Tag Archives: alzheimer’s

Here and Now

Have you ever found yourself disgruntled? At odds with someone or something? Have you ever had an issue with say, something going on in our world? our country? your community? church? in your family?

Have you ever found yourself face to face with something that seemed unfathomable and unfair beyond measure? A diagnosis? A tragedy? An event that you would give anything to do over?

I’ve found myself recently, in more than one scenario, really outraged. I wanted to file a complaint, write a letter, state a grievance only to realize sadly, there was nowhere to file that complaint or send that letter or no one who would listen to how I felt about it. Or that there were unseen forces and systems at work that morphed way beyond my control or input.

Lately, I’ve been trying to be more in touch with how I feel about certain things and currently, that feeling is disgruntled.

Thankfully, in spite of how I feel, I religiously stick to a devotional, scripture reading, prayer and daily writing routine. It grounds me. Sometimes it even surprises me.

Today, all three devotionals I read had the same teaching. Jesus Always by Sarah Young woke me up with this line, “The present moment is the point at which time intersects eternity.” “Have a wide awake heart.” “Stay in the present moment.” Jesus Calling by the same author said, “Here and now are the coordinates of your life.”

 

Can you see the surprising word of God piercing my very real (and I believe justified outrage) to coax me into today; into the here and now? As with most God things, this puzzles me. How do you even do that? How do you shift your eyes from what seems oh- so-wrong to this moment? I believe it takes spirit infused strength. We can’t really do it on our own.

If the present moment really is the point at which time intersects eternity, I’d just soon not miss it being disgruntled and writing out my complaints to no one in particular. I do want to make a difference, speak out when I can, help tear apart systems that hurt. I just need to do it well-anchored in the gift of the present and connected to a God who is ever-present.

When our family learned of my mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis last June, I was angry and overwhelmed. I remember just sitting down on a bench outside the doctor’s office and crying angry tears. If there was a place to lodge a complaint I would have done it. Instead I just sat there rage-crying. A beautiful stranger of another race joined me on the bench and comforted me, not knowing what was going on. Can you imagine? She was the here and now. She was the present. She was the now moment that intersected eternity. And, strangely, that was enough.

 

 

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The Teacher

Life is clearly a series of transitions. We should be used to that by now. So many I know are in the midst of some achingly abrupt and difficult transitions. The hardest ones seem to the be the ones no one asked for.

I have friends who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. Some are grieving breaking or broken marriages. Some are agonizing over the painful transitions of their children in trying to launch into the real world or who are struggling with addiction, anxiety, learning differences or depression. People I know keep getting difficult diagnoses. I know some right now who are transitioning from this life to the next or sitting near a loved one who is.

I have two sets of friends who are literally going through everything they own in order to move to different countries for a work season. I know some who are in the midst of big job changes, some they didn’t ask for.

My family has been wrapping our hearts around my mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis which became official last June after revealing itself slowly a few years before that. She does not like to call it that. She believes she has normal “old people forgetfulness.” We try sometimes to gently remind her that it is more than that but I don’t suppose it matters.

My mom was an elementary school teacher. She’s still teaching me, even through her own transition. As Alzheimer’s erases her memory, she is forced to stay anchored in the present: the this day, this moment, present. Her disease has made her more attentive, more reflective even. We spend Wednesdays together. One of her favorite topics is for me to tell her about my childhood. I’m a storyteller anyway and not that many people are asking about my childhood these days, so I find it delightful. She hangs on every word. She’ll say, “I remember that!” Or, “I was a good mom, wasn’t I?”

She gets more caught up in the moment we are in. Last week, at a restaurant, she said she loved me and asked if she could kiss me. One kiss led to more all over my face. With the business lunch crowd looking on, she kissed and loved on me as if I was 9 months old. I just let every single kiss soak right in.

She stays in the present. She savors things, gratefully. She loves playing Tetris and beating me, every time. She loves a nice cold glass of Chardonnay. She loves peppermints, iced coffee, ice cream, playing Solitaire and Words with Friends on her Kindle. She will look at pictures of her loved ones all day long. She often names the things she likes, like a Holy litany.

Almost every time we are together, she tells me to look at the sky. “Can you believe how blue it is?” “Look at that tiny cloud over there!” “I’ve never seen the sky look so beautiful, have you?”

I do not romanticize her disease or what is coming for all of us. I know how hard and long and ever changing our journey will be.

But for now, in this transition-no-one-asked-for, she’s still teaching. I think her lesson points can work for anyone going through a hard season.

Stay in today. It is all we really have.

If you love someone, tell them and kiss them all over their face.

Savor little things, gratefully. Name what is good in your life over and over and give thanks.

And, for God’s sake, and yours, look up. Look up.

Milestone Moments

60 years. My parents celebrated 60 years of marriage this weekend. I know, that’s a lot of years of marriage. We chose a low-key celebration at their home. All four of their children were present for the day, which is rare, along with some significant others and a few grandchildren. We played games, ate their favorite barbecue, remembered a few stories together, teased each other and then played more games.  My family is like yours, awash in family dynamics, so we had all of that going, of course.  We had a family meeting to talk about the future which was brave and important and something I would recommend every family do.

Our different resentments, issues and decades long baggage were all present and accounted for. Through the day, we had tears, tension and laughter.  Some of us were hot and would crack a window secretly until other people figured it out and were freezing. We repeated the window thing all day.

We asked my parents to please tell us the secret to marriage. My dad said the secret is just two words, “Yes Ma’am.” I like that. Then my mom chimed in and said the secret was respect. I like that too. She still calls my dad her boyfriend and repeatedly tells us how much she likes him and how cute he is. She made a couple of clear, heartfelt speeches telling us how much she has loved her life, her work, her travels, her children, her grandchildren and great-grandson. Alzheimer’s evidently took the day off for this anniversary milestone, so imagine that.

60 years takes you through so many seasons, so many dynamics, so many homes and jobs and friends. 60 years presents different challenges at different times and my family has weathered a few.

Almost everything these days makes me feel grateful, blessed and amazed. Milestone moments highlight the blessings.

We all looked at their wedding pictures. They still have the cake topper from their wedding cake. Some of us did little photo collages and put the pictures on Facebook or Instagram so others could see our celebration.

My husband’s grandmother always used to remind me that I was rich, rich, rich. On Saturday it felt like she was so right.

Celebrate!

Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it in its fullness.” John 10:10

Oprah said, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

I love it when my favorite people agree on things.

With our new grandson, we are in a season of celebration. Recently, my daughter told me she felt a little weird with everyone giving them presents, meals, showers and parties just for having a baby. I told her, “Life is hard and peopel need reasons to celebrate. Everyone loves celebrating a baby. Let them.”

But it is more than the grandson. It is me being in a new, easier, more restful, peaceful season of life. (On Monday my one chore was to get two hummingbird feeders, fill them and hang them because now I have time to notice them.) It is being five years past breast cancer. It is having three beautiful children who are at the moment happy and engaged with life. It is having a loving attentive husband that I still like after 31 years together. Did I tell you our sweet grand baby was born on our 31st anniversary? No one could have planned that gift.

It is that fall is coming; I am sure of it.  It is last Saturday having two family gatherings at our home and seeing our grandson meet 2 sets of great grandparents, 2 great aunts, aunts, uncles and cousins for the first time. It was my mom’s 80th birthday too. We surprised her with her great-grandson. She screamed, smiled and cried and told me it was the best birthday party she’d ever had. Even Alzheimer’s couldn’t take away that joy. One tiny baby and all those relatives just lining up for a snuggle, a smile.  We even loved it when he cried.

It is tomorrow, the 28th anniversary of when I became a mom. I celebrate the wonder of watching our daughter grow from adorable baby, to funny toddler, to goofy child who made up her own words, to awkward middle school kid, to dramatic high school student, college girl, married woman, speech therapist and now happy, attentive new mommy/wife and professional. The girl who made up all those words is teaching kids how to say them right. My celebration cup seems like it can’t hold one more drop of joy.

There’s still hard stuff happening, of course. A funeral for a dear, longtime colleague, gone too soon; normal worries; aches and pains; life stuff. But laced through it all are sweet gifts: sunrises, sunsets, hummingbirds, babies, soft pillows, good books, friends, coffee, family, milestones… so much to celebrate!

Twists, Turns and Fractures

The last two weeks and two days have been an absolute whirlwind of emotions, transitions and unexpected events for me; one right after the other. 16 days ago, my siblings, dad, nieces and I sat with my mom as a team of medical professionals officially diagnosed my mom with Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve never had expected news hit me so hard. After my family left, I sat in the lobby, taking in that news. As the tears flowed, a very nice stranger/angel comforted me.

A few days after that I preached my last sermon in a church I have served since 1996. That afternoon, as thunder rumbled and rain poured, I packed up my office and moved out. When I left my keys, I realized that I was down to only a car key now. Leaving was my choice. I am acutely aware that my mom needs me; our daughter is expecting her first baby 5 plus hours away; our son is about to be a high school senior. It is a season of family.

I escaped to friend’s empty lake house for a few days. A couple of days into that, my daughter called and said there were some signs the baby would be here earlier than his due date. I packed up my journals, books, magazines and lake wear and headed home. A day after that she called again and said, “Yes, I think it will be soon.”  I packed up again and headed to her home.

Earlier in the week, at the lake, I had decided that part of my new life would be to be someone who paid more attention to sunrises and sunsets.  Once I started noticing them, each one was more  beautiful than the next.  At her home, Sunday night, I stepped off the porch to take a picture of a pink and coral sunset…my step landed in a small hole and I went down; my ankle twisting and turning in a most unfortunate way.

At the ER, the doctor delivered the news; it is fractured.  As I cried, my daughter reassured me “Someday this will be funny.  It will be funny.” More stranger/angels comforted me. For five days I was unable to bear weight on it; rendered helpless where I was supposed to be helping. My 9 months pregnant daughter picking up prescriptions and feeding me.

In between all this, the tragedies in Orlando; the news from Great Britain…all too much to take.

This morning, back home because now it seems baby will not come before his due date about 10 days away, I melted.  I cried for my mom. I grieved my job and my one key. I sobbed over my new state of immobility and helplessness. I worried aloud that the baby would come before I could be helpful.

Later, a specialist looked at the fracture and delivered several pieces of good news: no surgery! I could wear a boot and bear weight! I could travel! I could have stronger pain meds!

What have I learned in the last 16 days? It is okay to grieve the twists, turns and fractures of life as they are unfolding. Sunsets and sunrises are still worth noting. Life can change on a dime. We should all appreciate when our two feet work.  Watch out for small holes. Let stranger/angels comfort you. Let others help you. And, thank God for a baby who is sweet enough to stay right where he is until his Mimosa (that’s my grandma name) can heal a bit.