Of Rainclouds and Wildfires

 It rained on the way south this week.
Nothing dramatic,
but a welcome sign that the season is finally shifting
into true Fall.
 I remember that rain is a good, good thing–
when it comes at the right time,
and in the right amount.
Just a few short days ago, this was our view
for about 75 anxious minutes.
 That day was hot–over 90 degrees,
and this fire was close enough to see flames
and to evacuate dozens of homes at the top of our hill.
 But a bright-red-bird brought gallons of sea water
up onto the dry hillside,
and a deep-bellied tanker dropped red dust
all down the fire line,
and this time, we were spared the fury of a wildfire.

However, there are all kinds of wildfires in this life.
And we’re in the middle of one just now.
My mother is enduring a kind of fire 
for which there is no antidote, short of death.
No red-bird-miracle-water-drops,
no magic dust.
And of all the wildfires our family has survived 
in the past half dozen years, this one is, 
in some ways, the worst one yet,
at least for me.
Because, you see, my mother knows she is ablaze,
that she is being slowly but surely ravaged,
that all that has been lush and green is now turning to ash.
She knows it.
And that is the hardest part of all.
We will have to make some difficult decisions 
in the next few weeks. 
And she will be terrified 
and she will feel betrayed 
and she will wonder why. 

So today, I am praying for wisdom.
And grace.
And I am searching for ways to be grateful
and mean it,
for ways to link my lament to praise,
for the strength and will 
to relinquish my own fears and grief. 

Many weeks ago I submitted an essay to Rachel Held Evans’
Women of Valor series. 
I wrote one about my mother,
and how hard it is to see her struggling at this end
of her long, good life.
It will be published as the last in the series on December 8th. 
On that day, I will come back here and give you a link
to Rachel’s website,
and I hope you’ll follow it over to read my heart.
I will not write further about her now,
except to say this much:
I love my mother very much,
I am more grateful for her than I can possibly
put into words.
Our relationship is long and complicated,
filled with so much good–
and a few things that have taken therapy to sort out!
But if I were given the privilege of choosing my mother–
I would choose her, in a heartbeat.

Although this particular reflection does not fit any of these themes, I will join this one with Jennifer Lee, Emily Wierenga, Duane Scott, Cheryl Smith and Ann Voskamp.

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  1. Diana, this must be so hard to deal with. My MIL told me that when she finally (and very reluctantly) put my FIL into a care facility she grieved more than when he actually died. I am so sorry you are having to make decisions like these. I will be praying for wisdom and peace for you and your precious mum.

  2. I can understand why your MIL said that, Donna. When you watch someone you love slowly disappear, death becomes a welcome friend in some ways. I’m not to that point yet about my mom, but I can understand how I could be.

  3. This was really beautiful and sad… Not much to say, but sending you a big hug. Much love.

  4. ((((((Diana)))))) Sending love, hugs and prayers.

  5. Oh Diana,
    My heart feels the weight of your grief as you watch all of these flames dance closer. I am thankful that your actual house was spared this go round but I know your heart can feel the heat licking closer and closer. You and your family will be in my prayers as you move forward into the days to come. Really, the only place to fall is down on your knees. When all of your world is on fire the air is clearer closest to the ground. Grace and peace to you, friend.

  6. Love you, Diana. Muchly. You’re in my prayers.

  7. Grace and peace to you, Diana, as you make these difficult decisions. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  8. Thank you, Patricia – all of that is warmly and gratefully received.

  9. Thank you, Holly – I think you’re right about getting closer to the ground! Only problem is – my knees have not allowed me to do that for about 15 years! So I pray while I walk these days. And while I sit. And while I lie down. Yeah, pretty much most of the time.

  10. Thanks, Sheila. Love you, too.

  11. Thank you, Leigh. I woke feeling less torn in pieces about it all. It is what it is and we’ll stumble through it somehow, by God’s grace.

  12. For Tanya Marlow – for some reason your comment is not making it through to the blog from disqus. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, my blog will get a little help from a friend (I hope) and some of these commenting problems will be ironed out. Thank you for coming by and leaving such kind words, friend.

  13. Jenny Latta Slorah says

    Looking forward to reading “the rest of your story”. My prayers will be with you as you walk this journey of decision making. May God’s Grace surround you and His Peace fill you to overflowing.

  14. Oh Diana…THIS:

    “My mother is enduring a kind of fire
    for which there is no antidote, short of death.
    No red-bird-miracle-water-drops,
    no magic dust.

    “Because, you see, my mother knows she is ablaze,
    that she is being slowly but surely ravaged,
    that all that has been lush and green is now turning to ash.
    She knows it.
    And that is the hardest part of all.”

    Today I’m praying for wisdom and grace and true gratitude that will help you guide a beautiful burning ship to shore.

    Thank for sharing such a tender part of your life so poetically and beautifully. You have a gift.

    Love you,

  15. Thank you, Jenny. For whatever reason, this was not something I ever expected to happen. Knowing now how widespread this disease is in our aging population (and that includes me, too!!) – I guess I should have thought about it more. It just honestly never occurred to me that my vibrant mom would go through this. So at each stage, I am struck dumb with grief and loss. Just have to sort of wrestle my way through it and writing it down seems to help. Thanks for your kind words, friend. Nice to see you here.

  16. Linda Chontos says

    Oh Diana – wish I could wrap you in a gentle hug right now. I give you my prayer and love – and a heart that hurts with yours. I am so very sorry dear one.

  17. Thank you, Linda, for the kind words and the hug. This part is really not very fun at all – just sort of heart-wrenching most of the time. I appreciate your prayers.

  18. My heart goes out to you as you make these difficult decisions and also to your mother as she lives with the knowledge of what is happening.

  19. Glenda Childers says

    Thank you for sharing this deep painful season with us. Sending love from Chicago.


  20. Thank you, Susan. I appreciate your kind words.

  21. It feels strange to say ‘you’re welcome’ about this one, Glenda, but I thank you for your love and your continuing kindness.

  22. Thanks so much for your kind and compassionate words, Tina. We are taking things one day at a time and I am starting to look at full-care facilities closer to our home. But I am refusing to feel rushed about this and to keep as much conversation going with her and with my brother as I can. I so appreciate your prayers!

  23. Shawn Smucker says

    I miss those mountains, Diana. Prayers for you and your mother.

  24. I love those mountains, Shawn and I would miss them if they weren’t nearby. Thank you for your prayers, friend. How I wish my mom could have the kind of dying that your grandmother had – but I don’t think this disease process will allow that. So we’ll sing around whatever bed she’s in when that time comes. In the meantime, my brother and I have to make some hard choices, so prayers are greatly appreciated.

  25. Prayers for you and your mother. My mother-in-law is in a similar situation, though not as far down the road. It is hard when they know they are ablaze, as you put it. And we find that their fire often burns us too when we get too close in our attempts to show love to her.

  26. I remember your story and how very difficult it is for you and your wife. My mom is much older and frailer (and I think a lot sweeter, as I remember the story!) and I am the closest family to her and will be the one most involved in whatever direction we choose to go with her. Right now she lives 2.5 hours south of us and that is getting harder and harder, so we’re trying to decide if/when to move her up to our community.

  27. Oh, Diana. I am sending love in the midst of this fire. You are brave and strong and you will find that link to the praise. He stands at the door…

    So much love to you.

  28. Thanks, Laura. Somehow the missing and very expensive hearing aids that I spent nearly two full hours searching for on Thursday and Friday turned up IN HER EARS yesterday….Maybe I’m the one losing bits of my mind?? It begins to feel like that some days. I am grateful for your encouragement, friend. Thanks for taking the time.

  29. You know you’re wrapped in my heart. These decisions are so, so hard. We faced it (and his anger) when we had to place my father-in-law in the nursing home and rent out his house. He was so angry–and my husband would faithfully visit and smile and never argue. Hard. So. Very. Hard. And then, of course, my mom. And the decision about where she would spend those last days. And even though she was part of that, we always second guessed. Still do. I wish I could walk this with you hand in hand and over cups of tea, but know that I walk this with you heart to heart.

  30. Thank you, Sandy. Yes – it is terribly hard to do this part. And there will undoubtedly be regrets – that’s the nature of these complicated relationships and complicated end-of-life issues. I sure would like to spare my kids this part, but don’t know if we’ll be able to figure out how or not!

  31. Carol J. Garvin says

    I’m late coming to this post, Diana, but wanted to say how my heart aches for you in this firestorm! I lost my mother too soon from a fast-progressing cancer, but we had a mixed relationship in our earlier years. As a teen it was rough, but it changed and I appreciated her once I married and had children of my own. I miss her a lot, even after all these years. My father had Alzheimer’s in his later years, but before then he had remarried. He and his second wife chose to move into a care facility in the early stage of his AD. The choice was theirs and they said they didn’t regret making it. It’s what my hubby and I hope to do when the time is appropriate, and thus save our children the stress of taking responsibility for us and making such difficult decisions.

  32. What a selfless act! As I struggle with our stairs (and I’m not 54 yet!) I must think of these things. I remember telling my daughter about 10 years ago:
    “Listen to me while I am young and still have my wits about me: If in my old age I can’t live alone, put me in a home. DO NOT bring me into your own home to burden you and your family. Even if I tell you at the time that I don’t want to go to a home, you remind me that I told you I DID want to.”

  33. Maybe I have not made this clear – but my mom is living in a retirement community selected by her and my dad before he died, and we moved her into the assisted living portion of that community at the beginning of this year. The question now is – does she need even more care than can be provided in AL? There is a full-on memory-loss unit where she is, but if she moves into that, she will no longer have easy access to the big dining hall and will not see her friends as much. That is why we are considering moving her up closer to us – still in an assisted living place, not into our home. That would not work given the dynamics of our relationship and the realities of how we live and how she prefers to live (she is constantly freezing cold in our house, to give you one small example). She had told me numerous times when she had all her faculties that she did not want to ever live with her children and I am hanging onto that. She would, I think, like to be nearer to us, but I will try my best to consult her about this before any decision is made. However, she will likely not remember that I have done so. :>(

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  34. Our former home was a 2-story one and that greatly restricted my house-hunting in SB – because I knew I could not do that in the long run. We have a long, skinny house which requires lots of walking, but that I can do and is good for me. My knees are so bad that stairs are problematic, so it is an important piece of the puzzle to remember. And I’m not sure it is selfless to move her closer to us – I am not going to move her into my home – that would not work on so many levels I can’t even begin to describe for you here. :>) But we will likely move her to an assisted living space up here so that I can see her for several short visits each week instead of longer ones every 2-3 weeks. It’s tough to know what to do and when to do it. I do think we need to think about these things for ourselves as we age. Hope your arthritis flare is settling down this afternoon!!

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