Note: Friends, this is a deeply personal post. I understand that this is different than what I would normally share on Liberty Juice but I’ve felt compelled to write this for awhile. This is for my mom.
It’s in the middle of the night, my house is quiet, my family is sleeping and as inevitably happens, I can’t sleep. My thoughts are full of my mother. This is a routine that has happened more frequently over the last 12 months. But tonight, I lay quietly in my bed, softly typing in the dark the words that tumble in my emotional nightly thoughts. The ones that are finally allowed to spring to life when the sounds of the day fade. I don’t know what I will do with them. Share, shelve, delete. Regardless, my emotions need to finally have a place to land and however God decides to use them will be up to what He puts in the heart of my family as we will decide together if this is something we are ready to share.
Everyone loves their mother. But ours has always been the best. My earliest and most frequent memories of her are those early mornings that I would walk down stairs and find her where she was most mornings… in a quiet room, head bent over her worn Bible. Our dining room wasn’t used much for dinners because her Bible study material could usually be found spread out over the table. Her life’s work wasn’t a fancy career or chasing after the latest fashions. She spent it pouring her life into people, often behind the scenes, sometimes thrust in the spotlight but more than willing to hand that over to someone else, as her gift was ministering to people-especially women. Loving people-those two words encapsulates all that she is. She is a soft spoken woman, who has always valued peace in her household, and yet somehow birthed some of the loudest, opinionated children on the planet. Growing up, dinners were more often than not a raucous affair in our house—loud debates, crude jokes, and a lot of pushing the boundaries, just to see how uncomfortable we could make her without breaking her. I loved to glance over at her as the noise engulfed the table and compare her sweet, gentle nature to the rest of the family. She has often looked at me after hearing some outrageous thing come out of mouth and said in exasperation, “I don’t know how you came out of my womb!” And I would laughingly agree.
We have always been polar opposites. Mom…sweet, tender, and compassionate. Me…not so much, but still to this day, striving to be just a little more like her. But she’s always been the yin to my yang. As a young girl, I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and like so many young women, I discovered as quickly as I left at 18 years old that the most valuable and closest friendship I would ever have would be with her. There haven’t been many decisions in my adult life that I’ve made without her council. She’s taught me everything I value from my faith, to motherhood, to my politics (if you want to see the bull dog deep within her just spout a liberal policy-it will quickly peep it’s head out). She’s held my hand as I’ve had my babies, cried with me during my darkest moments, been my biggest encourager, my mentor in every way. She’s always been the smartest woman I know, graduating valedictorian in her class. She was my virtual encyclopedia before we had Google. And she was almost always right.
My mother gave her life to Christ as a very young girl and that was one heart that once committed never veered. Her father (my grandfather) was raised in the home of an atheist, and when he gave his life to Christ at the age of 16 years old, he was kicked out when he refused to renounce his faith to his father. He was never allowed to return and she grew up understanding that a lot of people in this world actually sacrifice something for their faith so it was never a covenant she took lightly. Her commitment to her Savior was solid and true. Like a refining fire, it turned her life into the epitome of kindness, gentleness, and truth.
I never heard her a say a cuss word and when my dad would try to play a joke on us, all we’d have to do is look at her because we knew if it were a lie there was no way she’d be able to go along with it. When we were on the receiving end of it, we loved it- not so much when we were the one trying to be the pranksters. But it was that genuine and sincere life faith that would often exacerbate my rebellious teenage emotions and I remember crying more than once, “You’ll never understand what I’m going through because you are too much like Jesus! You don’t ever do anything wrong!” She couldn’t help but laugh and assure me differently, but that’s how I saw her and as most children see the flaws of their parents more than anyone- that’s quite a testimony.
She’s been faithful to her family. In times when it would have been easier to cut and run, she was selfless. She’s known deep hurt, experienced ugly betrayal, and she’s taught me what heartfelt forgiveness looks like. And now because of her forgiveness and her selflessness my children have grandparents who went through the darkest of valleys…together…and came out the other side stronger, leaving them with a legacy that a commitment and a covenant before God actually still means something and isn’t just a thing of yester-year.
But despite all of these things that my mother has taught me, I never suspected that some of her biggest lessons to her children would be the ones she has taught us over the last couple of years.
As a child or a young adult, you envision your future watching your parents grow older a certain way. I never imagined in my worst dreams watching my mom in her mid to late 50’s, struggle to remember how to formulate a sentence…or the names of her grandchildren whom she has adored…or more devastating, have to remind her that you’re her daughter.
Theoretically, we all know that one day our parents will grow older and that we won’t have them anymore. But to see your mom who has been a pillar of rock solid strength in your life, land in her early 50’s and begin to show symptoms so against her typical nature is frightening. This has been a long, arduous, and emotional road. My sister and I have spent literally countless stressful hours researching, asking questions, chasing down a diagnoses for these terrifying symptoms she has been experiencing for the last few years. Dozens of doctors, an unlimited amount of various tests, hospital stays, multiple wrong diagnoses, different drugs, all while symptoms aggressively and mercilessly progressed.
Early Onset Alzheimer’s. An ugly disease that strikes very young and moves very quickly. I remember sitting beside my sister while she spoke to the doctor on the phone and received the final diagnoses. If you had your ear to my heart you would have heard it shatter into a million pieces. By this point, it was clear and unavoidable. Scans don’t lie and Alzheimer’s leaves a terrifying mark with no cure and virtually no hope with which to protect your emotions.
But joy….in the midst of heartache and sorrow. Dignity…while drowning in confusion of what’s happening to your body. Praising God…while the storm rages and you have every reason to raise your fist and scream, “Why me, God?!!? I have done everything to serve you and this is how I’m repaid?!” I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having these moments many times on her behalf. Begging God for healing and moments of doubt and anger that my mom was being stolen from me way too early. Moments spent alone crying because my younger children will never really know the incredibly brilliant woman that I grew up with.
It wasn’t long ago that she and I spoke very honestly and truthfully on her difficulties and while she wept tears of sadness, she spoke confidently through them that she accepted whatever God’s plan for her life would be in all of this. She hasn’t been immune from asking, “Why? What have I done to deserve this?” But her amazing faith has defined her acceptance of God’s will for her life and an understanding that there are some things we won’t have an answer for until we stand face to face with Jesus.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that doesn’t strike just the person effected—it strikes the family. My dad suffered a stroke a couple of years ago and the physical repercussions on his body have taken a toll. But it is through those sufferings and now watching him take care of my mother through very difficult days that has taught me what unconditional love looks like. His demonstration of his love and commitment to her “for better or for worse” is tangible.
Finally, my mother’s reaction to her disease is that God doesn’t promise any of us an escape from life’s trials. In fact, quite the opposite. Trials shape us, refine us, reveal who we really are under pressure. For those of us who are Believers, it keeps us from clinging too tightly to this temporary and fallen world.
One of my favorite quotes that has defined my feelings in regards to the dark valleys of life is from Charles Spurgeon, “I have learned to kiss the waves that toss me upon the Rock of Ages.” Oh, the waves have been harsh and the bruises upon our spirits have often throbbed, but it has been in these moments that I have been forced to seek God in ways I never have before and it proves that our suffering is never wasted.
I would ask for your prayers for my sweet mom and my family as we move forward making the best and most of this life that God has given us… for wisdom, for strength, and for God to pour His peace upon our family.