My mother has lived with us for six years. She is completely dependent on us for all of her basic needs, but is quite content to spend much of each day alone, reading the books we provide and listening to the music we choose for her. Caregiving duties are sometimes oppressive, but what if I change the way I think about these responsibilities? Perhaps my mother has somehow chosen to stay with me for this extended period of time because of her love and concern for me. What if I choose to focus on the blessings of this time we are spending together?
I do know that my mom's illness is blessing me with the time I need to adjust to the fact of her leavetaking.
St. Paul said that it would be far better for him to depart this mortal life and to be at home with the Lord, "...But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live (Philippians 1:23-24, NLT)." On days when I feel so stressed over wondering when and how my mother will finally leave me, it is a comfort to recognize the ways the Lord is blessing me through her extended time with us. In so many ways it has been better for me that she has stayed.
This morning I talked with a friend whose brother has just passed away. She said, "I believe everything happens for a reason. I'm having trouble figuring out the reason for this, but I know there is one." This more positive way of looking at Mom's Alzheimer's disease leads me to a train of thought in which I begin to make conjectures about the Lord's reasons for allowing these circumstances, but the conclusions I draw may be inaccurate. God has His reasons. I won't always be able to understand, in fact, I know that as Hannah Whitall Smith says, my part is to trust, while God's part is to act.
However, today I've been comforted by imagining a conversation between my mom and the Lord that might have gone something like this:
Lord: You know, Anna Ruth, Linda is going to have a terrible time letting you go.
Mom: (With a tear in her eye) Yes, Lord, I know. What can I do?
Lord: Well, there is a solution that will ease her pain and help her to make the transition to life without you, but you may not want to consider it.
Mom: Anything Lord, what is your plan?
Lord: Alzheimer's disease.
Mom: (Scarcely hesitating) If it will help my girl and honor you, well of course, Lord. Let's do it. I know you'll be with me in it, and I've found your yoke easy and your burden light.
Lord: (Smiling) I will be with you.
Thinking about my mom's illness in this way helps me accept the slow loss of the mother I knew and to cope with the behavioral changes that hurt my heart. God is with us.