Even as my sweet mother’s memory slowly fades, one thing remains strongly present. Her faith in Jesus. Many times during the day (and night), I will hear her pray, “Jesus, help me.” She prays it as she walks from her bed to the bathroom, or as she tries to get her knees to cooperate with her as she travels from the kitchen back to her bed.
I had lunch with a dear friend today. My heart is richly blessed for having spent time with Maureen. It was fun catching up on what was going on in each of our lives since we last saw one another. We’ve both had ups and downs, both thoroughly enjoy spending time with our kids and grandkids (but wish we could have more time with them). Last time Maureen and I caught up with one another, the sting of death was still fresh in my heart, having lost my mother to Alzheimer’s during that year. Now, it was my friend’s turn to say goodbye to her mother under similar circumstances in this past year. We talked a little bit about being in a new season of life — a season which may hold challenges, health and otherwise, but new opportunities for growth in Christ too. Our time on earth will pass before we know it; but, for the present, God is not finished with us yet.
Only one life, so soon will pass. Only what’s done for Christ will last.
I am fondly remembering when my children were small. So much energy and love went into making sure they were dressed, well fed, clean and safe. I mothered my children back in the days before baby monitors and wifi cameras helped monitor the safety of a sleeping child. I remember hesitating to even walk outside into the backyard to hang my laundry on the clothesline to dry, always wanting to be within listening distance of my sleeping babies.
Mealtimes with my little ones could be fun but, if I turned my back for an instant in our teeny-tiny kitchen, one of my children could spread his meal all over himself and the floor beneath before I could count to three. The other child made highchair sitting into a baby Olympic event going from being seated in her highchair to standing on the tray in record time.
A newer resident at the assisted living memory care home where I work said something today which reminded me of a sweet memory of my mom. I’ll call the sweet lady ‘Lillian’, so as to shield her true identity. As I walked in the building Lillian’s face visibly brightened. With wide-eyed amazement, she greeted me and exclaimed, “Oh, you’re here, Grandma!” As I got a little closer to her, with a deflated note of disappointment in her voice, Lillian murmured, “Oh, you’re not my grandma, are you?” To which I replied, “No, I’m your new friend Cindie and I just have one of those familiar faces that reminds people of someone else.” Lillian pondered my face for a few seconds and then said, “Yes, your face is kind. Just like my grandma’s.”
Oh, my. That warmed my heart. I spent a few more minutes chatting with my new friend Lillian, then went about my work, with memories of my own sweet momma on my mind. In the later years of Mom’s life with Alzheimer’s, in her mind, I was rarely her daughter. Sometimes I got to be her sister, her mother, or her friend. I’d like to share one of those memories with you . . .
Lately, my sweet mother has been more than a bit confused about her living accommodations, referring to our home as “this facility” and “this place.” Not long ago, she swept her hand out in gesture as if encompassing her living space and said, “Are you the one in charge of this place?” I told her yes it was our home and that Wayne and I both welcome her to live here. “Oh,” she replied, “are my meals and laundry included?” I assured her that they were. To which she replied, “Well, they haven’t fed me all day, and I think they’re stealing my laundry. I can’t find it anywhere.”
Not long ago, she was telling Wayne that “someone who works here” had given her some pills. She wasn’t sure who it was, but figured they knew what they were doing, so she took them. It was Tylenol, and it was…
It makes me a bit sad when I re-read this post and am reminded I wasn’t able to care for mom in our home until the very end of her journey on earth. But, only a tiny bit sad. I know in my heart that moving her to BeeHive Assisted Living and Memory Care in her last year on earth was the right thing to do. BeeHive was so much more than a “place for those waiting to die”. The decision to move her into memory care provided her with so much more meaningful interaction, activities, opportunities to move about, more variety in her meals, and lots of tender loving care. I am beyond grateful for the time spent with her — I know that is something I will never regret. I’m thankful for a husband whose wise investments meant that she would not “run out of money” as she had often worried. It was enough. God is good…all the time.
When you have Alzheimer’s you can’t remember that you don’t need to worry about something. So you do worry. A lot.
Mom worries about such things as whether there is food in the fridge and if she’ll be able to afford the things she needs to live. There is, and she will.
When we have guests, she worries about how they’ll get home in the dark, or where they’ll sleep for the night. She will oftentimes tell our guests that they can sleep in her bed if they need a place to sleep. Sad, but sweet.
Her worries are usually small ones. She worries every night about whether or not she has a toothbrush. She frets about leaves and twigs out in the yard, or the water on the deck after a rain.
Other times, her worries are big. Her biggest worries are about the future. Just today, she came…
It’s Christmas Eve. My church family is gathering this very hour to celebrate God’s Indescribable Gift by candlelight. I love the Christmas Eve service and am a bit saddened that I can only join my church family via “livestream.” While I appreciate having this option, it’s definitely not the same as being there.
Last year’s Christmas Eve service is etched deep within my heart. Our family all gathered together sitting in the pew beside Wayne and I remembering the giving of the Indescribable Gift with the birth of our Savior.
My favorite part of the service is a tradition that comes right at the end. Our whole church family gathers around the outer edge of the dimly lit sanctuary, the darkness of which is softened by the glow of a few decorative candles. Each one of us holds a single unlit candle while we sing a beautiful carol. Our pastor lights his candle. Then he lights the candle of those on either side of him. Each individual passing the light of their one candle to another, then that candle lights the next. The sanctuary becoming increasingly brightened by the shared light until we are all basking in the warm glow of candlelight, beautifully symbolizing sharing the Light of the World with one another.
With our granddaughters standing between us with their beautiful faces aglow in soft candlelight, Wayne and I listen to them lift their sweet voices in praise to their Savior. This passing of the candlelight perfectly symbolizes the passing of faith to the next generation.
This year our children are celebrating Christmas Eve with their families elsewhere. My dear mother is not up to venturing out on this mild wintry eve of Christmas. Alzheimer’s has stripped mom of her desire to do things socially, so the three of us are quietly celebrating here at her apartment. Together, we will enjoy a home-cooked meal followed by watching a favorite Hallmark Christmas movie.
I must confess that my mind is awhirl with questions and a few uncertainties tonight. I look at mom and wonder just how many more Christmases we will celebrate together. Will this be her last Christmas with us? Will she celebrate her next Christmas in heaven, a gift she truly desires? If not, will she know who I am next Christmas? Will she be able to stay in her apartment another year, or will this next year bring more difficulties and change?
But, even in the midst of my wondering and pondering heart this year, there is a quiet inner joy. Joy in knowing Christ – the Indescribable Gift. Joy in having a husband who has also received the same Gift. Joy in knowing my mother and father each received the Gift by faith as well. Joy in the knowledge that my children and their spouses have each received that most precious Gift. Joy in the realization that one by one, our grandchildren are receiving this Indescribable Gift by faith too.
The symbolic candle lighting candle brings sweet joy as we are reminded that each of us has received this Indescribable Gift because someone shared it with us.
Alas, today’s snow flurries and nippy temperatures are just a foretaste of what is yet to come. My gardening checklist has quite a few tasks yet to complete in order to finish preparing my flowerbeds for winter’s sleep. How can it be mid-November already? It seems only yesterday that I was happily plodding barefoot through my gardens, planting this, transplanting that, and digging out weeds, and muttering under my breath at the voracious bunnies who happily brought their family and friends to my flowerbed buffet.
It also seems that not long ago I took a wrongturn detour and found myself driving down a street on which I had never traveled and found myself in an older section of town in what appeared to be an industrial park. Upon making a Y-turn to head back to the known route, I spied a sign to a public garden tucked in a messy-but-pretty flowerbed between what looked like two warehouses.
It was a beautiful summer afternoon, so I parked my car at the curb and accepted the sign’s invitation to wander down a footpath toward what looked like the garden’s entrance. Native plants seemed to hum with busy bees and butterflies. Flowers criss-crossed and lapped over the edges of the ungroomed pathway. The busy bees didn’t seem to mind my presence, so I carefully ventured further down the winding path, and there I found a hidden slice of peaceful beauty to explore.
I invite you to wander its pathways with me, courtesy of a few photos I snapped as I walked and explored.
Upon crossing this rustic footbridge, I entered the most enchanting prairie.
Flowers lured me in to wander pathways, and God’s creation beckoned me to praise Him.
I’ll be back…
I am joining (last minute on a Thursday) the Five Minute Friday writing community for a little writing adventure hosted by Kate Motaung. This week’s writing prompt is, “Wander.”
This story still makes my eyes well with tears when I think of the things my mom endured in her journey through the last few years of life with Alzheimer’s. While I would never want to relive those moments, I’m glad God led me to provide care for her, as God used this incredibly difficult time to help me grow in my faith and trust in Him. I’m reposting this for those friends who are still traveling this road in life called Alzheimer’s. May God bless and keep you and give you wisdom for the journey. I’m here if you need someone to listen to you, share caregiving ideas and thoughts, and pray for you. ~Cindie
Momma had a good day on Saturday – well, as good as days get when you have Alzheimer’s. Wayne was out of town visiting a friend, so it was just the two of us most of the day. She had been alert, busy, and had a great attitude. I turned the clocks back one hour, looking forward to the possibility of an extra hour of sleep. But it was not meant to be – by the time my head hit my pillow she had her light on in her room and was rummaging through her drawers.
It was my turn to teach Sunday School the next morning, so I tried to sleep a little, staying on the edge of sleep, listening and keeping a sleepy eye on the monitor throughout the night, only intervening when I thought it was essential. Sadly, no amount of “redirection” on my part was going…