Waiting: How Long? How Hard?

 One of my favorite pictures from the last ‘fun’ trip we took with my mom – wildflower hunting in the spring of 2010. This is a little known reserve called
the Carrizo Plain, located in central CA, midway between Santa Maria & Bakersfield.

First, gut-level response?
Step into a hot, hot shower.
Let the water sting and pummel,
wash and re-wash every piece of me,
pounding and prickling, and rinsing it all away.
The sadness,
the creeping sadness, pervasive and thick;
that strange coating I feel as I walk from my car into the house.
A thick layer of 
The exhale that sticks to me with every breath my mother breathes these days.
The one that makes me cry,
“How long, O Lord?
How long?”
The one I know I must get used to;
that I need to learn to feel and endure the weight of,
perhaps even to welcome.
Because this is what is these days.
This is what is.
I do not like what is, that much is clear.
I resist it,
I resent it,
I rant to heaven about it,
I want it to go away.
I admit to ugly feelings of envy when I hear
of mothers who go home to Jesus forthwith,
with little disintegration,
little pain,
no sense of hopelessness,
of being forever lost.

I don’t like these feelings in my spirit.
But I must face into them,
I must acknowledge this shadow side,
this hard wrestle with what is.
And I think,
in fact I know,
that God honors my honesty,
even as God asks for my acquiescence,
my gradual acceptance of this ‘is-ness,’
this hard, steadily familiar reality.
She vacillates between delight at the sight of me
and despair that she cannot remember I was coming.
One minute, smiling and expectant,
the next, weeping and lost.
Appetite declining,
back aching from a fall,
hiding out in her new apartment far too many evening meals.

With me beside her, she ventures out,
 proud to introduce me to her friends.
Her natural extroversion carries her,
the steadiest, surest her.
It brings her momentarily back to the surface 
and she engages friends well,
using social skills honed over years of practice.
Back in her room,
her shoulders visibly slump,
a loud sigh escapes,
releasing pent up sorrow and fear.

And I wonder,
how long will she be in this never land,
this in-between space of who she was
and who she is becoming?
How long will we enjoy even a piece
of who she was
in the middle of who she is?

And I know the word is still ‘waiting.’
And I still don’t like it very much.
But I’m here, Lord.
Still leaning,
still looking for glimmers of that shine I’m seeking.
But a shower was what I needed tonight.
What I may still need for a long, long time.

I am finding that I need to write about all this inner tumbling, this distress and nascent anger. I am prayerfully hoping that what I am feeling is akin to the ‘indignation’ (sometimes translated ‘compassion’) that Jesus is described as exhibiting several times in the gospel record. Each of those times featured a confrontation with illness/darkness/death and the word seems to indicate the depth of Jesus’ sadness at the results of the sin and brokenness in this world of ours. And the ravages caused by these self-eating brain disorders are surely among the hardest of those results. Kyrie eleison.
I don’t think what I’ve written here is exactly right for joining with most of my Monday bunch. The last two days have surely not been a playdate, nor are they particularly centered on place. Nor are they filled with the wonder of ‘God-Bumps,’ nor are they reflections on Sunday worship. And they wouldn’t fit very well with Ann’s gratitude list, either. So I will link with Jen at the sisterhood and Heather at “Just Write” and leave it at that for now.
Back again on Friday morning, deciding to add this into Bonnie Gray’s invitation to be “Vulnerable” this week. This one is about as vulnerable as I’ve gotten in a while, so maybe it will fit there. I’m thinking this is a topic most people don’t want to read about – it cuts too close, maybe? But believe me, it happens to all of as at some point…and we’re never quite ready for it.

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  1. My heart goes out to you at this time and I appreciate your honesty.
    I have been dealing with a mother in declining health and serious needs over the past several years. It has been very hard for me and I too have had the feelings you are experiencing…a process of anguish, pain, grief, stress and slowly letting go. I’ve almost lost her so many times and yet God has granted her favour and continued life and even brought a lot of her memory back (she doesn’t have dementia but she had lost a lot of her memory due to sepsis). I am grateful for the time we still have together. I only wish I lived a lot closer to her.

  2. I know that “strange coating,” though for different reasons. And I did not know about the same word being translated “indignation” and “compassion.” That really speaks to me right now.

  3. i am praying for you.. and although sad.. so beautifully written… this life journey is always teaching, isn’t it…

  4. i am praying for you.. and although sad.. so beautifully written… this life journey is always teaching, isn’t it…

  5. This is a place I’m watching my parents navigate, which makes it hard not to envision me doing the same thing in few years. For now KI’m just trying to appreciate them very hard.

  6. Oh Diana, I’m so glad you wrote this and I read it today. The picture is beautiful, the reflection of then and now is strong. When my mother went it was relatively quick, not quite a year of breast cancer decline, and just like you said she could rally for visitors even in her last week!

    I think you are spot on in identifying with Jesus emotions.

    Bless you, older sister in the faith.

  7. I remember asking all the time why my sweet grandmother would have to endure the death that she did. It just seemed unbearably awful and I felt that she deserved so much more. I found that being truly honest with God was the only way for me to survive with my faith intact. And so, I have to say, I think, these posts are so helpful and I know that they will help others that are in a similar situation.

    Thank you for freely sharing your heart. I will be lifting up your mom in my prayers.

  8. My grandmother had Altzheimer’s and it was incredibly hard to watch her die so I do so feel for you.

    And your honesty is utterly refreshing – no need to apologise at all.

    Big, warm hug,


  9. Thanks so much for your kind words, my friends. I appreciate each and every one of you. Both my husband and I are losing our moms to the ravages of age and there are just some days that feel too dense to navigate. I am grateful for the truth that our Savior knows every inch of these women and that losing our minds does not ever mean that we are lost. Even though some days it feels that way.

  10. Days too dense to navigate. That resonates deeply, Diana.

    Love and prayers going up, here…