In her anger she feels I am not meeting her needs properly, and she becomes vindictive, trying to think of things she can do or say that will upset me. The anger itself becomes a separate entity that can't be reasoned with. It is no good to point out her pleasant surroundings and the large chart on her door that lists her schedule. It doesn't help to tell her that I'm in her room a minimum of eight times a day, seeing that her needs are met. In these moods she doesn't want explanations, she wants a target. She can't explain why she is so viciously angry, but she is very good at voicing the anger.
I'm just heart weary. She surprised me last night by mocking the way I laughed at some little joke my husband made about our silly but sweet yellow lab as we walked with Mom around the driveway, and for some reason this particularly hurt my feelings. I've sometimes felt self-conscious about the way I laugh. Mom followed her scorn of my laughter with these words: "My knee hurts, does that make you happy Linda? You like seeing me suffer don't you? Someday you will have to pay for this, the Lord is taking notes of this."
I replied, "Ohhh Mama, you'd better hope He isn't."
But you know I've wondered about this. In someone who doesn't have Alzheimer's, Mom's behavior would be labeled "sin." Isn't she getting herself into deep trouble with the Lord?
When I brought this issue before the Lord, I instantly thought of Jesus' words regarding the people who tortured and killed him: "Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
Well...if ever there was someone who doesn't know what she is doing, I'm sure it would be a 91 year old woman who's had Alzheimer's disease for eleven years. I felt so betrayed when Mom, angered because I hadn't answered her phone call requesting saltines to go with her coke, called 911 and reported elder abuse...but how much deeper was the suffering that the the betrayal by His own people inflicted upon Jesus.
And then I remembered another verse that says whatever we bind on earth is bound in Heaven (Matthew 18:18).
If I refuse to forgive Mom, I hurt not only myself, I hurt her by deepening her sin before the Lord. If I refuse to pray, with our Savior, "Lord forgive her, she doesn't know what she is doing," then I make it more likely that Mom will remain bound by her own sin even as I allow the crippling effects of unforgiveness to take root in my own life.
"But Lord," I prayed, "She has broken my heart."
In response this thought came: "No, she has not. Your heart is safe in My hands."
Unforgiveness binds us to the ones who hurt us; in a way, it puts us at their mercy. The Bible instructs us to respond to bad treatment with love, and to pray for the ones who persecute us.
These are not happy lessons to learn at the hands of the woman who once adored me and would have been willing to give her own life for mine. The sense of betrayal runs deep. But I'm praying for grace to forgive my mother even as God has forgiven me for my many sins, and to release her from accountability for the wrongs she's dealt me. If you've also been treated unjustly, perhaps you'd like to pray with me:
Father, we release our loved ones from accountability for the sins they've committed against us. We know You love us and take action against those who hurt us, and so we release them from our blame and any divine rule that would require Your vindication on our behalf. We lift these, our beloved enemies, to You, and we pray: Father, forgive them, they don't understand what they are doing. In Jesus' name, amen.
Comforting Scripture for Caregivers:
But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”
...God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.