Last weekend I found myself explaining to my 94-year-old mother that she has reached a new season of her life and that it is ok to depend on us for those matters. The conversation (more of a soliloquy on my part) was precipitated by her request that her pain medication no longer be under her control, but that we dispense it. Over the last couple of month she has become more confused and more forgetful, and she, at some level, recognized that the further change in her thinking could be dangerous.
We brought Mom from her home, where she had lived independently since my dad’s death 24 years ago, to live with us the last week of October, 2019. She had asked me, crying, what she was “going to do.” She had recognized the signs that her mild dementia was worsening. Shortly after she came to live with us, she had an unexplained fever and was mildly delirious. A couple of days afterward she asked me what dying was like. I responded with the question, “Do you think you’re dying?”
“I know I am,” she answered. “I saw the light.”
However, she continued to live life. We had a good Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was notable that we observed her gifting “special” things to individuals. Then COVID came. It stole the the joy of outings and unlimited social contact from her. She was depressed and praying to die. She no longer wanted medical care. We invited hospice to help us care for her. What a blessing that agency and the people that serve are!
We observed her gradually decline, but with less pain, until about a month ago when there was a brief episode of garbled speech and agitation. The downward spiral has been consistent since then. Sleeping more. Eating less. Unable to make the simplest decision. She appears to think she is in some kind of care facility, asking who she should request “supplies” from (toilet paper) and “if there’s a shower in this place.” Yes, there are three, one in her private bath. She is sweetly courteous in all our interactions. Last evening when I invited her to eat her supper, she asked, “How am I going to be able to pay for this?”
I, of course, assured her no payment is needed. She has paid it forward in so many ways. This morning during my quiet time I found a passage in Psalms that I had dated 5/22/2005–“Mom’s 79th birthday.”
….Surely you will reward each person according to what he (she) has done.Psalm 62: 12b (NIV)
I remember at that time recognizing the loving care she had given my dad after his initial heart attack in 1966. She cared for him through two open-heart surgeries and for the thirty years he lived after that initial event, doing without a Medicare supplement herself so he could have one. She was devoted in Bible study and an incredible prayer warrior until her vision and hearing and mind have failed. I have no doubt that when she leaves this earthly plane she will have a reward in heaven.
And, I have a reward now–the opportunity to love on her, even when I think she doesn’t quite know our relationship but just that this is the place where she is cared for. Describing a picture to the hospice nurse the other day, she pointed to me and said, “Cindy’s mother.” Pointing to my daughter, Cindy, she said, “That’s Kathy.”
May God bless you, Mother, as richly as He has blessed us through you.