Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Struggle and Scripture

I'm struggling.  Especially in the mornings I feel so sad. As Mom's symptoms increase, I grapple with fear of how her Alzheimer journey might end.

For so many years I felt strong empathy for Mom, and I still am able to express love and minister to her as I've always done. But the other day she choked on a piece of food and I remained completely calm.  I assessed whether she needed the Heimlich, and saw that she did not (she was able to gasp for air and talk). I stood by, offered tissues, prayed, and considered whether I needed to call 911; although she could breathe, it was a violent and long lasting episode. In the middle of it Mom became angry that I wasn't "doing something" and between coughing fits she yelled at me for not being more concerned. That's when I knew she was all right.

She was mad at me the rest of the day, and I guess I can understand. Had it been one of my grandchildren I would have exhibited a much higher degree of anxiety. But because it was my 90 year old mother who has had Alzheimer's for ten years, and because I feel a daily dread of how her life might end and have steeled myself by envisioning various scenarios, I essentially detached emotionally once I'd ascertained I'd done everything I could do to help her.  She wanted me to act more upset, and clearly did not believe me when I patted her knee and said, "I'm sorry, you just have to cough it out."

"Easy for you to say," she said.

But it isn't easy. I don't like being so close to the Valley of the Shadow with my mother. Death is ugly, and while watching a loved one succumb so slowly to death by Alzheimer's is frightening, even more appalling is to be confronted by the possibility of an imminent and struggle-filled passage from life to death. In darker moments, I feel close to terror. It may sound wrong to say what is true; it is the discomfort of this situation that I hate.  I am uncomfortable with grief and fear, and although I've suppressed it, I do suffer a terrible empathy for my mother because she has lost touch with reality.  This is hard, and I don't like things to be hard.

If you read my posts often you will know this one is uncharacteristically dark. You will also know  that although I'm sad, I'm not in despair, and even when I'm afraid, I'm not without hope.  I felt led to share with you as honestly as I could how I've been struggling, but I'll close with the reasons I have courage for the path ahead:  

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. These bodies of ours are constantly facing death just as Jesus did; so it is clear to all that it is only the living Christ within who keeps us safe.
--2 Corinthians 4:8-10 TLB

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

--Isaiah 41:10 NIV

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?...
For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock...
Though my father and mother forsake me,
    the Lord will receive me...
I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.
--Psalm 27:1,5,10,13-14 NIV

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

--Psalm 13:5-6 NIV

Blessed be His Holy Name! 


  1. I greatly appreciate your honesty and transparency. It helps those who are 'watching' your journey to not have unrealistic expectations in our own lives. But, most of all I appreciate how you bring it full circle to where you are finding your hope. Thank you, thank you!

  2. Georgene, I hope you see this--when I am struggling a word of encouragement makes an enormous difference for me. You have provided that today and I thank you. God bless you and yours!

  3. Honesty is good. It helps us know that we are not alone. I once actually had a choking episode when I could not breathe and was heading for unconsciousness fast. After it was over, my daughter-in-law said that I needed to know the universal sign for choking. I've never forgotten it. It was a bit of a panic to realize that I would have keeled over and no one would have realized that I was in serious trouble. I'm sure that a conversation with your mother will set it right, though perhaps she has long forgotten the experience. Saying a prayer for you and your mother. One thing we know...yea though I walk through the Valley of Death... Many blessings to you!

  4. Vee, she was gasping and talking throughout the whole thing, which assured me that her airway was open. Thus I didn't inflict the Heimlich on her which would have undoubtedly added insult to her injury! She had enough oxygen going to her brain to be thoroughly angry with me because I'd allowed her to be so uncomfortable, sigh. The grace of Alzheimer's is that yes, she has forgotten the incident. Five minutes later she didn't know why she was angry with me, she just knew I deserved it! Is that universal sign an open hand gesturing toward the throat?

  5. Yes.

    No, you did the right thing. I'm sure of that. What I meant to convey was that panic that ensues when choking, though I see that she was choking, but still able to talk and breathe. Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's is fraught with challenges for sure!

  6. Thank you Vee, I always love seeing that you've left a comment because you are invariably kind and encouraging. That universal sign for choking is valuable to know, and I will pass on the info to my family. The shock I felt at myself is that although I did everything necessary for Mom, my emotions were absent from the situation. Still pondering that one. If it had been a grandchild, for example, I would have been flailing my arms and tears would've been pouring--and I'd been calling aloud on the name of the Lord for help!! None of those things save the last one would actually have been helpful, but, still. Well, God is with me, and he's with my poor mom even when I'm not as emotionally invested in her welfare as I perhaps ought to be? I don't know. I am tired. Eeeways, thanks for stopping by today, and thanks especially for your prayers. You have mine, and my gratitude for taking the time to read this post and comment.