Turning the Last Page

From the moment I arrived at BeeHive, it was apparent to me that we would be experiencing the final chapter of Mom’s remarkable sojourn on earth. The stroke had dealt a crushing blow, adding further injury to Alzheimer’s furtive chipping away of her mind and body.

I will forever be grateful to the staff of BeeHive for graciously allowing me to stay at my mother’s side during her final days. It was a hard week, filled with opportunities to be a comfort to my mother, and moments both endearing and bittersweet. My overnight vigil afforded a rare opportunity to observe the night shift at work, deepening my appreciation for those dear ones who watched over the residents at night.

On May 24, 2020, a beautiful Sunday morning, as I held her hand in mine, the final page of Momma’s life was quietly turned. My sweet mother’s story on this side of Glory ended just as I hoped and prayed: Alzheimer’s lost and God won as He called her gently Home to begin the story that never ends.

Reading the Last Chapter

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that I have been candidly sharing what is happening in my mom’s world living with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The story has been a few years in the telling; parts of her story are not easy to tell, other parts are sprinkled with joy and little bits of humor. The part of her story that we are in right now is very hard to write about, but telling her story has been important to me because I know there are others traveling on this path and perhaps our experience can shed a little light on the path of those traveling behind us, and comfort and companionship for others.

In addition to blogging about mom’s story, I have been finding great comfort in listening to audiobooks while on this somewhat solitary part of mom’s journey Home. Books are great companions. As a wanna-be writer, I enjoy seeing how various authors tell their stories, develop characters, and weave their story lines. One of my friends likes to jump ahead to the last chapter of books and read how the story ends before she decides whether the book is worth reading. If she likes how the story ends, she’ll read the book. She explains, “Knowing how the story ends doesn’t ruin the story for me.” For my friend, there is enjoyment in knowing where the plot is headed. She loves noticing how each character is introduced and how the little twists and turns in the story line fit into how the story will ultimately end.

A phone call I received on Sunday night makes me feel like I’m about to skip ahead in mom’s story. My phone rang at 7:09 pm and lasted only one minute. The call was Kate from BeeHive calling to tell me that they believed my mom had suffered a significant stroke. Kate’s voice was filled with compassion. She didn’t have to say it, but we both knew that this new twist meant that we were most likely in mom’s final chapter of life.

I told Kate I would be there in a few minutes and then hurriedly tossed a few changes of clothing in my backpack, grabbed my Bible and my favorite pillow, then headed toward BeeHive.

I am so thankful I already know the end of the story. Alzheimer’s loses. God wins.

Bedtime Prayers

Even on nights when I am weary and tired, I sometimes have trouble falling asleep. Other times, I fall asleep, but cannot stay asleep. My trouble with insomnia probably stems from being on the plus side of 60; but, I think the main problem is that my mind just keeps whirling with thoughts long after my head hits my pillow. In my search for a remedy, I read about a sleep tactic whereby you count backwards from 50, mindfully counting each breath. Breaths are slow and measured – one deep breath in, hold a few seconds, then a slow breath out. I thought it couldn’t hurt, so I tried it. Lo and behold, it seemed to work, as I don’t recall ever getting past the 20’s on my way to zero.

One recent evening, as I completed my requisite bedtime routine of pillow-punching and fluffing, I decided there might be a more meaningful way to spend my countdown to sleep. Rather than pay close attention to the ins and outs of my breathing, I decided to pray about things that were on my heart as I counted forward, rather than backward.

That night, I prayed for the things God brought to mind: a missionary our church supports, my Christian brothers and sisters in Christ who live and serve in India, my children and grandchildren, my brother as he recovers from surgery, my husband’s various ministry endeavors, my pastor, the friends who are looking for work, and several friends with health needs. As I poured the concerns of my heart out to God, I remember taking my sweet mom’s name before the throne as well, asking God to take her gently Home to heaven in His time. Even though I knew I would greatly miss her, I longed for God to rescue her from a body and mind trapped in the clutches of Alzheimer’s.

One by one, my requests were heard by my heavenly Father, resulting in a heart that was quieted by this little bedtime prayer and praise time. Tucked in my bed and nestled under a blanket of God’s peace, eyes closed in prayer were soon closed in sleep. Something tells me my Heavenly Father didn’t mind one bit when His sleepy child fell asleep mid-prayer.

Tiptoe through my tulips

Another week of Spring. Daffodils are waning and tulips are still in various stages of loveliness.

Photo credit: Wayne L. Winquist
Tulipa ‘Merry Go Round’ was planted in 2014, but disappeared after blooming the first year or two. I’m happy to see this little survivor making a return. Bonus: there are multiple flowers on each plant.
I love these double, late-flowering tulips. There was supposed to be a mixture of purple, pink and white – but only these two purple ones thus far.
A newer tulip in my garden – ‘Spring Green’. It is a Viridiflora tulip with lily-like petals with a pretty green central vein. You can see I’m also losing a battle with the nemesis of my garden – an invasive creeping bellflower, Campanula rapunculoides.

If I ever need to plant a tree – I would most definitely consider planting another beautiful Star Magnolia. The flowers don’t last nearly long enough, but the tree is gorgeous and trouble-free. We have lost nearly all of the trees planted by the original landscapers back in the 1980’s (spruce, ash, birch, honey locust, flowering crab, etc.), but the magnolias continue to faithfully strut their stuff every year. I love the double skirt of petals on this one.

Magnolia ‘Royal Star’ (I think)
Photo credit: Wayne L. Winquist

Well that’s my “Six on Saturday” – thanks for joining me on a little photographic jaunt around my yard. And a special thanks to “The Propagator” for hosting “Six on Saturday” each week. If you check out his “comments” section, you can visit a whole bunch of lovely gardens, gather ideas and suggestions for your own, or have a go at posting your own six.

The Garden Wakes Up

It’s raining today and will probably rain tomorrow…and the next day too. Sigh. Oh, well. That’s what spring is all about. Generally warmer weather has arrived and, along with it, my shoes have come off and my feet are getting dirty in the flowerbeds again.

Love it!

In the weeks leading up to this decent gardening weather, I’ve been reacquainting myself with my sewing machine, working on little ‘upcycling’ projects using fabrics I have on hand – including blue jeans. One day I was deconstructing a pair of old jeans so that I could glean a nice zipper, a few pockets, and, of course, the denim fabric. As I removed one of the pockets, I thought to myself, “I sure wish my aprons were made of this stuff.” As I held that pocket in my hand, I wondered if I could somehow use it to reinforce the pocket of my present garden apron, which had sprung another hole when my sharp trimmers poked their way through yet another time.

So, that’s what I did. I inserted a denim pocket into my apron pocket and sewed it in place. I’m so happy with the results. I now have a nice little pocket within a pocket to keep my trimmers. It’s nothing fancy, but it works very well.

Last fall I planted dozens of tulip bulbs. As I tiptoe through my tulips, I’m disappointed to see only a few of them thriving. Some came up, but were devoured by the voracious rabbit families. Maybe some of them are slow in waking up from winter’s sleep – I can hope. But, here are a few of the spectacular little splashes of tulip love that I have right now.

Well, that’s this Barefoot Lily Lady’s ‘Six(ish) on Saturday’ from the garden. Amazing garden delights (and inspiration) from gardeners around the world can be viewed by visiting the comments section of The Propagator.

This Quieter Life: Time to Sew

I’m sure I’m not alone when I admit that I usually don’t know what day of the week it is anymore. Not because I feel like I’m losing my cognitive abilities; rather, my days (and yours, I would venture) have lost their structure and rhythm. With all the usual activities on the calendar wiped clean, my internal calendar has gone kerflooey.

Were it not for my phone and the special clock we bought for mom, I’m pretty sure I would often not have a clue. (Yes, it’s an old picture. Some of you may be thinking, “No wonder she doesn’t know what day it is!”)


Even though I may not know what day it is, I have challenged myself to keep busy. My house is getting cleaner by the day as I try to tackle one or two cleaning tasks each day. Cupboards and closets are being ‘tidied’ KonMari-style; even the car has been tidied, organized, vacuumed and washed. During our recent warmer weather, I was able to give the garden a little of the attention it deserves. Books that have been in my “read someday” pile are actually getting read…or removed from the pile.

My craft room is a disaster though – it looks like a fabric bomb exploded in there. This time it’s me making the mess and not my grandkids. The weather isn’t cooperating for my preferred activity of gardening, so I’m actually getting around to trying to create some of those ideas I have “pinned” on Pinterest. As an aspiring seamstress, I stink at inserting zippers. With life moving at a slower pace, I determined now was the time to practice. So, I’ve been making little things that require zippers: tote bags, makeup bags, and a little pouch.

I’m enjoying this quieter life, along with its opportunities for creativity. Even so, I’m really looking forward to getting back to normal. I’m only hoping that this time spent in quiet has helped me to see that “normal” could look different – less busy, yet more productive and fulfilling.

What about you? What have you been doing to fill your quieter days?

The Table – A Place to Gather

I think one of the things I miss the most during this time of pandemic isolation reality is being able to gather around a table with those I love. I don’t think I’ve truly understood the importance of ‘gathering together’ in my life until now when it isn’t advisable to do so.

Tables are made for gathering, and so are we.

Every room in my house has a table. Some just gather stuff: a bedside lamp and a stack of books; a little collection of photos and a jar of buttons. But most tables are designed to be a place where people sit and gather.

In our home, there’s the gem of a dining room table we found in an antique shop in downtown Milwaukee. It came with six chairs, three leaves and a sideboard. The rattan seated chairs have since been replaced by some Amish built oak chairs of a sturdier variety.

Then, there is our wonderful kitchen table purchased shortly after moving into our home 20-something years ago. I fell in love with that table when we were shopping for a couch – actually, I think it was the table’s matching china cabinet that I fell in love with, but hubby was willing to buy the whole set for me. The table has taken a beating over the years, but it’s still our favorite place for family and friends to gather for a meal, to work a puzzle or play a game, or sing “Happy Birthday” and enjoy the requisite cake.

This favorite table of mine has a little drawer on one its long sides. Matt and Beth always sat on that side of the table. I didn’t find out until they were all grown up that whenever they didn’t want to eat something on their plate, they would wait until I wasn’t looking and then tuck whatever it was in the drawer. Later, when no one was in the room, they’d return to the scene of the crime and remove the disgusting food and hide it in the garbage can. It would not have been a laughing matter if they were caught doing that back then, but it is now. Whenever I sit at that table to craft or sew, I see that little drawer and smile.

My favorite table in its present abode – my craft room…and a glimpse at Matt and Beth’s drawer.

Memories are even etched in the table top itself. If you look at its table top from just the right angle and in the right light, you’ll notice years and years of homework assignments, letters, and grocery lists etched into its soft pine wood. My favorite table continues to gather memories of this sort (along with paint splotches, glitter and glue) as my grandkids gather around it and work on various arts and crafts.

Tables are made for gathering. I hope that my favorite table will be a place to create and gather memories for many years to come.

Playing in the Dirt Again

It feels good to be outdoors playing in the dirt again. In a day when COVID-19 has us squirreled away indefinitely in the relative safety of our own homes, spending time in my garden this week has been a welcome repose and heartsome encouragement.

Crocus are already showing off their comely petals in shades of purple, and a few white ones too. Blue muscari brings teeny-tiny punches of the deepest, bluest blue in patches scattered here and there. Brilliant, sunshine yellow clusters of daffodils dot my Schumann Drive landscape, with tulips promising to take their turn in the next few weeks.

As I pull back the winter blanket of leaves and mulch in one bed, then another, I’m seeing hints of more beauty yet to come. Peonies have poked their little red tips about an inch above the ground and I’m already dreaming of their beautiful petals in reds, pinks, white and a very special yellow one too. The foliage of my beautiful daylilies is already several inches high and seem to whisper their promise, “Summer is coming.”

Some flowers are spilling out of the bounds I had imposed on them, so I begin digging up a few of the plants nearest the garden’s edge. Some go in my compost bin, a few are transplanted elsewhere, but most are placed in a big plastic tub marked ‘Free Perennials’ and placed at the curb end of my driveway where they are offered to those passing by in the neighborhood. Each offering of future beauty is placed in its own plastic or paper bag, with any information I can offer about the plant scribbled on the bag. The bin is usually emptied in a day or two. I find it a lovely thought knowing that little bits of my garden’s loveliness will soon be springing up in other neighborhood gardens.

Today, as I plunged my garden trowel into the spring-softened dirt to scoop up one of the plants for my driveway offerings, I was delighted to find a sleepy toad still nestled in the dirt on my trowel. I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t injure him; it’s an honor to find toads, as I know they will do me countless favors in the months to come as they feast on slugs and snails and other garden pests. I pried my little plant offering from the dirt, then tucked the toad back in under a blanket of dirt where he could continue his slumber before awakening as my garden helper.

Today’s discoveries included unearthing a bunny nest and getting to see the cute little bunny butts within (I know I will regret thinking they are cute when I start seeing tops of my plants nibbled off as bunny fodder). Unlike toads, bunnies are not known for their propensity for helping in the garden.

While I will not refuse offers of human help in my garden, I rather like the solitude it offers. It’s a time to pray and to reflect on life’s blessings. Any frustrations I might be feeling seem to disappear into the soft earth as I work it. This solitary time in the garden is also a great time to sing (or hum) in praise to God. With the discovery of my little garden friends, it seemed fitting that my mind went to a song I learned when I was 11 or 12 years old, very early in my Christian walk. We don’t sing this hymn much anymore, but I recall learning the song in a club for kids called Awana. Not very long ago, I taught the song to the kids in our Sunday School so they would have it in their hearts too. It would be my pleasure to share the lyrics in the hopes that you would be blessed by them, and that your soul would find rest in the thought of all the wonders He has wrought.

This Is My Father’s World | Maltbie D. Babcock

This is my Father’s world,
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

My Psalm

Our pastor likes to give us an assignment at the end of his sermons; something to think about or put into practice. I always take notes, but appreciate this “oh, and one more thing” encouragement to give further thought and prayer to what I heard. Several Sundays ago, Pastor Jeremy suggested that we write our own psalm. A psalmist, I’m not, but here are the thoughts – a prayer, really – which came to my heart and mind as I sat down to write that very afternoon.

A Psalm for Growing Older

Increase my love, my Lord, for your precious Word! Help me to treasure it up in my heart.

May your divine precepts keep my life pure as I remember in all circumstances what you have taught me.

I pray that your Word would lodge in the deepest corners of my mind and guide my steps, words and actions.

Even when my memory fades and mind grows feeble, may your Word remain sharp and firmly anchored in my heart.

Give your servant a heart guided by a love for for your Word; may your loveliness be reflected in me all the days of my life.