rending undercurrent that life was taking a turn that none of us wanted to take. In the end, Momma agreed, suggesting that we take the car with us so we could come and visit and help her more often.

Tomorrow Momma will wake up to a new day and she may not remember this conversation. She will probably call me in a panic when she gets up in the morning and discovers that her car keys are missing and that her car is not occupying its usual spot in the garage.

But, right now, in this moment, we will enjoy butter pecan ice-cream together.

Six on Saturday: It’s a Dirty Job

It’s midnight. Given all the time I’ve spent the past few days in my garden, you’d think I’d be sleeping. This week has found me out in my garden tidying up flowerbeds. The casual passerby probably won’t notice what I accomplished, but I see it in the little things. Buckets and bins full of weeds and garden debris. Dead branches trimmed out of trees and bushes (courtesy of my wonderful husband). Spent peony blossoms removed. Bits of this and that moved here and there. Korean lilac bushes trimmed back by a third. Flowerbeds weeded and mulched. There’s much more to do, but it feels so good to see progress. Without further ado, here are my six:

  1. This week I’m seeing Japanese iris blooming. They always seem to wait until their German bearded iris and Siberian iris cousins are finished blooming before they unfurl their lovely petals. This one is my favorite and it looks adorable next to my painted mailbox (I keep a spare set of garden hand tools in there). The purple is not as vibrant as it was last year, but they are still gorgeous.

2) There’s a cute not-so-little backyard garden center on the edge of a nearby town. The lady pots up divisions of her perennials and sells them for $5 each. I try to visit her each Spring and bring home a new treasure (or two or three). Last year I added this lovely bit on the front edge of a very sunny front yard flowerbed. It has doubled in size, has very interesting and attractive crinkled foliage, and is loaded with flower spikes in the prettiest shade of purple. I think I’d like to add a few more of these to my garden next year (might even be able to divide this one).

Stachys monieri Hummelo –

3) I volunteered some time earlier in the week to tidying up the gardens at BeeHive, the assisted living memory care facility where my mom lived for the last year of her life. I was trimming up a dwarf crabapple tree and found this sweet little robin’s nest with three napping babies.

Snuck a quick photo while Momma Robin was out shopping for breakfast.

4). My clematis vines on my arbor entrance to the backyard are definitely climbing and just might meet up in the middle by summer’s end. The pink clematis on the left is ‘Princess Diana’, a lovely bell-shaped rebloomer. I should have trained it to the trellis earlier, as doing so now might damage some of the blossoms. I’m still not sure what the purple one on the right is called, but it’s a transplant from my mom’s garden in Milwaukee and I’m just happy it’s thriving and blooming at relatively the same time as ‘Princess Diana’.

I’m considering painting the arbor next year. It’s about 15 years old, but still in good shape; however, it seems to be made of 2 different metals, which are aging differently too. As you might have noticed in previous SOS posts, I’ve painted a lot of things purple as garden accents, but am unsure what I’d do with this. Should I leave it more neutral, or give the arbor a punch of color? (Please leave a comment below if you’d like to weigh in and help me decide.)

5) The surprise Asiatic lily bulb (a surprise only because I forgot that I planted it last fall and had NO IDEA what color it was) is now open. Definitely a pretty shade or orange.

6) And what would a garden be without lush greenery? I’m loving how much this hosta bed next to the deck on the north side of my house is filling out this year.

That completes my better late than never “Six on Saturday” post for this week. Here’s my invitation to join with me and gardeners from all around the world who post photos (words optional) of six things in the garden on a Saturday. Let me tip my hat to The Propagator, the creator of Six on Saturday, who provides the forum for gardeners to virtually traipse through one another’s gardens every week. It’s a lovely way to show off our gardens (both the pretty and the yummy), share knowledge, and even glean some advice for how to deal with our garden failures. Have a great week, friends.

Forgetting Time

A look back at defining moments in my Alzheimer’s journey with Momma.

Barefoot Lily Lady

Tissue alert.

This post is another in a series of my Facebook posts from 2015 related to caring for my mother. It’s really hard for me to re-post it without shedding my own tears. Those who are walking alongside a loved one struggling through the various stages of Alzheimer’s will probably relate very well. By the time you realize that the momentary lapse of memory is something more than the natural aging process forgetfulness, hints at “forgetting time” or how to tell time have already begun.

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If we were having coffee…

Today I am imagining that we are enjoying a cup of coffee (or your favorite beverage) together. In my imaginary coffee klatch, you are asking me a few really good questions. Let me share with you how I would probably answer those questions.

“What things did you like best about having your momma in assisted living memory care?”

  • I was blessed to be able to sleep at night (all night).
  • Momma had more than one pair of eyes keeping an eye on her when she struggled with sundowning and couldn’t seem to stay in bed all night.
  • Momma was safer. Yes, she would fall, but she would fall at home too. At BeeHive she had more than one person available to help her get up again and a whole team of people assessing whether or not she was hurt.
  • I slept in a peaceful and quiet house. There was no longer the need to listen to a video monitor’s static hissing at my bedside as I drifted off into never-long-enough sleep.
  • There were no more bleary-eyed trips to her room in the middle of the night to help with toileting, clean up accidents, change clothing or bedding, or try to reassure her that she was safe from the imaginary people she would see lurking in the shadows at night.
Just a few of mom’s incredible caregivers

“What did you miss the most about being a caregiver once your mom was at BeeHive?”

  • I would tell you that even though I no longer had the responsibility of caring for her 24/7, I was still her caregiver. While some caregiving loved ones seemed able to separate themselves for a few days at a time, I found myself visiting my mom daily, providing care in the following ways:
    • Sitting with her at lunch to better ensure she would eat something without wandering away from the table.
    • Being visibly present for a few hours of her day.
    • Being her advocate. I communicated on her behalf with the staff at BeeHive, the nurses and doctors, and the hospice workers.
    • I simply cared for her by making sure she had everything she needed to be comfortable.
Momma had some very sweet friendships at BeeHive.

If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently in caring for your mom?”

I’d probably tell you, “Not much.” Each step of the journey with my mom was prayerfully taken. Decisions I needed to make were made with the help of God and those who love me best.

“What do you want your children to do if they someday have to deal with you having a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s too?”

I would tell my children …

  • Re-read my blog. I wrote it for you. You might find some helpful insights there.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be specific about what you need.
  • I want you to feel comfortable making the decision to entrust my care to a place like BeeHive sooner, rather than later. Even if I protest at that time, it will be okay. It will be good for us.
  • Even if you’re not there every day, please don’t forget to visit me.
  • But most of all – even if I’m unable to remember who you are, I love you very much and always will.

Six on Saturday: Spring Exits and Summer Begins

Hello to my Six on Saturday friends and all of those who follow my Barefoot Lily Lady blog. I’ve been busy dealing with the details related to my sweet mom’s departure for heaven on May 24th, so haven’t kept up with my blog as much. Life is finding a comforting rhythm once again as I adjust time formerly spent with my mom to time spent creating a new routine – including more time in the garden.

With our warmer weather, I find myself barefoot gardening more often. My feet are once again irretrievably dirty as my somewhat neglected flowerbeds are slowly weeded and tended.

As my dear mom went through her final weeks of her battle with Alzheimer’s my garden went through its lovely iris and peony stage. I didn’t take time to show you those photos, so created this little collage photo (cheating, perhaps?) to give you a taste while keeping my photo max within my six.

A sampler of iris and peony time

Now, for this week’s Six…

  1. When I sold my mom’s home several years ago, I took divisions of a few of her pretty perennials and transplanted them in my garden. This iris is from her garden and this is the first year it bloomed. Serendipity? Or a blessing to remember her by? (And it’s in her favorite color…purple)

2) The lovely Clematis ‘Princess Diana’ is scrambling up my arbor entrance to the backyard gardens. Its tulip-shaped bells are a lovely fuchsia pink (one of my favorite garden colors).

Clematis ‘Princess Diana’

3. During this time of COVID-19 “Safer at Home” reclusiveness, I have made it a goal to actually try my hand at making some of my crafty Pinterest pins. My husband Wayne helped me earlier this month by building a birdhouse for me to paint, adding an “as seen on Pinterest” roof made with one of our old license plates. While our son Matt was here for a visit, he helped by cutting down a volunteer cottonwood tree (without anyone getting hurt) and leaving a stump tall enough to serve as a post for this new birdhouse. I’m pretty sure that there are new residents, but haven’t caught them coming or going yet.

4. I kinda love it when I plant something and forget what color it will be. It’s like watching a surprise gift slowly open before your eyes. I sort of remember planting an Asiatic lily in one of my daylily beds last fall. Anyone want to venture a guess as to what color it will be?

5. I’m a big fan of cranesbill. It grows in soft little mounds, but I love how it gently winds its way in and around the shade provided by other flowers in the garden, adding darling blue, purple, or pink five-petaled flowers here and there all summer long.

Cranesbill (hardy geranium), clockwise from left: ‘Rozanne’ is a lovely blue; ‘Bloody Cranesbill’ is a deep pink, and ‘Vision Light Pink’

6. This is another clematis (cultivar unknown) which I dug up from my mom’s garden before putting her house up for sale. It is inching its way up the other side of the garden entry and will hopefully meet up with ‘Princess Diana’ this summer for a sweet pink and purple combination.

Can anyone help me with the cultivar name of this lovely clematis?

Oops! I guess that’s 7!

Are you wondering what this “Six on Saturday” thing is all about? Simple. Gardeners all around the world post photos (words optional) of six things in the garden on a Saturday. Let me tip my hat to The Propagator, the creator of Six on Saturday, who provides the forum for gardeners to virtually traipse through one another’s gardens every week. It’s a lovely way to show off our gardens (both the pretty and the yummy), share knowledge, and even glean some advice for how to deal with our garden failures. I hope you’ll join us next Saturday.