This week I am taking a break from posting about school to reflect on some events affecting my family.
As we just celebrated Mother’s Day, I am so thankful for my mom. But today I wanted to take some time to reflect on the mother who gave me my wife.
When Missy and I married over twenty years ago, I remember the joy of being welcomed into her family. Her mother, in particular, was one of those care-free, happy women, who had learned to face hard times with a smile and trust God for what she could not control.
She had been a single mom since my wife was ten years old. And she had born the burden with grace. After Missy and I had kids, she became a doting Grandma–traveling from the next state over to see the kids, welcoming us for weekends and holidays at hers.
Over the past few years, she has begun to struggle with short-term memory challenges. As a result, it eventually became impractical for her to work. So recently, we helped her move closer so that we could be a consistent part of her everyday routine.
Hymn-Sings And Reflections
Nowadays, we are spending a lot of time with her. Last weekend, for instance, I spent the afternoon at Grandma’s place. She made sandwiches and coffee, and I played her piano while we sang old hymns together. As we worked through “Jesus Paid It All,” Grandma would pause to wipe the tears. She’s always been sentimental.
As we turned to “I Stand Amazed,” it was my turn to feel emotional. It wasn’t just the words of the song but it was also the feelings that came with thinking of the challenges she and we would be facing together.
When you are a newly wed, you don’t digest the fact that part of devotion to your spouse will also include loving her family–in this case your mother-in-law. In the modern concept of marriage, a lot of couples come together for mutual satisfaction and fulfillment. But marriage is so much more than that. It is one of those mysteries where, for better or for worse, you become a part of someone else’s relationships.
To be honest, I am certainly missing the sense of independence we had before she needed so much assistance. But I also know that forty-something years ago, she gave up her independence to nurture and care for my wife. She sacrificed as a single mom to care for her kids: she made dresses, sewed curtains, cooked meals, washed clothes, taxied her kids to games, and brought them to church on Sundays.
Now it’s our turn to give back.
Each day is a new day for Grandma. Sometimes she doesn’t remember what activities she enjoyed the day before or just a few minutes ago. So we’re remembering for her.
Singing Through The Tears
It is hard to put in words, but that afternoon as Grandma and I belted out those hymns together, I realized that the time I was investing in helping her adjust to a new way of life was also time invested in loving my wife. It also marked a new season in life for Grandma and for us–one that will include by both smiles and tears.
Every day, we each face our own set of challenges. Whether it is work, school, health or family, we each face challenges that require us to depend on others for support or help.
Are you facing your own set of difficulties that seem insurmountable?
One of my favorite quotes comes from J.R.R Tolkien in The Return of the King, when Sam and Frodo, at the end of their difficult and epic journey, discover that Gandalf has come alive again.
In the scene, Sam exclaims, ‘”Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?” “A great Shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count.”’
As a Christian, I believe the same truth exists for us. Someday everything sad is going to come untrue. Until then, let’s remember to be grateful for every moment we have. And let’s be thankful for the gift of those dear to us as we face the ups and downs of life together.
Now It’s Your Turn
I am learning that lots of my peers are facing similar challenges in helping care for family members. What is a resource you have found valuable for this challenge?
One book we have found a helpful read lately is The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss (A Johns Hopkins Press Health Book)
By Nancy L. Mace, Peter V. Rabins
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