|Mom, fourth from the right on the front row|
|Mom, on the far right, as part of the Laidley Hall Trio, 1946-47|
|Mom, fourth from the right on the front row|
But with my dear mother, there is very little sharing now. There is surface talk and politeness, but the soul and the connections are mostly gone……..from her side. For us – her children and grandchildren – we are always connected to her in ways that she probably no longer feels. We must accept, though, that the motherly affirmation and expression that even as adults we still long for……..are for the most part gone.
So many times I have found myself thinking that I would call Mom and ask her for some advice……….ask her how she made a certain dish……..ask her for a bit of family history that I wonder about. But then I know that most or all of this part of her is gone. Forever gone. This is a sobering realization. My totally competent, amazingly organized and gifted mother, is now the one who needs Jan or Jeanie to organize and manage her daily life.
She no longer looks at her calendar and knows that March 20 is her anniversary or that May 2 was Dad’s birthday or that September 14 is her own birthday. This past Christmas, Jan wrote a note that was taped on each of Mom’s presents under her tree. The note simply said, “Do Not Open.” Yet shortly before Christmas day, Bob and Jan walked in to Mom’s apartment and found that she had opened every single present……….and was ready to put the tree away. We smile as we see in that episode a side of our organized mother that is still there. Let’s get the show on the road and then clean up the mess!
Mom’s wit and her love of jokes and puns is almost legendary. Yet now, at least when I talk to her, she seems rather flat. Conversation lags between us because she has trouble with making important connections. It’s hard to find something to talk about when she can’t even remember what that thing is that her cat, Princess, sits in front of………and I gently remind her that it is a window. “Oh yes!” she says. “The window!” And I am struck with just how deeply she is affected……….and how deeply then we all are affected by this fading of her mind and memory.
I love this picture of her, though, still working at The Hunger Challenge at Johnston Chapel. Still serving and smiling and enjoying being able to help. That part of our mother is still there, as is her kindness and her concern for others. This exemplifies my mother to her core, and I’m thankful that she can still physically do these things, though somewhat limited.
This gradual letting go…….this sitting on the sidelines of her life and watching her gradually slip away……..is heartbreaking for all of us. There is really nothing we can do but be there for her, as Bob and Jan, and John and Jeanie, are every day. We can tell her about our families, even as we sense that she’s not sure exactly who we are talking about.
And we can, and do, tell her how much we love her. Someday even those words won’t really reach her. But we reach into our hearts and into our memories, and we recognize her value to each of us in so many different ways. Our love for her is not based on her memory or lack thereof.
I also realize how important it is that I say to my children the words that I want them to hear from me. Someday I may not be able to say them, even though I may still be here physically. Words of encouragement, instruction, family history, and love………words I hope they store away in their hearts forever.
Our sweet little mommy is fading away, but her example and influence is as strong as ever. In fact, her impact in our lives is eternal and we are all so thankful for that fact…..and for her.
We just went on a very special trip to visit my mother. Actually, it was a surprise for her 85th birthday. And was she ever shocked when she walked into that banquet room at the steak house and saw all of her five children there, as well as many grandchildren and great-grands! The look on her face was priceless; the tears, hers and ours, were genuine; and the love shared was a treasure. I’m so thankful that all of her children were there for her and that we got to rally around her at this very important time. You see, it wasn’t only her birthday. She has also just moved into an assisted living center and so we were able to visit her beautiful new home, help her with a little of the settling-in process, and get a close-up look at her lovely surroundings and amazing staff.
One other thing we kids did while we were there was to meet at the home she just vacated. This home isn’t the place where she and Dad raised us five children. They sold our family home in 1996 in order to downsize and make their lives simpler as they aged. Through Dad’s two cancers, and two more moves, they continued to downsize a little more with each change. Now as I walked into the garage where many of her smaller items were sitting in boxes or on shelves, perched on chairs, or leaning against the walls, I was determined to approach this as objectively as possible. Even in the kitchen and the living room I was able to remain composed. However, when I walked into the bedroom and began to help take clothes out of her closet, I was overcome with emotion. This was the last home that she and Dad had shared together. This was where I had spent the last month of his life as I helped Mom care for him. Memories of that month, especially, washed over me. Mom is now living in a place that Dad never got to share with her. The change in her life is striking, and the end of one chapter is really the beginning of the last chapter of her life.
It would be easy to look at the “stuff” in the garage and scattered throughout the house and think, “Is this all there is now?” As we children divide the casserole dishes and Tupperware that she’ll never use again, or discuss what will become of the larger items later on, is there something of more value to my parent’s lives than just “stuff?” Eventually, Mom will perhaps have to downsize even further if she moves into the nursing care section. Bit by bit, her life is being sifted of all earthly belongings. Eventually, she’ll be left with absolutely nothing. On the day that her body ceases to live and her soul is in heaven, she will not take even one little spoon or one little memento with her. And what will matter on that day?
What will matter the most is that my mother knows Jesus Christ as her Savior. She has the confidence, as do her family, that she will join Jesus and my Dad in heaven. And we, her children, have the legacy of a godly heritage left to us by parents who dearly loved the Lord and dearly loved their family. While earthly items are divided, our godly heritage is safe in each of our hearts and homes. Now this heritage, this legacy, is being multiplied as we have tried to raise our children to know and love the Lord. There is no earthly value that could ever be placed on such a spiritual treasure! No executor of an estate ever oversaw a will that held anything more important than this God-honoring example that our parents have left to us. This legacy isn’t an item that will be put on a shelf in our homes to later be divided among our children, but is carried in our hearts and hopefully lived by our example and passed to our children each day of our lives. Thank you, Mom and Dad. You have left us rich indeed.