Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Can Run But I Can't Hide!

This is a difficult post to write and I've put it off.  You see, I've felt a nudge the past few days to write about the need for us as caregivers to stay emotionally connected to our care recipients, and I know this is an area in which I consistently fail my mother.

I've recently discovered the Masterpiece Theater series, Downton Abbey.  I ordered the entire first season of episodes and have been enjoying them so much, perhaps a bit too much; because over this past weekend I used them to escape the pressure of spending "quality time" with Mom. 

Well.  I found that I can run but I can't hide; my suppressed emotions toward my mother follow me wherever I go. In my little upstairs room I sat, eyes glued determinedly to the TV screen, intent upon a self-awarded respite from my mother's angst. Just that morning she had proclaimed she wished she could die. The catalyst for this emotion was that I'd forgotten to lay out her bread for toast.  She had reached out to me for comfort but I had been awakened from a sound sleep by her call, and was not responsive.  In response to my bleary eyed silence she asked "Why don't you just tell me right out to go to Hell?"  I was polite but not helpful, telling her she'd probably just had a bad dream and that everything was fine. I went out and closed the door.  I closed my heart as well; I did not pray for Mom, I only felt judgmental toward her.  There was no empathy or love. 

Awhile later I closed myself away from Mom as far as is possible in this old house and began watching Masterpiece Theater. Suddenly I found myself overwhelmed by tears when Downton's head cook, a chubby little older lady, was terrified of an impending surgery and was all alone in an empty room.  When the girl who had delivered the older lady to the hospital room spoke kindly but then left, I badly wanted her to stay and  offer empathy and comfort. I wanted the girl to stay with the old lady throughout her procedure.  And I realized that I so often leave my mother alone when she has real emotional pain, and then ridicule her or judge her because she craves the comfort of food. And so I turned off the TV and prayed, "Lord, have mercy on me.  Strengthen my heart.  Strengthen my heart to bear my mother’s sorrow with her, to help her to cast it on You, to pray for her, to help her." 

When my mother's burdens are too heavy for me to bear, when I can't cope with her anger or her emotional pain; I can pray for her. The alternative is to trivialize her suffering by calling it "drama" or judging her as being gluttonous or lazy. When I pass judgment I sin, not against Mom, but against the Lord. 

I'm sure that if I do not repent of these sins on a daily basis and continue to build a case against my mother as I've been doing--rolling my eyes and shaking my head rather than exhibiting compassion--that there will be an accounting to pay when she is gone. It is then that the enemy of my soul will flash before me all the unkind and sinful behaviors I exhibited toward my mom as she lost her life to Alzheimer's disease. Those sins I so easily excuse now out of a sense of entitlement for "all I've been through" will surely haunt me later, but for God's grace.  

Resolutions to be nicer to my mother won't work; she is good at thwarting my good intentions. But bringing my heart's hurts to the Lord and asking for His strength to endure will help, as will praying for my mother. It's hard to pray for her because there is so much emotion there just under the surface, terrible love, terrible grief; and yes, terrible anger.  But God is big enough to handle it. I can cast my cares on Him.  He understands when I'm not strong enough to do more or to be nicer.  I can bring my weakness to Him.  

Prayer: Lord, forgive me the ways I've failed You and failed my mother. Strengthen me to be kind and compassionate to her, and forgive me for the ways I have judged her and repeated her offenses to others in an exasperated or "she's ridiculous" way. Help me to be loyal, not so much to my mother as to You. I lift Mom to You and pray Your solace and comfort for her today.  I can't carry her but You can. I lift my mother to You, Lord.  In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen. 



  1. I am praying with you and for you, Linda. We have all had to turn to the Lord to ask for His help. This is a truly awful disease---it is the daily physical care, mental care, and emotional care that takes its toll on them and us. All we can do is our best, which means we are imperfect as we are human--and then we ask for forgiveness and strength! Bless you, Linda. Fondly, Jill

  2. Hi Linda. Thank you so much for this blog. Your words are a great comfort to those of us dealing with loved ones afflicted with this disease. My mother also suffers from Alzheimers. She went into a local Christian Home to live in November 2011. It was such a difficult decision for our family to put her there. We did it for her safety and for the safety of my father. Some days I feel such anger at the "Christian" staff at the home for their insensitivity towards her. I also cannot help but feel guilty about the decision we had to make to put her in the home. I pray about it a lot because intellectually I realize that the staff are just doing the best that they can. Apparently she is considered one of their worst cases and they are trying have her moved to a more specialized Alzheimers Care Home. I work full time and visit during my off time. Each time I go with the best intentions but often leave feeling the same negative emotions you describe in this post. When Mom has a bad day she often says that she wishes she could die and that is hard to hear. I am so glad that I found your blog because it reminds me that prayer is the best route to take to deal with some of these difficulties. My father is alone at home now. It has been especially difficult for him. Today is their 54th wedding anniversary: the first one where my Mom has not lived at home. I can so identify with how you say you can run but you can't hide. When I am not with my Mom I am thinking about her. God bless you on your journey with your Mom. Thank you sharing your experience. It really helps to know that others out there understand. T (Ontario, Canada)

  3. For "T"--Oh I am praying for you now with tears in my eyes. I've found that loving my enemies and praying for those who persecute me is difficult--but sometimes praying for those who "persecute" my loved ones seems just about impossible! Lord, enable us to pray with Your power for those who are unkind to our beloved moms, in Jesus' Name I pray. How difficult for you to exhibit compassion to the ones whose job it is to act as caregivers while simultaneously being as your mother's advocate. Praying for you now; wisdom, peace, guidance.

  4. Thank you for writing this. It helps so much to know that someone else who is a strong Christian is struggling with the same emotions I am. I, too, worry that I will have terrible guilt after my mother is gone because I could not be loving or compassionate enough. Gluttonous and lazy is exactly the way I see her far too often. I'm trying so hard not to be judgmental, but it isn't easy. She never does anything she says she is going to do, and I get frustrated because of that. But I know it is probably the dementia. It also annoys me that she won't do anything at all for herself but insists on directing everything I do for her. I feel like screaming, "If you don't like how I do it, do it yourself!" But I don't. I just stuff it all inside until I can leave and then I can breath again. I've been a high school teacher for most of my life, a mom, and a writer. Caregiving for two parents with dementia is by far the hardest job I've ever had to do.

  5. Linda, you inspired me to write my own blog. I'm having a pretty bad day and figured it is better to spill it out in a blog than bore my friends any further. I just made my first post at

  6. Linda,

    I just want to thank you for your blog. I have been with my mother for six months now dealing with her dementia and have been frustrated and resentful of her and the condition. My mom and I are very close and I love my mom very much. I don't want to continue to feel like this. I know that it is bothering her and myself. So I just want to say THANK YOU for this blog it means the world to me to know that I am not alone in the battle. I can give it to GOD where it belongs!!

  7. Allison, hope you see this; thanks so much for your comment on my blog today. Praying for you right now.

  8. Linda,
    Thank you for your prayers! I just realized that you have a book and I will be purchasing it very soon. i am so filled with emotions. I want you to know that you are truly an angel of love and if I don't learn anything else from this blog, it will be tthe power of love. When I first stumbled onto your website I didn't know how powerful your words of encouragment would mean to me. I have somewhere and someone in the physical that I can turn to. I recently started praying to God to help me with this and he has given me you!!! Blessing to you and your mother. Happy Mother's Day!!!

  9. Allison, Happy Mother's Day to you too! You couldn't have given me a nicer gift than your kind words. There are many blessings on the path ahead of you; there will be laughter but also tears. There is hidden blessing in tears, because when we are sad God wraps His comforting arms around us and that is so sweet. I pray you will daily find new evidence of God's great love for you and for your mother and be comforted.