Caring For Grandma–A Mother’s Day Tribute

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.

Thinking Back
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?

Resource Recommendation
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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14 thoughts on “Caring For Grandma–A Mother’s Day Tribute

  1. Jesse Madaffari

    needed this today. We are facing some important family situations now, but God is in control and it will work out. Thanks

  2. Ginger

    My family had this very situation with my mother and we rallied as a family to care for her. Your compassion and grace you show to your mother in law reminds me so much of my sis in laws actions toward my mom. We are so appreciative of her grace and love for her, as she has been instrumental in helping us with her care. I know your wife appreciates your kindness as a sign of love for her.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your weekly posts. I appreciate your efforts and sharing your insights with us! Keep up the good work.

  3. Linda Johnson

    Will this was one of the most caring letters I have ever read about mental loss in our families and society. Thank you for reminding us that love and patience conquers all. You are a testament to such a wonderful family. Proving that kindness and love of our fellow man is the greatest of gifts to Godly teachers……and principals! After all …..we are all teachers!

  4. Carolyn Mahan

    Dealing with an aging parent is an interesting experience. My siblings and I dealt with it in very different ways—my older brother denied the existence of age-related problems, my younger brother and I dealt with the problems with humor. The whole process with my mom was an adventure-filled roller-coaster ride of heart-breaking moments and moments filled with laughter.
    It was an adventure not to be forgotten, but remembered with laughter and smiles. It was with God’s help and support of family and friends that we managed.

    What a beautiful Mother’s Day tribute. Thanks

    1. William D Parker Post author

      Thanks Carolyn. Most of the time, we feel like we don’t know if we’re “doing this right.” It’s good to know others have been through the same ups and downs.

  5. Diana

    So beautiful, I am
    grateful to know that Cleta has a loving family who cares enough to do what they have to do to take care of her. I love her so much!

  6. Sarah Touchet

    Will, we have done this times over, first with Brad’s grandparents in central Louisana, and then for my own grandparents after our move to Virginia, and even some now with my own parents. I appreciate every aspect of your words above, so eloquently spoken. The greatest gift I have given my children is spending time with our own grandparents and parents, caring for things way beyond what I expected when I got married. Even down to holding my dying grandmother’s hand and closing her lids for my grandfather hours later, or doing his laundry, shopping for him and for us… and even the many doctor appointments that interrupt my/our homeschool schedule time and again.

    They (the children) have found love and respect and dedication to more than our own scheule, serving and loving others with me. I also feel sometimes like maybe our family ought to be involved in more outward ministry to the community, for example, but then I remember I am doing the most intimate ministry that God could ever call me to. I am grateful for these special ways that we give and love and enjoy, and learn so much about God’s love for us in these ways.

    One resource I have turned to during this past 7 years has been _Caring for our Aging Loved Ones_ by Focus on the Family. It is like a survival kit, full of ideas for the caregiver. It includes ways to stay healthy and focused and rested during the caregiving, and creativity and practical resources for the needs of the loved one. I highly recommend it.

  7. John Rupe

    My wife and I (Mostly my wife because she actually lived with her parents full time for 7 years), have had our turn at caring for aging parents. Our strength came from, and still comes from, a close relationship with the Lord. There are, I’m sure, many good writings and articles out there, but ultimate success and peace comes in knowing that you have done your best to be found in God’s will in taking care of your parents, and knowing, that they know, you love them.

  8. Connie

    I just read this beautiful post, Will. Yes it brought tears to my eyes and a joy toy heart as well. I am reminded of a quote from George Washington Carver

    “How far you go in life depends
    On your being tender with the young
    Compassionate with the aged
    Sympathetic with the striving and
    Tolerant of both the weak and the strong
    Because someday in life
    You will have been one or all of these”

    I love this quote.

    In life we go from dependent to independent and back to dependent again. The key is to do this in love and grace.

    Your family remains in our daily prayers.
    Love to all

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