Thursday, March 17, 2011

Getting Lost . . .

Weekly Word - March 17, 2011

Where can I go from Thy Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Thy presence?
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there - Thy hand will lead me
(Psalm 139: 7 - 9)

When I heard about my friend’s grandfather passing away, I couldn’t help but feel deep sadness for her and her family. Over the past year or so, my friend and I have spent many hours sharing our heartaches for her grandfather, and my mom. Her grandpa had Alzheimer’s - just like my mom does. As the disease took over his mind, he became angry - lashing out at the family that loved him. My friend would call, telling me about the hurts her mom and she were going through. The person they had loved for so many years, was not the person before them. They struggled with how to handle losing pieces of him - every day. But now, her grandpa has left this earth. The man who had lost “who” he was; is now living on - in the memories of those left behind . . .

If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there - Thy hand will lead me

Her name was Mary, and it was my job to check on her a few mornings a week. I was working as a healthcare worker, and I helped the elderly and sick to stay living in their homes. Mary was the very first person I ever met with the disease called Alzheimer’s. I don’t know what I expected, but I found an amazing lady - that I learned to love.

Each morning when I went into Mary’s apartment, I would head straight for her stove. It was always on, and the temperature in the room would be about 90! In the other room, Mary would be calling - wondering who had come to see her. Quickly, I would turn down the stove, heading into the living room to say “hello”. She would never remember who I was, always looking at me with a little distrust. But within a few minutes, she would start to tell me stories. As I got out the vacuum and cleaning supplies, Mary would start to tell me about her life. She would tell me all about falling in love, and I found myself laughing as she told me how she said “no” to her husband - the very first time he asked her out. He was a baker, and she told me how he brought her a cake. That cake, sweet and beautiful, made her fall in love with him. She told me so many stories about her life, as I cleaned and helped her with her laundry and cooking. Her walls were filled with pictures, and I would ask her “who” the people were in those pictures. She told me they were all her children - all 12 of them! As she talked about her family, Mary would ask me questions about my family. Did I have children? And I would tell her about my own two children. Then I would ask her a little more about her children, or her husband. I learned that she lived in the “stucco house” down the road. She and her husband ran a bakery, while her family lived upstairs. I learned so much about Mary over the next year. I learned all about her sister, who was a nun, and even the school they both went to. I learned to love the young girl, and the woman who lived in the stories Mary told me about.

O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me.
Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; . . .
Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold O Lord, Thou dost know it all.
(Psalm 139: 1 & 2)

A few years after I finished working for the hospital, I read that Mary had passed away. As I read her obituary, it listed all her children and grandchildren, as well as her husband’s name and date that he died. As I read on, it told me where she went to church, and the things she had done in her community. This was how her life was summed up. And yet, there was so much more - - - to who Mary was . . .

Thou hast enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Thy hand upon me.
Where can I go from Thy spirit?

She wakes up each morning before the birds are even up. Quietly, she puts on her clothes - getting ready for the day. It is time for her morning walk, and she heads for the door - trying not to wake anyone. As she starts her walk, she greets those she meets along the way. Soon, others will be awake, and the day will truly begin - and she will begin her work for the day . . .

As I get off the elevator for the 3rd floor, I see her through the glass enclosure. She is in her usual chair, her rolling desk in front of her, papers and scissors and such all over the desk. I stand watching her for a minute or so, as she appears so busy with whatever she has in front of her. Finally, I press the big red button - opening the door in front of me. As I walk in, she still doesn’t notice me. So I call to her, “Mom, how are you?” She looks up quickly, and then she starts to smile. “I haven’t seen you in forever!” she tells me. “Come sit down and I will show you what I did!”

And so I sit next to her, looking at the notebook she has been working on. “Look” she says as she hands me the notebook. The first page has a picture of her mother, my grandmother, on it. It is a picture from when my grandmother was a young teen-ager. Her large hat and long coat seem to cover her from head to toe. “That’s my mother”, she says. “But I don’t remember her like that” she tells me. Then I turn the page and mom has taped a pretty Christmas card to the next page. “Feel it” she says. It is glittery and very pretty - and I tell her so. As I turn the pages, I see pictures of my daughter and her horse, kitties that she cut out from note cards, and even the obituary from when my dad died. Then mom shows me the page she is working on. “Look how pretty these are” she says. She has cut strips from a paper; strawberries and blueberries running along the strips. These she has started to tape to the paper. “It is very pretty mom” I tell her. “I am making this so that anyone who wants to look at it when I am gone - they can” she tells me. “But maybe they won’t want to look at it” she says with a slight pout. “I know I would want to look at it mom” and I pat her leg. And the truth is - I would look at it. It is mom’s way of expressing the things she is thinking about. She has cut up pictures from the picture books we have made for her - and put some of them into this notebook. She has added cards and pretty flowers, kitties, and even birds - to decorate her paper notebook. “When I’m gone” she had said - and inside, my heart hurts a little bit more . . .

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to Thee,
And the night is as bright as the day.

(Psalm 139: 11 & 12)

“When I’m gone” - Little by little, my mom is losing “who” she is. She knows that she was a nurse, a wife, and a mom to 3 children. She can tell you this over and over again. But she can’t tell you what she did yesterday, or even who I am at times.

I took mom out to lunch yesterday. She was actually having a good day. We laughed and talked, and then mom looked at me and asked: “Can I ask you a question?” I told her “sure”! She then asked: “Who in your family had red hair like you?” For an instant, I was a bit taken back by the question. Then I swallowed hard and said: “My grandpa had red hair”. “Ohhh” she said. Then she started to tell me about her father. She told me that he had been called “Uncle Red”, and she just didn’t know why he was called that. As my mom continued to talk, I smiled and nodded and found a way to change the subject. At that moment, my mom had no idea who I was - or even who her dad was. Pushing the thoughts down, I told mom a funny story - and she started to laugh . . .

“When I’m gone” There is going to come a time when my mother will be gone - but her body may still be here - on this earth.

For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; . . .
And my soul knows it very well.
(Psalm 139: 13 & 14)

My good friend lost her grandfather this past week. As she prepared for the funeral, she went through pictures of him and their family from over the years. Though there were tears as she did it, she found herself smiling and laughing at the memories of this wonderful man. He was a husband, father, grandfather, and even great-grandfather. He had loved his family with all his heart. They had lived a life full of ups and downs - and yet the pictures showed the joy that had been shared in that family. And then this man developed Alzheimer’s. Little by little, pieces of him were lost. The last few years of his life were marked by times of anger, frustration, and pain. But the man who was her grandfather? He lives on in those pictures, in the memories of his family, and in Heaven with His Maker . . .

Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book - They were all written,
The days that were ordained for me, . . .
How precious also are Thy thoughts to me, O God!
When I awake, I am still with Thee.
(Psalm 139: 16 - 18)

I am losing my mom, one day at a time. The person she is, changes all the time. And yet, she is still my mom. As I said goodbye to my mom yesterday, one of the nurses called to her and asked: “Did you have a good time?” Mom turned to her and said: “Of course I did, I was with my daughter!” At that moment, mom remembered who I was! But there will come a day - when she doesn’t. When that day happens, I will remember back to other days, and other moments that are filed away in my own memory. Mom - will always live on - in my heart, in the memories we have made - and even in God’s love for her. Who she is - - - will never be forgotten . . .

When I awake, I am still with Thee . . .

Each and every one of us will face losses in our lives. That is just a fact of living here on earth. But no matter where we go, or how far we ourselves become lost - God is always there - with us! He hangs on tight to us, when we cannot hang on - anymore. And on the day we leave this earth, He walks with us - to the other side . . .

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His loving-kindness is everlasting.
(Psalm 136: 1)

As I write this, it is my hope that you have asked Him to walk with you - every day that is before you. As you do, He will be with you to comfort you, encourage you, and guide you as you walk this path called Life. He - - - is waiting - for you . . .

In His Precious Love,

Debbie Ayers