It’s a Wonderful Life?

Such a beautiful lady, and a beautiful life. This is a phrase my daddy said today and it’s stuck with me all day. You see, on top of being a full time caregiver for my son who has a brain injury, I’m moving into a support role and somewhat of a caregiving role for my parents too. Don’t misunderstand my role – my siblings and I are all on this journey together. We’ve been coming together to begin this process since my mom has started to decline and my dad has asked for help. It’s been kind of cool the way my brother and sisters have begun to work together to take care of mama and daddy.

Mama is displaying very obvious signs of dementia. She’s been in a steady decline for some time now, it’s just getting to where daddy can no longer manage it as he doesn’t feel well himself. Mama is obsessed with going to church. It used to be in the mornings, but now it can be anytime at all – she is in constant go to church mode. We are all afraid of her driving since she could become disoriented, but daddy’s getting tired of driving her up to the church all the time to prove there’s no church.

We decided as a family that the best thing is for our parents to move in with one of us kids and my brother’s house is the biggest and most accommodating. So the process has begun. Today daddy and I were talking about how mama can no longer perform daily tasks like cleaning, cooking or laundry. She is missing some logical sequences somewhere in there. With a shaky voice daddy said he never expected this – but who does? No one expects dementia or Alzheimer’s; or brain injuries either for that matter.With audible tears, he says She’s such a beautiful lady, and has had such a beautiful life.  To which I replied in my own shaky voice – I know, it’s not fair. It’s never fair.

And once again there is this overwhelming disappointment with life. Another reason I really don’t like most Christmas shows and this time of year is tough. They are so fairy-tales-y. They always come together in the end and everything works out smoothly. The guy gets the girl, the kid gets the gift – and ends with a magical moment. So unlike life.

Even the Bible doesn’t always have fairy tale endings like some faith-ers want us to believe. Stephen was stoned – and died. For that matter, many of our New Testament heroes died a martyrs death. Adam and Eve’s story – the first one in the Bible didn’t exactly end picture perfect. They had the life anyone would envy – living in the garden, walking and talking with God. But then they were thrown out – that had to hurt their feelings a bit. Plus then one of their sons killed the other…. not a pretty picture.  Noah was ultimately saved along with his family – but he witnessed a lot of devastation in the process. And Daniel lived most of his life as a captive. He fared well, but it wasn’t the picture perfect life complete with wife, kids and family.

We are not promised a picture perfect ending like It’s a Wonderful Life –  but in the end we will win I suppose. Knowing that my mom will have peace in the end – doesn’t make it any easier to deal with her decline right here and now as she fades away right before our eyes. Just because I’m already a caregiver, doesn’t exempt me from the rest of life. Stinks sometimes, huh?

Mama stayed with me Monday while daddy went to the doctor. My independent mother is reverting to needing to be cared for ans watched over like a child. She depends on daddy so much. She really has had a beautiful life. She and daddy raised four kids, she went to school before it was popular and became an LPN and then went to college to get her degree and worked as an RN. She has ministered to thousands of people over the years. She plays the piano and preaches – even pastored a couple of churches here and there. She’s always had a heart for the down-and-out and to this day will talk to total strangers. She’s taken care of many people over the years – and her table welcomed anyone who needed to eat or fellowship. Now it’s our turn to take care of her.

It is going to take all of us! And we’ll need the same strength she has talked about for all these years. I’ve heard her quote many scriptures – and today as I embark on this part of life’s journey I’ll hold to one I heard all my life – I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Me. I’ll try to remember that one from Isaiah as I navigate through the next few weeks. I believe that His peace can help us have a wonderful life even in the midst of the struggle….and the pain….somehow.

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