The Decline: Getting ‘Home’ Before Dark

The indignities of the later stages of Alzheimer’s are many, and it is hard to watch my mother wrestle with them. As I sit with her on her rough days, I pray for her and ask God to “take her gently Home” in His perfect time. I confess praying too that God would somehow spare me from this oftentimes familial disease.

A few days ago, Momma was having a very rough day. It broke my heart to see her in such pain and mental anguish. As I sat with her and tried to be of comfort, I thought about something my sweet mother-in-law used to pray. Quoting from a poem that was dear to her heart, her prayer was, “God, in your time, please let me get home before dark.”

By God’s providence, I came upon the prayerful poem that Shirley had typed out and prayed by faith for herself. Today, I make this my prayer as well.

Let Me Get Home by Dark

by J. Robertson McQuilkin

It’s sundown, Lord.
The shadows of my life stretch back
into the dimness of the years long spent.
I fear not death, for that grim foe betrays himself at last,
thrusting me forever into life:
Life with you, unsoiled and free.
But I do fear.
I fear the Dark Spectre may come too soon –
or do I mean, too late?
That I should end before I finish or
finish, but not well.
That I should stain your honor, shame your name,
grieve your loving heart.
Few, they tell me, finish well…
Lord, let me get home before dark. 
The darkness of a spirit
grown mean and small, fruit shriveled on the vine,
bitter to the taste of my companions,
burden to be borne by those brave few who love me still.
No, Lord. Let the fruit grow lush and sweet,
A joy to all who taste:
Spirit-sign of God at work,
stronger, fuller, brighter at the end.
Lord let me get home before dark. 
The darkness of tattered gifts,
rust-locked, half-spent or ill-spent.
A life that once was used of God
now set aside.
Grief for glories gone or
Fretting for a task God never gave.
Mourning in the hollow chambers of memory.
Gazing on the faded banners of victories long gone.
Cannot I run well unto the end?
Lord, let me get home before dark. 
The outer me decays –
I do not fret or ask reprieve.
The ebbing strength but weans me from mother earth
and grows me up for heaven.
I do not cling to shadows cast by immortality.
I do not patch the scaffold lent to build the real, eternal me.
I do not clutch about me my cocoon,
vainly struggling to hold hostage
a free spirit pressing to be born. 
But will I reach the gate
in lingering pain, body distorted, grotesque?
Or will it be a mind
wandering untethered among light phantasies or
grim terrors?
Of your grace, Father, I humbly ask…
Let me get home before dark.

Rewind: The First Date

Here’s a Facebook rewind where I reminisce about my first date with my (now) hubby, Wayne. We now have a granddaughter who is almost the age I was when Wayne and I met. And she reads my blog! Yikes!


Early in their writing relationship, Wayne shared his list of hobbies. It makes Cindie laugh today because she’s never in 34 years of marriage seen him even attempt to body surf or snorkel, but there they were on his lengthy list. Try as she may, she couldn’t find much in common. Why she tried so hard, knowing full well he was “too old” and she was “too young” is hard to explain. I think it is best summed up that high school girls like to dream – and dream she did.

They planned to do three things together during his 30-day leave of absence from the Navy: ride together on the church bus to Camp Fairwood; a dinner at a restaurant (Wayne’s way of saying “thanks” to Cindie for writing); and a fishing trip (because, as you may recall, in trying to find something in common on the aforementioned “hobby list,” she had stretched the truth a tad to say she “loves fishing.”) Other than these three things, absolutely no plans to “date” were on the horizon.

But God is always full of surprises.

First surprise: on the very Sunday that Wayne and Cindie met in the hallway at church, God planted a Marine named Danny (cousin to her best friend, Cindy).

Danny and Cindy came to church together that Sunday evening. Cindy introduced Danny to Wayne and Cindie. Danny was on leave too, and, small world that it is, was stationed on the very same Hawaiian island as Wayne. Danny, outgoing and gregarious as they come, assuming Wayne and Cindie were a couple (not knowing they had really just ‘met’ one another) said, “Hey, why don’t we go out for a bite to eat together after the service?” Cindie had to ask her mom, of course. It seemed innocent enough, so mom said yes, and off her daughter went on her first unplanned un-date with Wayne.


The second surprise was an “un-date” that happened the very next day when Wayne accompanied Cindie and her dad on the trip up to their church camp, Camp Fairwood. It was Monday, August 6, 1973, and Cindie’s dad was driving a bus loaded with 30 or so junior-aged boys headed for a week of camp and he had invited Wayne along [in retrospect, Cindie wonders if this was her dad’s way of checking out this young man who was paying attention to his young daughter]. The stated intent was for Wayne (who drove fuel trucks in the Navy) to give Cindie’s dad (and his bad back) a break in driving on the trip home with the empty bus. Wayne and Cindie talked all the way up to Camp, with junior boys teasing them all the way . . . and Cindie’s dad keeping tabs via the bus’s extra-large rear-view mirror.


Then, as God would have it, surprise number three. A Pastor from another church asked if he could hitch a ride on Garfield’s bus – this would get him closer to home where his wife could pick him up. God’s surprise? Pastor Luke offered to drive, allowing Wayne and Cindie to chat non-stop for another 120 miles (although neither apparently wanted their photo taken, here is photographic evidence).

Cindie attended prayer meeting on Wednesday night – and so did Wayne.  Cindie’s friend Cindy (I know, it’s confusing) was there with her cousin Danny too. They decided once again to “grab a bite to eat” after the service together.

During their table talk at Jolly Roger’s, Danny suggested they all go to the Wisconsin State Fair together on Friday night. Cindie swallowed hard knowing she’d have to ask her parents about that one too. She knew this one was going to sound more like a REAL date. Surprise number 4: since it was a double-date, her parents said ‘yes’…with reservations and restrictions, of course.

The fair was wonderful. The foursome enjoyed all the usual fair fun and food, then decided to take in a concert by Sha Na Na. Arriving late for the concert, they took a place seated on the ground near the stage. A song or two later, Danny decided for reasons unknown to lay his head in Cindie’s lap. She didn’t know quite what to think, or what to do. But Wayne did. He stood up and said to Danny and Cindy (mostly to Danny), “We are going to go take a look around at some of exhibits, we’ll catch up with you two later.”

 Before the evening was through, in the midst of a crowded state fair exhibition hall, Wayne and Cindie were separated. Wayne once again knew just what to do. He reached through the crowd, took her hand in his, and didn’t let go until the evening ended with a gentle goodnight kiss at her front door.

He let go of her hand that night, but never her heart.

Rewind: “God’s Providence and the Envelope”

I promised I would tell how “she” started writing him in the first place. 

You’ll remember that her church made it their mission to ensure that every serviceman and woman who went out to serve their country from this church would receive at least one piece of mail each month from someone in their church family. Several pre-addressed, stamped envelopes were distributed to the teachers in the various adult Sunday School classes. The high school class also participated in this letter-writing endeavor. 

Garfield Baptist Church in Wauwatosa, WI (now Spring Creek Church in Pewaukee)

Each month her Sunday School Superintendent (Mrs. Grace Barron, her youth pastor’s wife) would hold up two of these pre-addressed envelopes seeking volunteers to write a letter. “She” was accustomed to volunteering to write a random recipient each month, but, as was mentioned in an earlier account, had selfishly decided that she was no longer going to volunteer. 

Pastor Bob & Grace Barron

Her reason? Simple. Because they didn’t write back! 

Pretty selfish, wasn’t it? If she wasn’t selfish, at least she was a bit naive. It never dawned on her that it sometimes takes months for mail to reach someone serving in the armed forces. It also never dawned on her that some of the recipients might be in a foxhole dodging the enemies attack somewhere in Viet Nam. 

On this day in early January, while sitting in class waiting for the Sunday School pre-session to begin, she saw the familiar air-mail envelopes sticking out of Mrs. Barron’s Bible. To further strengthen her resolve, she whispered to her best friend Cindy that she was not planning to volunteer this month. 

Mrs. Barron held up the two envelopes and, with her characteristic deeply dimpled smile, asked who would like to write one of our servicemen this month. The reluctant writer avoided looking at Mrs. Barron, but could somehow still feel the teacher’s eyes imploring her to write. But, no one would volunteer. 

“She” felt bad, but still stubbornly refused to volunteer, sitting on her fingertips, so as to remind herself not to volunteer. Mrs. Barron sounded disappointed and made her request one more time, this time looking straight at her usual volunteer. The reluctant writer didn’t budge in her resolve – though something inside of her really wanted to. 

So, without a single volunteer, Mrs. Barron opened the class in prayer. The now guilt-ridden reluctant volunteer bowed her head in prayer too, a little bit ashamed of herself. 

Then a really unbelievable thing happened. As Mrs. Barron raised her voice in prayer invoking God’s blessing on the students and their class time in God’s Word, the reluctant volunteer felt the Bible that was sitting in her lap move. She looked down and underneath her hand, the cover of her Bible was being raised and one of those envelopes was being slipped into the flyleaf of her Bible. Mrs. Barron never paused or missed a beat in her prayer as she cunningly executed the drop. The disinclined letter writer looked up at the praying pastor’s wife and made eye-contact. Mrs. Barron’s eyes were saying, “Please?” The hesitant writer nodded in reluctant affirmation…she would do it. Still praying, Mrs. Barron’s eyes smiled a “thank you.”

After the “Amen,” the involuntary volunteer looked at the name written on the envelope. She had no clue who this Wayne L. Winquist was…but Cindie Boyles would soon find out.

Next up: “He Meets She”

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