Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mom: In the arms of the Lord

 


I keep typing and erasing this first sentence.  It is as if there is this flood of emotions and thoughts I need to get out so I can breath, but how do I begin?  I have a feeling this is the first of many thoughts as I walk yet another stretch of this road of grief...
My mom is with Jesus.  To say that she "died" doesn't seem accurate.  My friend (who has lost his own mother) encouraged me with the truth that she is more alive today than ever.  We are the ones that experience the death.  A piece of me has died.  I know, it doesn't make sense...but that is kind of like the kingdom of God isn't it?  The first shall be last, the last first...lose your life to find it...love the least of these...
When my children were very young, my mom encouraged me with a scripture written out on a 3x5 card.  It was Isaiah 40:11, "He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; and carry them in His bosom; and gently lead those that are with young."  
The day before my mom died she had refused to eat.  I had gone that afternoon to see if she would let me feed her.  I tried, but she would not do it.  That night I went back to try once more.  She allowed me to spoon feed her a few sips of juice, but it felt like she was doing it for me, not her.  My sister texted and said to tell mom she loved her.  I sat and held my mother's soft hand, stroked it and told her each of us loved her.  God loved her.  Then the above scripture came flooding back to my mind, and I said, "Mom, you are being carried in the arms of the Lord, He loves you."  I sat for awhile longer, then kissed her forehead.  That was my last moment with my mom this side of heaven.  I had no idea that would be her last night.  I thought we'd have months, years even, figuring out how to give her joy in the midst of this dementia and immobility.  

I am rejoicing that my mom is with Jesus.  Yet grief resides.  My sweet, sweet father, oh my sweet dad. To the very end he would lean in and kiss her and my heart would swell with joy over the love displayed. He loved her for better or for worse, in sickness and in health...and now death has parted them.
Daniel prayed tonight that Mama would be having fun in heaven...I am sure she is, and I can't wait to join her.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Benched

Do you ever ask yourself "how did my life get like this?"  When we are in our 20's (yes, I realize some of you are!) we have this idea of what life will look like when we "grow up".  Twenty years later and my life is in a very different place than my fairy tale expectations.  I am not complaining...I want nothing else but the Lord's plans for my life. I can share 1000's of stories of God's goodness that have completely overwhelmed me over the years.

Still, I never dreamed of difficult days or a grief-filled heart.  Many of you know the last few years have been less than easy.  Dave's cancer diagnosis is what birthed this blog. Then being my aunt's caregiver took much of my time until her death last November. Before I could take a breath, my mom's health took a quick turn for the worse.  I have no regrets, it is truly my joy to offer care, encouragement, steadfastness (all which come straight from God).  It's just I wasn't expecting this.

Lately I've wondered if God has a dream for my life, as if there will be a destination where life will make sense.  I have felt like I've been taken out of the game and benched until this season is over.  I don't feel slighted or passed over, but a little more like the game of life is still going on and I am on the sidelines watching it pass quickly.

I found a book years ago at a conference, it had a pretty cover so I bought it.  It's been on my shelf unread since.  Until last night.  It is a story of a husband's journey with his wife who has Alzheimer's.  He was the president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary and retired early to care for his wife.  A student later asked  him if he missed being president.   He said he never thought about it, but on reflection, no he didn't miss it.  And then he wrote this:

     "But that night I reflected on his question.  Finally I turned to the Lord.  'Father, it's OK.  I like this assignment (caring for his wife) and I have no regrets.  But something has occurred to me.  If the Coach puts a man on the bench, he must not want him in the game.  You needn't tell me, of course, but if you'd like to let me in on the secret, I'd like to know - why don't you need me in the game?'  
     I didn't sleep well that night and awoke to contemplating the puzzle.  Muriel was still mobile at the time, so we set out on our morning walk around the block.  She wasn't too sure on her feet, so we went slowly and held hands.  We live in what is euphemistically called a transitional neighborhood, where the sidewalks are often peopled with those who've lived hard and, it would seem, outlived hope.  
    A short stretch of sidewalk is bordered by a weedy embankment on the left and a very busy thoroughfare on the right.  I was grateful we never met anyone there because someone would have to get out into traffic.  But this day I heard footsteps behind me and looked back to see the familiar form of a local derelict weaving his way behind us.  I thought, He'll never catch up.  But he did and, without missing a step, staggered out into the road and back up the sidewalk in front of us.
     There he turned, looked us up and down, and said, 'Tha's good.  I likes 'at.  Tha's real good.  I likes it.'  Then he headed off down the street, mumbling to himself over and over, 'Tha's good.  I likes it.'
      I enjoyed the moment with a chuckle, grateful for the affirmation.
     When we reached our little garden and sat down, his words came back to me.  I was startled, 'Lord, could you speak through the mouth of a half-inebriated old derelict?'  I wondered aloud.  Then the realization hit me, You could and you did!  It is you who are whispering to my spirit, 'I like it, it's good...' I may be on the bench, but if you like it and say it's good, that's all that counts."

As I learn to care for my mom in this new world of dementia, I can hear the Lord saying, "it is good".  And that is all that counts.  This is His dream for me.  Learning that life doesn't have to make sense.  Trusting Him for each moment of each day.  On the bench or in the game, oh to be in the will of our Father.  It is good.