Inevitable

When you watch a loved one suffer through a terminal illness, “inevitable” is a word you know too well.

But inevitable becomes eventual. And eventual becomes soon.

Yesterday my brother and I made plans to meet at Mom’s nursing home. Neither of us had seen her since Christmas Eve. He caught a bad cold shortly after Christmas that lingered for a while. It wasn’t something he wanted to carry into the nursing home. And I haven’t been able to get away from work or weekend errands to make the 45 minute drive for over two weeks. A visit was long overdue.

Also, we learned on Friday that Mom is having difficulty eating. She becomes distracted and doesn’t seem to know what to do with the food once it’s in her mouth. Mealtime is now a daily struggle. For someone with dementia, that can be a game-changer.

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When the Clouds Lift

Normally I enjoy the drive which takes me through the beautiful countryside of northern Virginia. But yesterday was different.

Although it was unseasonably warm for January, it was a dreary day. The mountains were shrouded in clouds and a heavy mist was falling as I crossed the Shenandoah River.  My mood was similar, and I was dreading the visit. As I came over the final hill though, the valley ahead was clear and the sun was breaking through the clouds. I took this as a hopeful sign.

When we arrived at the nursing home, my first plan was to get Mom out of the “day room”. This is where she, and the residents with dementia spend their days. It is a depressing room with worn furniture and two tables. The Hallmark Channel is on 24/7, but the patients are usually asleep in their wheelchairs or staring blankly into space. I always want to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Yesterday I learned a very important lesson.

It’s not about me.

Searching for Home

From the moment we took Mom out of the Day Room, until we wheeled her back, she was agitated. First we took her to the lobby where the windows provide more than a glimpse of daylight. But she was clearly frightened there, as the doors kept opening with people coming and going. So we wheeled her to the sofa in the hallway beside the fish tank. It is full of colorful tropical fish, and has always been an enjoyable place for her. But today, with her limited vocabulary, Mom said she just wanted to “go home”.

She knew she didn’t belong where I wanted her to be.

That’s when it hit me. Home, for Mom, is the Day Room. The dreary place that I dread is where she is most comfortable. As soon as we pushed her back through the doorway to one of the empty tables near the TV, she calmed down and began smiling again.

These are her people, I thought looking around the room. They are familiar to her world and they comfort her. This is where she belongs. This is where she needs to be, despite my personal comfort zone.

Still Learning

Our visit only lasted about 30 minutes, but in that short time, I learned that Mom is still teaching me about life, about myself, and about why the inevitable doesn’t really matter today.

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In the new year, I chose three different devotionals to read each morning. These were my Saturday readings, in no particular order:

“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” — 2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬a

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” — Psalms‬ ‭16:11‬

“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven . . .”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1‬

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” — 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬

“My times are in Your hand . . .” — Psalms‬ ‭31:15‬a

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I am always amazed at how God provides just the right words when we need them. I’ve read all of these scripture verses many times, yet when I looked back at yesterday’s readings, they were hand-selected for my day.

God meets us where we are every day.

His love, and my Mom’s future with Him, is inevitable.

The Gathering

This past week I’ve been watching squirrels gathering acorns around the church grounds. They’ve been quite busy! As I observed them, I wondered how they know when they’ve gathered enough. Do they know how many they will need during the long winter ahead? Have you ever wondered where they keep them all?

I’ve seen squirrel nests up in the treetops, but it’s doubtful there is even a single acorns inside. The gray squirrels in our area actually bury their cache, one nut at a time. According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, each squirrel can bury up to 1,000 nuts per year! And somehow, they will find a substantial number of them when they are hungry. (And I’m pressed to find where I’ve placed my six pair of reading glasses.)

Arrivals and Departures

I often ponder the amazing timing of God’s creatures — how they know when to gather food, hibernate, and migrate. Do they simply sense the change in season, or are they intricately designed to know when it’s time to gather or go?

By mid-April each year, I am eagerly watching for the hummingbirds to arrive at our feeder. They are so tiny and quick that I often miss their debut. One day I’ll be standing at the window sipping my coffee, and suddenly, there they are! Then again each fall, I await their departure for warmer climates. The feeder stays outside until I am sure they are gone. Then within a few days, I am cheered by the arrival of the Dark-Eyed Juncos, foraging on the ground for seeds. The passing of these two bird species is nearly simultaneous each fall.

Think about the millions of birds and butterflies right now, high above us in the skies, heading to their winter homes. And next year, they will make this trip north again. It’s truly amazing!

Goodnight Garden

On the home front, the vegetable garden is almost finished for the season. I find myself wishing we had planted more squash, but we just didn’t have the extra space this year. We’ve had quite a lengthy dry spell, and everything green is stressed from the ongoing heat. We continue watering our tomatoes, and they are still producing fruit. That will likely continue until the first frost, usually in mid-October.

As we did last year, we plan to let a substantial part of the garden stay in place through the winter months. It provides both food and shelter for our feathered friends. We’ll have a bit more clean-up in the spring, but I don’t mind the delay.

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The Homecoming

Perhaps like the squirrels, fall is my gathering time too.

This change in seasons brings a blend of heavenly aromas — cinnamon and nutmeg, hot apple crisp and simmering stews. It’s time to dig out the sweaters and blue jeans, and begin decorating my home. Fall is a cozy time of anticipation too, while I await that moment when everyone finds their way back home. My nest — and heart — will be full again.