Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Praying for Strength of Heart

Mom's Easter Tree

I am a former teacher, and no longer have access to classroom bulletin boards. Nowadays my mother's apartment receives the benefit of my pent-up longing to decorate something--anything-- with seasonal cheer.  This is a happy situation for my mother, because one of the blessed aspects of her dementia (in its pleasant manifestation) is her sincere appreciation for anything lovely.  She rhapsodizes over her Easter tree:
Mom:  Linda, don't you think this tree is just absolutely beautiful?
Linda: (modestly) I'm glad you like it.
Mom: (has forgotten Linda decorated the tree, and misinterprets modesty for lack of enthusiasm) Well!  Don't YOU like it?  (accusing look)
Linda: I...I'm the one who put it there.
Mom:  Oh.  Well.  Linda, don't you think this tree is just absolutely beautiful?
And so we go, repetitively but happily.  Providing Mom with pretty things is something I do well.

But here's what I'm not good at: I do not like to sit down and visit with my mother.  Her time on this earth is coming to a close, and the inevitability of losing her oppresses me.  Connecting with her emotionally is painful, because it reminds me of what I've lost and of how difficult that final blow will be.  In her happy phases she stares at my face adoringly, as though I am her sun, her moon, and her stars, and this is uncomfortable.  I feel almost angry when she chatters along very nearly like her old self, expressing concern for me as she used to before the polarity of energy between us reversed so that I am now the one who takes care of her.  She has no memory of her irrational times; the 911 call (because I didn't hear her request for crackers),  her unjust sarcasm, or the vindictiveness she expresses when I insist she bathe or take a walk.  I sometimes feel like a child who has been abused; longing for the parent's love but wary of mood swings, with a layer of anger underneath.

But I am not a child, and I have not been abandoned.  My mother is not abusive, she is ill.  And I am aware of the dangers of burying my heart (see yesterday's post).  Hiding from my mother will make the final parting more difficult, not easier, and repressing emotion can be harmful to one's health.  And so this evening I pulled myself up by the emotional bootstraps, and went into Mom's apartment just to visit.

She looked at me adoringly, as though I were her sun, her moon, her stars. She chattered along very nearly like her old self, expressing concern for me. I didn't recoil, or make an excuse to leave.  I allowed myself to feel loved, and expressed love to Mom in return.

I will sure miss my beloved mother when she is gone, but I don't have to miss her yet.  I pray for strength of heart to face the emotion of still loving and being loved by my mother. 

"My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart, 
And He is my portion forever"
(Psalm 73:26).


  1. Linda, I have been reading here for months, perhaps more. Yes, definitely more. Today, I just want to let you know that you and your mother and your family have been in my prayers. It is not an easy journey this one that you are walking, though you are good at finding the treasures along the way. Your story has helped me.

  2. Vee, thank you, thank you for your prayers. You have mine. Love your blog...must stop by there more often, you are a blessing to me.

  3. How beautiful to realize that your mother is ill. Thank you so much for sharing this. Will keep you and your mother in my prayers, and warm greetings from Montreal, Canada.

  4. The beautiful thing about dementia is every view, every discovery, every beauty is like seeing it for the first time. During mama's 2 year stay at the nursing home where I worked before she passed away, every look at the Christmas tree was "Isn't that beautiful!" every 5 minutes as if she saw it for the first time. Her last snow was the same thing, "Oh, look at that snow." (we didn't get it much). So don't say, Mama I did it. Just agree with her that it is beautiful. Cherish each moment. It's hard but appreciate the beauty. I wish I could see the beauty through her eyes again. Prayers for you as you walk with her this difficult journey.