Fear Not

Life sure is full of changes.

Two weeks ago my brother moved our mom into a permanent nursing home. This happened while we were overseas in Israel. A bed became available, so he had to move quickly. I felt badly that I was not there to help with the transition, but the timing was beyond my control.

Our family knew we were heading in that direction ever since Mom’s second fall right after Christmas. Unlike her first broken hip, this was not a simple replacement. This surgery required rods and pins, followed by a 7-week stay in a rehab facility. Her dementia seemed to fast track after her return home, and it was apparent she had forgotten how to complete the most basic self-care tasks.

This story may hit home for some of you. I have friends and other family members who are only too familiar with Alzheimer’s and dementia. In addition to the physical deterioration, the disease steals precious memories. That has been the hardest thing for my brother and I to witness. When that recognition and connection disappears, you suddenly feel as though a stranger has replaced your loved one.

As I seek ways to cope with this change, I have discovered something that brings me comfort. My mom has forgotten how to worry. The things that once caused her to fret are no longer important. She enjoys living and has no idea that she is no longer her former self. Her nurses tell us that she is so much fun to be around, that she makes them laugh. She tries to dance through her physical therapy, and loves joining in the daily games and activities. She still lights up when my brother or I walk in the room. There is still that brief glimmer of recognition followed by joy that we treasure so much.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” — ‭Matthew‬ ‭6:25-27‬

Seeing our mom so content has also helped us to shed our own worries. Caring for her had been a huge challenge — particularly for my brother — for the past 8-10 years as Mom’s disease has progressed. I realized that this move, regardless of the timing, was truly an answer to prayer. As I stood with my forehead pressed against the Western Wall in Jerusalem back on July 7th, I asked God to help us care for our mother and to guide our decisions. When I returned home, my brother and I realized that our greatest prayer had been answered within days of that visit. Simply amazing.

Whatever trial you may be facing in life, please do not give up. Place your worries before throne of the Lord. Allow Him to care for you, even as he cares for every tiny sparrow.

When Memory Fails

In the quiet times of day, and often in the middle of the night, I remember my dad. He has been gone for more than 30 years, but I still have conversations with him. I tell him about his grandchildren and share how much I miss him. I imagine what he is doing in heaven (painting or tending a garden, no doubt) and I trust with all my heart that I will see him again one day.

The memories of my father are even more important to me now, especially since my brother and I are the only ones who can recall them. Our mom suffers from dementia and she lost all recollection of our dad, “Freddie” as she called him, a few years ago. I remember so vividly how it felt like a stab to the heart when I was showing her my wedding album one

afternoon and she pointed to my dad and asked, “Who is this?” It seemed like all the air was sucked out of the room. When I recovered, I took the time to share all my memories of that special day, always searching her face for a glimmer of recognition. But there was none.

 

Trying to keep a memory alive when there is no capacity to store them is a painful thing. Sometimes I find myself reaching deep inside my mind to retrieve certain memories,  and the fear of losing those precious moments gives me an overwhelming urgency to share them.  A windy day at the beach. A camping trip in New Hampshire. A favorite board game. A family vacation. We talk about these memories whenever we are all together and we share the stories and pictures and random details that come to mind. For my brother and I, we understand that it may mean nothing to our mother, but for us, it is a crucial bridge in keeping Dad’s legacy alive.

And so, on this and every Father’s Day, Daddy.  you are forever in our memories and buried deep in our hearts.