And Then . . . There Is Light

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And it looks like music and laughter.

My mama’s neurologist has slowly been re-introducing her to Aricept since the new year. Initially, her caregivers and I were not at all sure about this. She was easily frightened, tearful and terribly, terribly confused for several weeks. At the same time, we also began to notice slight cognitive improvements here and there. So we hung in there, letting her hole-y brain slowly catch on to the new med.

I am so glad we did.

About two weeks ago, we began to see noticeable signs of improvement and my mom became a much happier and more restful person to be with, generally happy to be alive, delighted to see the sunshine, enjoying the taste of good food.

And she started to sing again. Praises be.
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When I arrived to pick her up for lunch today, she was seated in her chair in the corner, with sunlight streaming through the window behind her. On her lap was one of her small menagerie of stuffed animals, this one a teddy bear, and she was speak-singing something to him.

“Hi, Mom! How are you today? Watcha doing?” I sang to her from the doorway.

“Oh, I’m just telling my friend here about the cross, that old rugged cross.”

“Great idea,” said I, “no better thing to talk about.”

And she began to sing in her quavery alto a few lines from that old hymn.

As we drove south through the hazy sunlight, she sang it off and on, until I found one on YouTube and played it for her to sing along with on my iPhone. I sang in my own quavery alto (!!), and she was delighted.

The lines of that old hymn kept reoccurring to her throughout our lunch on the wharf, showing up whenever the space between us was not filled with conversation. It has always pleased and astonished me that so many old song lyrics are still in there, somehow conserved through all the jumbled mess of her synapses. I am so pleased to hear them again. So pleased.

Always when we meet, it is happening-for-the-first-time-all-over-again. Always, she is delighted to take an adventure outside. Always, she loves driving in the car. 

Always.

There is seldom any memory of our many previous visits to the same place, especially as we are on our way. “We come out here every few days, Mom,” I tell her with a smile. 

“Are you sure it was me you took?” she asks sincerely.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” I tell her. 

“Oh, well,” she says, “My brain is kinda weird, isn’t it?”

“Yup, Mama, it is. It is.”

Today there was a large cruise ship in port. This always means many, MANY more people in the waterfront area, and more people in all the local restaurants. The wait staff at our favorite place to sit and savor the view was hard-pressed to keep up with today’s onslaught. And while we were looking out the window, talking about how many children I have and how old they are (at least five times in the space of fifteen minutes), this sweet and funny thing happened:

The words to that old hymn came out of my mama’s mouth, though this time they were spoken rather than sung. That, in itself, is a small miracle, as the tune is usually required to spark that space in her diminishing memory bank. 

“So I’ll cling to that old rugged cross,” she said.

Pause.

“And exchange it some day for a crown.”

Pause.

“And sometime in between there, it would be really good if I could have a little something to eat!”

I tell you, I guffawed. And so did she. What a delightful moment that was. A brilliant flash of the mom I have known most of my life — quick witted, deadpan delivery, followed by riotous laughter.

That was much more satisfying to me than any single piece of the meal we enjoyed together today.

With the possible exception of a phenomenal scoop of vanilla ice cream which we shared, courtesy of the kitchen, in apology for the extended wait time today.

Now that, my friends, is a very good day. Very good, indeed.

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 18 — Laughing ’til It Hurts

I’ll admit it right up front: I do not do this often enough. Laughter is the best medicine I know and one of my favorite things about my husband is that he makes me laugh regularly. But that side-splitting, almost-sick feeling of laughing until you cannot breathe? That needs to happen more often. And I’m not quite sure how to make it so.

Part of it has to do with my own attitude, I think. When I’m anxious, rushed, overbusy — it’s much harder to see the humor in anything. And just like yesterday’s post about looking for the small, I think we also have to be looking for the laugh.

Because I do believe there are things to laugh about all around us. As with so much of this life, it’s having the eyes to see, don’t you think?

Here is a short list of things that do make me laugh. What about you?

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These girls are regular sources of delight! Here, they’ve just had their ears pierced — at the urging of the littlest one. Who knew?

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Men riding bicycles in church, complete with helmets. (It was for an announcement.)

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Story at the steps time on Sunday mornings. Almost always there is something said or done to make me crack up. Last week, Pastor Don asked, “What do you do when you feel scared in the night time?” And one of the kids said something almost unintelligible, but Don heard it as “Lie.” “Lie?” he asked. “How in the world does that help you?” The child corrected him loudly, “LIGHT!” Ah, yes. Light. It helps every time. Smile.

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 13 — Trying Something New

I have a small collection of videos (two!) that are appropriate for this topic we’ve been examining the past two weeks. The whole video world is relatively new to me and I enjoy it so!

I’ve been a YouTube fan for about five or six years, I guess, and love the fact that technology allows us access to so many talented people around the world. This one even has the same title as this series and is great fun to watch. Enjoy!

And one more, just for thought and reflection. What a group of elderly women from Great Britain would do differently if they had their lives to live over again:

What do you enjoy that is new to you (relatively!)? What things do you dream about trying?

Just Wondering

How to Live When the End Is Near — Deeper Story

It happens to all of us. I’m here to tell you, this is the truth: we all get old, some of us a lot older than others. And that day is here for me. Sigh. Truth be told, I still don’t quite believe it! You can start this little reflection here and then follow me over to one of my favorite places in the entire web, A Deeper Story.

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Four generations on Christmas Eve, 2014

This is a big year for me, one of those milestone numbers. It’s the year that my 3rd grade self decided would be the year I became really old. This is that year — 2015. I was born on January 23, 1945 (which means my birthday shorthand reads like this: 1-23-45. My father was convinced I’d grow up to be a mathematician, just like he was — but I fooled him. Big time.)

 

Yes, this is the year — in fact, this is the month — that I turn 70.

 

But I have something important to tell you right here: that number no longer feels old (as in decrepit). Yes, it does feel old (as in a lot of years), but inside this lined face and underneath this white hair? I feel like I’m about 45.

 

Aging is a strange phenomenon. The longer you live, the further out ‘old’ becomes. When I was 20, I thought 50 was ancient. But when I was 50, and still two years away from a new job that would keep me busy for a decade and a half, I thought 70 sounded old.

 

Now I’m 70 and you know what? 90 sounds ‘old’ to me these days.

 

So as I listened to the end-of-the-year sermon last month, a sermon focused on two of my favorite characters in Luke’s birth narrative of Jesus, I thanked God for every one of these years. For the privilege of walking around on this planet, with people that I love nearby, good work still to do and relatively good health and humor to enjoy. And it was the old codgers — Simeon and Anna — who helped me to say that ‘thank you,’ loud and clear.

 

You remember those two, right? The oldsters who were in the temple in Jerusalem? The ancient ones, the ones who had been waiting for the ‘comfort’ of Israel to show up. The ones who spent their days praying and hoping and looking, both of them described as righteous, devout and faithful. Those two may have been old, but they were still paying attention to the zeitgeist, they were two strong and deeply centered people, ever on the look-out for God’s promised one. . .

 

 

Come on over to ADS to reflect with on all three old people . . . Simeon, Anna and me!

 

 

An Advent Journey: When God Became Small — Day Two

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1 Thessalonians 4:1-18, The Message

One final word, friends. We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance. You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life.

Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity.

Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God.

Don’t run roughshod over the concerns of your brothers and sisters. Their concerns are God’s concerns, and he will take care of them. We’ve warned you about this before. God hasn’t invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something holy and beautiful—as beautiful on the inside as the outside.

If you disregard this advice, you’re not offending your neighbors; you’re rejecting God, who is making you a gift of his Holy Spirit.

Regarding life together and getting along with each other, you don’t need me to tell you what to do. You’re God-taught in these matters. Just love one another! You’re already good at it; your friends all over the province of Macedonia are the evidence. Keep it up; get better and better at it.

Stay calm; mind your own business; do your own job. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts. We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends.

And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.

And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.

 

It’s just a small phrase, a few words carefully chosen by Eugene Peterson when he was doing his wonderful paraphrase (based on real knowledge of the languages) – a living spirited dance.

And what is he talking about with that fine phrase? Working together with God to bring God (and ourselves) pleasure — true pleasure. He’s talking about the life of faith. 

As a dance. 

My fundamentalist grandmother would roll over in her grave!

I, however, think it’s an absolutely perfect description of what God invites us to do when we turn our faces in God’s direction: to partner with God in this dance of life, to dance the kingdom in!

One of the most graceful kinds of dancing I know is the hula. About three years ago, I had the privilege of watching a lovely Benedictine nun do a hula of her own creation, set to a song of praise to God; I wept at the beauty of it.

It was the perfect picture of what this life of ours can look like — worship and work, faithfulness and beauty, offered in a spirited dance to the God who made us. 

Oh, Lord, help me to dance with you, to follow your lead and to enjoy the process. As I wait in this season of Advent, looking forward to celebrating that wee baby, give my feet extra measures of grace and freedom. Give my heart a new sense of commitment. Forgive me when I make our life together into a ‘dogged religious plod,’ trapped by expectations and guilt. Help me to inhabit your presence with joy and thanksgiving. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Baby Steps

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If you’ve followed this blog at all, you just might recognize the woman in this photo. This is my mother. The mom I remember, the one who loves the ocean and sometimes takes amazing physical risks.

She was in her 60’s when this picture was taken. And she had a ball that day. I think it may have been the last time she ventured onto a boogie board, but she loved every minute of it! 

My memory of this picture told me that she was laughing uproariously. But, as you can see, she is not exactly smiling. She looks more than a little bit worried, truth be told! And I get that!

I have long admired my mother for days like this, for making life an adventure and taking a chance. These were baby steps to be sure; she didn’t venture out into very deep waters. But I didn’t care. I was thrilled that she went out at all! If I could figure out a way to do it without having to wash up onto the beach and then get these knees of mine to get me up off the ground, I’d try it again, too!

Baby steps are still steps, right? Yeah!

Just Wondering

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Moments that Make Me Smile

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It only took a minute. Just a minute. My grandson told me to turn my head and watch his cat, Dexter. So, I did.

And what I saw made me want to laugh out loud! Only, I didn’t because I didn’t want to frighten Dexter — I wanted him to stand there forever, just looking with longing at the yard.

He soon moved onto something new, of course, but that moment salvaged an afternoon that had been tiring and occasionally upsetting. He’s just a small cat, and it was just a small moment.

But it made me smile.

And there is nothing small about that.

What are the little things that can bring a smile to your lips, even when you’re moving through a bad day?

Just Wondering