Be Braver Than You Think You Can Be

I haven’t written in a very long time.


Birthday posts, yes. Delighting in the growth month by month and year by year of the kids, the somehow slow and yet lightning-fast passing of time around here. Marking their imprint on our lives. I love writing those posts.


I do not write about politics, mostly because there are so many folks who are filling that space and I think that conversation happens better over a cup of coffee for me.


Mostly what I have written about in the articles here on this blog has been the journey with Mom. The experience of watching a loved one slip before our eyes from a vibrant and dynamic, brilliant human being to someone who no longer knows us and ultimately no longer knows anything really.  That is not a fun documentation…and for the last few years it has been more of a pause than a documentation.


We have been on this journey now for almost ten years I would guess. In the beginning there were lots of questions from friends and lots to share. There were lots of changes.


“Does she remember you?”


“Does she know where she is?”


“Does she know your Dad?”


There were markers, things we could distinguish and know we still had some touch with mom. Now, those markers are gone. She sits in her chair lost in a world we simply can’t know and she has been there for a couple years. She has not known us for quite some time. I asked the kids the other day when they thought she last had known them and my 14 year old said he wasn’t sure she had ever known him.


That was hard to hear.


She has never known Maddie in a way that touched her…I remember pulling up when Maddie was three weeks old and going to hand her to Mom. Mom immediately handed her to Dad. She didn’t want to hold her, wanting instead to hold her notebook. That was a drastic change.


A marker, you could say.


She always, always loved babies. And especially her grandbabies. For her not to hold her grandbaby was a bit shocking. But she didn’t know her, and that notebook at that moment held her thoughts for her and was far more important. It was where she tried to hold on to reality. I can’t even imagine how important that notebook was.


So, now, the questions don’t come very often because the answer is the same. She hasn’t known me for years. There is not a question to ask about that any more. She can’t speak…she says words, but they don’t make any sense. So, no question for friends to ask there. The conversation becomes more stilted and the blog posts become a bit repetitive.


So, what is there to write about? 



Her eyes still twinkle when someone sits down. She still smiles. And she seems to enjoy dessert still. She hums sometimes and she seems to enjoy being outside. She responds sometimes to the conversations around her by perking up a bit. She seems to be aware.


She still draws people around her, even without being able to know them.


She is still here. 


In some way. Even though she cannot remember, she causes us to remember and she still is present in our family. She still is the matriarch and she still reminds us of all that she has been.


I was drawn back to this blog because I had just visited and been with Mom, but also because I’ve had probably seven conversations over the last month with people who are beginning this journey. Their parents are slipping.


And that is terrifying.


Let it be.


It should terrify us, and it should break our hearts and it should make us mourn. Let it. Weep. Find the space and the time and the ability to mourn in these early stages, in the middle stages, and in all the stages to mourn.


But hear this….it is a long journey. You cannot mourn the entire time. You will exhaust yourself. Find those moments to mourn, and then continue on.


Find things you can laugh about, because there will be plenty.


Like the time Mom hid all my bras while I was in the shower preparing for a lunch with a pastor. She was quite good at hiding things!!


Find things you can tell them, again and again and again and again. It will be frustrating that they ask the same question…but eventually they will not ask any more. Hang in there.


Find things that you can remember for them. Tell them stories and keep telling them. Love them well. Let them see you and hear you and feel you while they know even a hint of who you are. You are telling yourself those stories again and again, and that is worthwhile.


“We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.”  -Madeleine L’Engle


This is no easy journey. I guess that is the main thing I came back to these pages to say…to my friends who are on the start of the journey, and even friends well in to the experience of watching our parents slip away from us.

This is not easy.

It is piercingly painful.

There is a sadness that will settle upon you as you are aware of the brokenness of our world, right next to you.

Here is the hope, though:  there is grace in this, as there is grace in all of life. God will meet you in surprising ways and you will be more than you thought you could be. You will serve your parent or your spouse or your grandparent in ways you didn’t think you could. Those of us experiencing this from a distance…it is different. Maybe that is a post for another day.