As most of you know, I had to move my mother to Nashville last year. She’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and assisted living was our only and best option. My mother hasn’t seen it this way. She’s accused me of stealing all of her stuff and sticking her in “prison.” She tells me she hates the food. She tells me she can live by herself, and she can drive—if I’ll just give her car back to her. After all, she says, she’s been driving since she was fifteen.
When we started on this journey, a physician friend of mine said, “Just remember, her best day is yesterday.” Although, I heard what he said, I was praying he would be wrong. He wasn’t. Mom has gotten worse. I hear the same stories several times in the same conversation. She gets details mixed up. She’ll put the wrong people in the story and confuse the time frame of events. More and more, she won’t remember the conversation we had the day before.
Unless you knew my mom before the illness, you really can’t understand how sad this really is. My mom was the strongest woman I’ve ever met. She wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything. She was a fierce Mama Bear. There are stories I can tell you—like the one when I was little kid and an older kid pulled a knife on me. My mother blew through the kitchen door like a tornado. I think that kid is still running from my mom.
My mom was wise. She always knew what to do next. Now, to see her look at me and not know what to do breaks my heart.
My dad had a major heart attack in 1988. His doctors didn’t expect him to live another 5 years. He lived until 2012—mainly because of my mother’s strong-willed care. She literally cared for my dad around the clock for 24 years. The last 2 years I know she didn’t sleep. I know this because the times I went down there to help her, I didn’t sleep. Her love for my dad was nothing short of amazing. If for no other reason (and I have a lot more reasons), I would love her simply because of the way she loved my dad.
Now, she’s fading away. Story by story, I’m losing my mom. Sometimes, she’s still herself, and I live for these moments. She’s funny, witty, and surprisingly insightful in what she notices. But other times, she’s not so sure. Sadly, the times when she’s not my mom outnumber the times she is.
I see her almost every morning for coffee. Some friends say I shouldn’t go that often. Maybe they’re right. But honestly, there’s still too many times when she’s still my mom, and I don’t want to miss one of them. Where else can a grown man go and have someone ask him if he’s getting enough sleep? After all, she reminds me, you get grumpy if you don’t get enough sleep (and I do).
Jesus promised us that there would be days when we would walk through the valley of shadows. He also promised He wouldn’t leave us by ourselves on this journey. And in the moments when we couldn’t remember, He would remember for us. He would whisper to us deep within our souls—things we might have forgotten…like who we are and who He is…and how close we now are to home.
Photo: Matt Morris (Kairos Worship Leader), Mike, and Mike’s mom, Barbara