Lessons Learned from Mom: Letting Go, Part One

So I’ve been here, living and caring for Mom one year, two months, and eight days. But who’s counting.

Life has been interesting and frustrating. I have spent a considerable amount of time playing mindless games on my phone and ipad. I haven’t been able to concentrate enough to read or write. I haven’t finished reading a single book clear through. And my writing feels pointless and overly repetitive.

So why am I trying again?

This week we began working with hospice. The team is absolutely tremendous, compassionate, encouraging, and gentle with Mom. I don’t feel quite as alone in this process.

The one word I have always associated with hospice and end of life is intentionality. Serious conversations and light-hearted remembering. Laughter and tears. And a clear willingness not to sweep things under the carpet. Finally, naming the elephant in the room. Giving up control. Relaxing a little.

All of those things are happening. And I’m among other things, I’m going to include some of those reflections here.

This morning Mom had an appointment for her pacemaker check. We weren’t sure if we needed to keep the appointment. We did the check and we have a follow-up with the cardiologist next week. We’re going to talk to him about whether we need to keep doing this. And ask him the question our hospice nurse asked: what about shutting the pacemaker off?

After the pacemaker check we went to LabCorp for blood work. This was for the cardiologist, too. They were running behind. Several people were waiting. Mom nearly fell asleep. I’m getting better at maneuvering the chair and the portable but cumbersome O2 tank.

After lunch Mom took a long and hard nap in her chair. She always looks so uncomfortable. She woke up hard. After a trip to the bathroom, when she was settled back in her chair, I checked on her. She was troubled by how long and hard she had slept. She looked at me and asked, “Is this how it’s going to be?”

I told her I don’t know, but we’re not going to go back to how things were. We talked for a bit about how things were changing and how hard it is for her to relinquish control. Her comfort has always been in her rigid schedule. On a MBTI she bleeds J. Her calendars have been the constant proof of her adherence to schedule and routine.

Today she told me to put her calendar away, she just didn’t feel like writing in it any more. So I did.

I guess I’m in charge of the schedule now.

Selah: Mercy for Sorrow

After recounting a gruesomely long list of horrible things that has happened to him, the writer of Lamentations pens these words:  “The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: (Lamentations 3:19-21, NLT).”

Remembering the negative things which occurred in our lives is one thing, ruminating on them is completely different. Each has it’s own power. Ruminating, going over and over and over, leaves us feeling powerless and throws us into a state of hopelessness. We give up because we begin to believe things will never get better.

But we can use remembering in a different way resulting in a much better outcome. Notice in the verse above: the quote doesn’t end with a period—there’s more to this!

Here’s what the author adds after the colon: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!’ The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord (Lamentations 3:22-26, NLT).”

God’s love goes deep and has no end. His mercies are new every morning.

What is my part in this? What do I need to do to receive this daily portion of mercy? Hope in him. Search for him. Wait on him.


Lenten Thoughts: Remembering


In the movie “The Sound of Music”, when Julie Andrews’ character is comforting the children in the middle of a horrific thunderstorm, she sings a song. Don’t they always when it’s a musical? The song she uses to bring them comfort is a recounting of all her “favorite things.” Maybe you remember a few: raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens; bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. She simply remembers her favorite things, and then she won’t feel so bad.


Remembering. It’s a biblical principle. In the Old Testament God’s people are told to make a pile of rocks, and the children are to ask why are they there. The adults are then to tell the story of God’s protection and provision. This way the story would not be lost from generation to generation.

I read an article this week that made a very bold claim—or at least I thought it was bold. The author stated we forget because we anticipate we are going to forget. And if I could remember what magazine it was in, I would put down the whole quote. In essence: we forget because we don’t remember.

Perhaps that’s why there are so many references to remembering in the Bible, two hundred thirty three according to biblegateway.com.


Memory is a fickle thing. In my work with my little lady who had Alzheimer’s, I marveled at how she wasn’t able to remember our immediate conversation but she could recount wonderful stories from her youth. She could tell you her recipe for homemade bread, but as she made it she couldn’t recall if she put in the yeast.

One day she had been in her room for an unusually long time, so I quietly peeked in the door to check on her. She was sitting on her bed by the bedside stand with her Bible open on her lap, her fingers running over the page as she read and reread Psalms. It reminded me of a time when I visited a woman in the hospital who was very close to death. Her lips were moving, but no sound was coming out. I leaned in close and heard her softly repeating the Lord’s Prayer. She was no longer conscious in this world, but her spirit was totally in touch.

Have you watched the news lately? It’s not for the faint of heart. There isn’t much “good” news being report. So we need to remember. What has God done for you, now or in the past? Where have and do you see his hand? Life is going to get harder. So unless we become more intentional in our remembering, it will be very easy to forget.


He Uses Everything

The other day my husband brought me home a surprise. In the past, surprises included apple fritters, chocolate bars, DVD’s, and one time a diamond ring…but that’s a story unto itself.

This day he brought me home a sprinbrush toothbrush. He had bought one for himself and really liked it. Since he had a coupon and they were on sale, he thought I would like to have one, too.

And like it I do!

But this morning, I realized anew just what a creature of habit I am.

I squirted the toothpaste on my new brush. Put the brush in my mouth. And proceeded to manually brush my teeth.

The bristles aren’t designed for this. The brush moved sluggishly across me teeth…then it dawned on me…I forgot to turn it on. And the Spirit niggled my heart…I ended up giggling out loud.

God decided to use my toothbrush to remind me to do more than go through the motions and rely on habit.

This little reminder came as I was getting ready to head out to the funeral service for the woman I had cared for the past five and half years.
Relying on habit would mean that I put on my pastoral mask and face the folks with a demeanor of peace and confidence. Behaving this way has carried me through some really tough services in the past. But it seemed clear that I was to leave my mask at home.

The power I was to draw on was not the usual thing. The power source available to me would work much better. It was up me to access it.

I heard the words of Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

My habit or standard mode of operation would have been stiff upper lip, show no emotion, tough it out…hang strong. God was inviting me to leave that habit behind and “come clean.” I meekly said I’d try.

I sat at the funeral and wept. I sang the songs, prayed the prayers, remembered…and wept. That may not sound like much to you–doesn’t everyone weep at funerals? Not people who are in control. Not me. I didn’t anticipate weeping. But there I sat soggy and snotty and totally sans tissues. I had to get up and go retrieve some from the narthex.

I can’t remember a service that touched my heart as much as that one. Living into the multiple layers of loss, feeling the pain, I came heart to heart with the Great Comforter. I would miss this lady, but I was able to focus on the many gifts I had received from her. I would miss having a job, but I had an indescribable peace that God would lead where I needed to be.

God used a toothbrush to remind me to rely upon Him. What is He using in your life?

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