Looking at the Whole Truth

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“Oh, Diana,” friends tell me, looking into my eyes with tenderness and concern. “You are so lucky to have your mom still with you!”

I offer a small smile, nod my head and reply, “Yes, I know that I am.”

And I do know that. I do. But there is also this other truth, ever-present and insistent. The hard, hard truth that the lovely old woman inhabiting my mother’s body is not at all the mother I have known for most of my life. She is beautiful to see, kind to everyone around her, breaks into old hymns multiple times an hour, and loves to visit the outside world.

But she is not my mother. At least, not in the ways that I wish she could be.

That woman, that mama, has been slip-sliding away for nearly a decade now, steadily losing pieces of herself. And as she drifts further and further from me, I feel as though there are large chunks of me fading into the ether right along with her. Huge chunks of my own history are gone forever, never to be found again. 

I miss my mother. I miss being known by her. I miss sharing history with her, I miss swapping stories, wrestling with hard truths, reading books, going to the movies, taking trips, making fudge, having her give me driving directions, watching her interact with my children and grandchildren, marveling at her insight into people and situations, laughing at her ribald jokes. 

She is here with me in physical form, and for that I give thanks. But she is not here in any of the ways that make her my mother. She is a beautiful, loving, sometimes forlorn, and very old woman. On July 6th, she will be 95, a fact that startles her every time I tell her. Last week, she turned to me and asked, “I wonder who I am?” 

I wonder who I am! 

Ah, Mom. I wonder, too.

 

As I stood under the shower’s spray this morning, I offered small prayers of thanksgiving:

     “Thank you, Lord, for hot water and plenty of it.”
     “Thank you, Lord, for my good husband and his careful attention to our finances.”
     “And thank you, Lord, for my sweet mama . . .”

And with those words, I found myself sobbing. Not gentle tears these, but hard-wrought, heart-felt, gut-wrenching sobs. “Where is this coming from?” I wondered. Most of the time, the tears are far away these days, leading me to believe that I have come to some place of peace and acceptance about the way things are. But today’s meltdown reminds me that below the surface, my own emotions about mom’s situation are deeply unsettled.

My only brother arrives today and I will be glad to see him and his wife. But we four aging children must have a difficult conversation this afternoon. We have a scheduled meeting with the finance guy at Mom’s care facility, that place where she is safe, well-cared for, loved. The cost of her care is climbing while her small investment account is diminishing, so we’re looking for answers today. How can we best manage her care? Will she be alright?

The better, and I hope bigger, part of me is not worried about this, trusting that there will be enough, that God will provide a way for this daughter, this faithful Jesus-follower, this disciple. But I found myself crying out to the God we both love this morning, asking how long? and, are you there? and, why? 

No answers appeared in the shampoo bubbles. Not one. Nothing but the strong sense that the invitation continues to be this one: trust meTrust that I see your mama, that I love her, that she is safe. Trust that your own love and care for her are enough, that you are doing the best you can, that she has not been abandoned. Trust that there will be enough.

Enough.

And so I will choose to do so. We four will be as careful, mindful and loving as we possibly can. And God will carry us through. 

In the meantime, I will call to mind that image I was given over four years ago now* — that image of my small mama, held safe within the immense sacred heart of Jesus Christ, the One who was present before the universe was breathed into existence, the One who sees each of us with eyes of love and concern, the One who is the only place of true safety any of us will ever experience.

I am trusting that that image will carry me through whatever lies ahead.

 

*I wrote a lengthy post with lots of photos about how that image was given to me here.

 

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Comments

  1. Oh Diana…that word trust has so many facets. Some think it means “everything will turn out fine.” Some think it means “Don’t think about it, just trust.” Some would say “don’t waste time on feelings. after all, God is in charge.””

    And yes, God is in charge and he just doesn’t give answers sometimes when it seems we need them. Your image of your mom safe in the heart of Jesus is what it means – which means we often don’t have answers when we want them, but it seems he is with us in all of it.

    And sometimes I still can be in a fearful place even at the thought of God being in charge. Yet I find when I reach out and accept the love and care of others (no fixes please) I can rest.

    May you rest today. and find guidance as you make decisions with your siblings.

  2. Karen Barbeau says:

    Oh my… Your words echoed in the deepest places in my heart. I am walking the same walk. I miss my mom so much, especially when she is sitting nearby…

    Yes! Trust Him. He’s got us all covered.

    Thank you again for your kind words about a year ago regarding my moms care.

    Praying for you and yours.

    • Thanks for telling me that you found some solace/resonance with these words, Karen. Your comment got lost in my ‘approval’ box and I just found it! Prayers for you and your mom on this hard journey tonight, friend. It’s a tough slog, isn’t it?

  3. Donna Streeter says:

    Beautiful said Diana. My heart, thoughts and prayers are with you. As you know I traveled that road with my Mom until she passed last September just 7 months shy of turning 98. It is both joyful and sad. Joyful to still be graced with her presence and sad to have her not be the person who she was, watching her slip away a little bit more each day. Love you my dear friend. May God bless you with His abundant peace that surpasses all understanding and grace you with an extra measure of His love each day.

    • I send love right back to you, Donna. And I do know that you understand all the layers and nuances of our shared story of walking this strange and unwanted road through dementia. Thanks for your kind words.

  4. As I read this, I teared up. I so feel your pain. Watching my father slip away was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through.
    But trusting that God has everything in His hands is the best approach we can have to all our difficulties, sorrows, and heartbreaks. May He wrap you up in His arms of love and comfort, Diana.

    • It is the hardest thing, isn’t it, Martha? All deaths are painful in their way, but this long-drawn out dying is just plain hard. Thanks for your kind words and blessings, friend.

  5. Dear Diana. You are just a bit ahead of me on this journey, but not very far. You’ve expressed so many of the things I’m feeling so well. Yes – we are blessed. But the blessing comes with its share of heartache. These days I find myself having a daily battle with fear, and I don’t like it much. I am fighting to find my way back to that place of trust. That place of peace I came to through so much pain and struggle.
    I have come to believe it all comes to that. Our Father asks us to love Him and know Him enough to simply trust Him. And I do – and I will. Thank you so much for this.

    • the interesting thing to me is this whole thing of being trustful,
      then coming to a place of fear.
      wondering if the peace you had then was real
      for if you had it once, you should keep it, right?

      anyway, I get your thoughts. I am coming back into a place of trust once again, yet being less certain of things as i used to be.

      I think God is ok with our journeys.

      • I ABSOLUTELY think God is okay with our journeys, Carol! And like so many other areas in our own development, this journey is a spiral one, where we come round and round the same issues, each time from a slightly different perspective and place of maturity. Some days are harder than others — right now is an exquisitely hard time for me. It will get better — it always does.

    • Yes, yes. It all comes down to trust. To leaning in, to whispering prayers, to believing that “all shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of thing shall be well.” Thanks for your kind words, Linda. My prayers go out to you this evening.

  6. For many years the child within me enjoyed the self-fabricated assurance that parents are indestructible…that they’d always be there. Then one was suddenly gone and the other slowly disappeared. Years later my hubby and I looked around and realized siblings and aunts and uncles were gone, too, and we were the oldest existing generation in our family! It was a big adjustment.

    Now I see a subtle role reversal happening in how we relate to our children, and they to us. They’re conscious of our slowly increasing limitations — considerate, concerned — and we occasionally allow ourselves to depend on them to help with projects that we find difficult to do around the house. I don’t like the sense of “decline” however gentle it is, but it has renewed my understanding of how God is enough for us in each season.

    I’m confident that he is meeting the needs of your mother, too, and will continue to do so, just as he will provide the strength and comfort you need, whenever it is needed.

    • Oh, I SO get this feeling, Carol. We’re just beginning to experience that subtle change in our relationships with our children, too. And we don’t like it much, either. But yes, all of this does underscore God’s ‘enoughness’ for us — and, at the same time, it also underscores our need to grow in trust and contentment, too. Thanks for stopping by, friend.

  7. Diana, I am praying your intention, “We four will be as careful, mindful and loving as we possibly can. And God will carry us through.”

    As I reflect back on our own time of dealing with my dear Mother-in-law in dementia, it was a walking “through the valley of the shadow of death.”

    Thank you for the link to your reflection weekend. I’ve saved it; I need this.

    • You are welcome for the link, Elaine. I chose to write out that somewhat complicated process because I needed it right then. And I need it again and again. And I was pretty sure there would be others who might need it from time to time, too.

      Thank you for your prayers for my intention – and that is exactly what it is. This is a shadow journey, indeed. Offering prayers for you tonight, in whatever painful valley you find yourself this day.

  8. My dad just told me on the phone, that he prays he does not live a really long life. (He is 86.) I told him I would join him in praying the same.

    Praying for God to call your mom to her eternal home soon.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

    • Your dad is a wise man. And I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for these prayers, Glenda. I pray this same prayer every day — that God’s good will would be done, and that it would be done soon. Today’s lunch out was particularly painful for me on so many levels. I will undoubtedly be writing about it one day.

  9. Diana,
    This is beautifully written. I was greatly moved by it, but had no words to say for days. Perhaps none are needed. Praying for peace and the ability to go on trusting.

    Marilyn

  10. Reading through the comments here. And it strikes me again…..as it does occasionally. While I love having young friends (some of my best are 10-15 years younger than me), I have been starting to miss friendships of women my age. I have a couple now and I am grateful. especially I desire and appreciate the friendships of women who are self – aware and have “done their work.” Years ago, my therapist said doing our work as we mature especially around issues left unattended is important, because a lot of the trauma and issues of aging are due to unfinished business – Wounds that have never been addressed….pain stuffed along with feelings – all instead of being faced and worked through.

    One thing I try to do is be honest about what I am learning as I get older with younger friends, like you have, without being a “woe-is-me, getting-old-is-awful” person as I grow older.

    I am glad I found you in the blogging world. Thanks to Deeper Story – which I found through Addie~ It’s a small world indeed.

    • I’m glad we connected, too, Carol. And I completely agree with your therapist. Doing our ‘work’ is part of our God-given mission in life, I believe. It is as ‘wounded healers’ that we can most effectively live out the gospel in meaningful ways.