I have adopted a similar practice; whenever there is a significant event in my life, I tag my journal entry that describes the event with the designation of "landmark." Landmark posts are rare. When appropriate, I also document these significant events with a blog post, and then save a record of what has happened by making a book of the blog using a service such as Pastbook.
This post records landmark understandings the Lord has graciously provided me as I process grief over my mother's passing. I pray other caregivers might be helped by this with the realization that a caregiving journey does not have to come to an end before freedom can be attained; we can walk in freedom through the trial. During all the years of struggle and grief there was also joy and peace as I realigned myself with the Lord each day, His mercies are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23). This is the final chapter of my caregiving journey. I am and have been blessed, not only in spite of Mom's Alzheimer's, but in some ways even because of it. That's the unmistakable stamp of our Savior; He truly is able to work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
Our loved ones do not have to die in order for us to walk in freedom from the harm their sins and errors of judgment or perception have caused us. Romans 6:4 tells us that when we are baptized into Christ, we are raised with Him to walk in newness of life. Indeed, apart from the freedom I have in Christ, I could not have survived taking care of my mother throughout her nearly 16 year journey through Alzheimer's. But death draws a final curtain between any unresolved uncertainties and takes away opportunity for reconciliation; old sorrows may be felt more keenly. The following account is more affirmation than new information, but it is indeed a landmark for me because I don't want to remain bound by old and erroneous judgments and memories of angry words spoken by my mother when she was in the throes of dementia.
April 21, 2020
I visited the cemetery today and took several photos of Mom and Dad’s stone. I could see my reflection clearly in the stone and without thinking too much about it, I took a photo of the stone with my reflection showing. I then moved first to one side and then the other to take photos of just the stone itself and the engravings. I noticed, and stood there pondering, the significance of the two engravings of trees on the stone, oak I think, one on Mom’s side, the other on Dad’s.
When I got home, I sat down to scroll through the photos I’d taken. First there was the one of me, my reflected image standing between my parents’ names. And then I saw that in one of the photos taken from the side, a large tree was reflected in the center of the stone where my outline had shown in the earlier image. And then, just before the photos I’d taken at the cemetery, was a photo I’d taken earlier in the day in our yard. I’d noticed our oak tree was delineated with unusual clarity in the shadow cast by the rising sun that morning, and had captured the elongated, intricate web of branches in light and shadow.
I sat there pondering all of this and a gentle awareness of a reassuring truth came to me. My parents would be, are, happy with me, pleased with my service to them and to the Lord, and with who I am in Him. Children represent their parents’ greatest accomplishment and joy, a joy that can be tainted when the child’s sins and failures cause grief. I am overweight, and because, in life, my father was judgmental of people who were overweight, I have assumed he would not be pleased with me now. I was slender at the time of his death. I am not slender now. And, in Alzheimer’s, my mother was not happy with me. The opposite was true. In her demented view of reality, she felt great anger toward me even as I served her needs. During the last three years of her life, her anger turned toward her caregivers at the nursing home and away from me, so that we were able to have a time of healing as I sang hymns to her and read Scripture during each visit. I am grateful for that. But the 12 years prior to Mom’s nursing home years had seen me catching every nuance of her resentment and anger over her crooked perception of her circumstances. The confines of her disease became, in her compromised perception, confines I had placed upon her. Her fight against dementia became a fight against her caregiver.
All of this is gone now; Dad no longer condemns people for outward appearances, Mom no longer suffers from Alzheimer’s, and both my parents are safe at home in the Lord. What is left is what is true. I have given myself to ministries that have yielded eternal fruit, and my parents are pleased with me. If they were here, they would say, “Well done;” I may hear them express such a sentiment when I reach home myself. Dad’s criticisms and Mom’s anger were “light and momentary troubles,” not eternal judgments. I can be freed of their sting, even now. They aren’t true now because they no longer exist, not because my parents have been silenced by death, but because they have been freed by passing through death. The old has gone, the new has come.
Lord let the new come for me even now. Let me walk in freedom of newness of life. I can be freed from the crooked version of truth I’ve lived with my entire life. As long as I was under the law of my parents’ judgment and anger I couldn’t be freed. They have been freed from all that kept them from perfect communion with You. Lord free me now from what is no longer true, was never really true. My Dad’s judgment and my mom’s anger toward me do not exist at all, are no longer sad facts of my life. My chains are gone, Lord, don’t let me just stay paralyzed in place by bonds that have been cut. I ask this in Jesus’ Name.
My chains are gone, I’ve been set free, my Lord my God has ransomed me...unending love, amazing grace (this is from an updated version of Amazing Grace by Chris Tomlin). In yet another seemingly unconnected episode that took place yesterday but now shines with significance, is that earlier in the day I had taken down the sign that reads “Amazing Grace,” that had been over the doorway of my mother’s apartment for all the years since we built the addition for her, and hung it up in a room I’ve just refurbished from ceiling to floor; Lord, likewise, please renew me.