Burden? A personal story

Alzheimer's Seasons

1 Timothy 5:4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.”

I remember my mother saying she did not want to live long enough to be a burden to her children.  As I age, I can relate to that statement more and more. I am accustomed to being the caregiver and the prospect of a role reversal is very disconcerting.

In the final years of my mother’s life, my wonderful sister stepped up to the plate and welcomed Mom into her home.  Mom was a widow and even though she did not want to give up the independence of living on her own, she understood the necessity of living with my sister.  Mom terribly missed our dad; they were married almost 60 years. He died very sudden and unexpected and part of her went with him.  She was sad and depressed and began spending a lot of time in her bed and just feeling out of sorts with the world.  Mom began to slowly come back to us and, for a while, started to enjoy life again.

In addition to caring for our mother, my sister and brother-in-law owned and operated a very demanding business.  Each weekend they would escape to their beach house for some well deserved rest and relaxation.  They would occasionally offer to take my mom with them, but she would usually want to return to her own home to spend the weekend. My brother and I both work full-time during the week so we would alternate weekends and take turns staying with my mom at her house.

My brother and I treasured these weekends with Mom and appreciated the one on one time with her. We shared many conversations, took her to church, out to eat, and sometimes drove her around the town where she grew up so she could see the changes.  We would often hear the same stories over and over, but it never bothered us at all.  We just smiled to ourselves and kindly sat there as we watched her face shine as she relived her precious memories.

As time continued to pass Mom began to experience days of darkness. On these days her will to live was low, she wanted to be with our dad and she was sad and depressed.  We believe our mom was beginning to suffer from dementia possibly even early stages of Alzheimer and as this disease slowly progressed it became extremely difficult for my sister to manage on a day-to-day basis. It was hard for all of us to watch this wonderful, loving, caring woman we loved so much become this person we were beginning to no longer recognize.  My sister was becoming emotionally and physically drained and I can only imagine the effort it took to take care of my mom.  After a while it became necessary to put her in an assisted living facility where mom lived for several months. Mom was not happy with this decision, but it did provide her with socialization and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.  We were eventually able to move Mom to a private home right down the street from my sister in what turned out to be the final weeks of mom’s life.  We hired a 24/7 caretaker and my sister was able to see mom several times a day.  Mom was comfortable and happy during these final weeks and died peacefully surrounded by her loving family.  After four years she was finally with my dad.

Was Mom a burden to my sister?

My sister is the type of person who would view her service to my mom as a ministry or labor of love.  M. was an example of never allowing the cares of the world to overshadow the things that are most important—serving God through serving people, especially the people in our own families.  I am forever grateful to her for her devotion to our parents as they aged.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but it is my desire I will not live long enough to become a burden or labor of love to anyone.

Exodus 20:12 “Honor thy father and thy mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God is giving you”    

Savoring: Read Aloud

I never realized how much wisdom can be found in children’s literature until I became an elementary school teacher.

Every year for the past ten years or so I read one of my all time favorites Charlotte’s Web out loud to my class. If you have never read this story it is about the remarkable friendship between a spider and a pig.

I love to imitate the voices of the characters as I read this beloved tale. Glancing up from time to time, I marvel at how focused the children are and I often wonder how they are visualizing the scenes and characters in their minds.  Their laughter or giggles at the antics of some of the characters are music to my ears.

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The chapter called “Last Day” always chokes me up during the scene when Charlotte dies and I always have a hard time reading those lines aloud.  The children are taken by surprise and all sit very still and look at me unsure of how to react.  Some smile sweetly, some even walk up to give me hug as I dab the swelling of tears from my eyes.  They offer words of comfort such as “It’s only a book, it really didn’t happen.” “It’s okay to feel sad.” I smile and assure them I am ok and I can see the relief on their faces.  I think it leaves a good impression though, that it is ok and yes, even teachers cry.

Throughout the story the author, E.B. White, offers many delightful and insightful quotes that speak to me now ~ I never noticed when I was a child. I have to share a few of my favorites:

“Children almost always hang onto things tighter than their parents think they will.”

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing…after all, what’s a life anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die…By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

“THE BARN was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell—as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world.”

“Most people believe almost anything they see in print.”

“The night seemed long. Wilbur’s stomach was empty and his mind was full. And when your stomach is empty and your mind is full, it’s always hard to sleep.”

As I read aloud the final lines of this wonderful story: ” She was in a class by herself.  It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.  Charlotte was both.”  I am usually fortunate enough to look up just in time to see the smiles emerge as the children break into the sweet sound of applause.  It thrills my heart when this happens and it gives me hope that they will always remember this sweet story and these most precious days of their lives.

Serving Others

The summer I was 16 my friend Cathy and I were Red Cross volunteer’s at a VA hospital two mornings a week for about four weeks.  Our job was to mostly push patients here or there around in a wheel chair.  Occasionally we would deliver flowers, escort visitors to rooms, or offer to get cups of water or coffee for families waiting on a loved one having surgery.  At the end of our shift, we both felt appreciative for the chance to help and be of service to others.

As I approach retirement I have begun to research opportunities to volunteer. Living near a large city provides an abundance of choices such as assisting at a hospital (both regular and children’s), becoming a foster grandparent to a child, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels (I love to cook and would really enjoy preparing these meals), helping out at an animal shelter and the list goes on. If I decide to get more adventurous there is Global Volunteers.

A young friend told me her parents volunteer at a nearby hospice.  It takes a very special person to volunteer in this environment. What an excellent opportunity to provide emotional and spiritual support to both patients and their loved ones during this truly precious and delicate time of life.

Our school system allows people to become mentors to our students. Filling all of the slots for this volunteer position can be challenging because a lot of people don’t know this particular opportunity is available. The men or women usually come once a week during lunch time. They will sit with the child outside at one of our picnic tables or inside at a reserved section of the lunchroom. Sometimes they come during the day and they will usually go to the library to talk, read a story, or play a game. These children may lack social skills, have private issues, or their home life may not be the most stable environment. Often all these students need is an adult (or anyone) to listen to them and let them know someone cares. Both the mentor and the student look forward to this special time together.

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Becoming a volunteer can be an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others and may also change someone’s life (maybe my own) in the process.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  1 Peter 4:10

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”  Isaiah 6:8 

The Beauty in Differences

The dinner party was fun! There was soft music, much laughter, lively conversation, delicious food, fine wine, and a superb dessert.  When it was over ~ I was pretty worn out.  I could not understand why as I had not over indulged in anything that evening.  Then I had a very interesting discussion with my daughter.

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The beautiful table our hostess set!

My daughter and I have had several discussions about introvert and extrovert behavior. She seems to have a better grasp on this whole topic, but here is my takeaway from our discussions as well as personal observations.

As I reflect back on the couples dinner party, I began to mentally identify the introverts and extroverts.

The extroverts were good at capturing and maintaining the attention they received. They were a delight to be around and I enjoyed their lively and quick witted humor. They were masters at keeping the conversation flowing.  As they shared experiences, I marveled at how many other friends and acquaintances they have and how often they seem to stay connected with these friends.  I can see why this personality type is often viewed as a positive trait by our society.  I am truly thankful for friends like these.

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From the introvert perspective (speaking for myself) I was more comfortable when I was engaged in one on one conversations.  It was an opportunity to express myself better and got to share what I wanted to say.  Otherwise I tend to sit quietly and do what I do best…listen.  I did my fair share of listening that evening but, still had fun laughing, listening, and talking to the other guests.

This introvert enjoys the company of other people, I just need to recharge with some alone time after being with them!

Surprise is often the reaction when people who don’t know me well find out I have said or done something out of introvert character.  I tend to act differently around different people. My comfort level with the situation as well as the people involved are the main reasons. I act differently around family, very close friends, and the children in my classroom than I do in my book club and social situations where there is a large group. Is it possible to possess qualities of introversion and extroversion simultaneously?

I found the following quote and think it is a beautiful way to contrast extroverts and introverts:

Extroverts are bright and colorful rainbows, immediately capturing people’s attention with their beauty and shine.”

“Introverts are the gentle wind in the trees that touches your soul in profound, contemplative and peaceful (though less visible) ways.”

How enjoyable is it to embrace all of the beautiful rainbows and gentle winds that enter life.

 

The Good Shepherd

Someone extremely special to me is going through a very difficult time.  There are people of various ages affected and they all need prayer support.  If you pray, it is with a sincere heart I ask you to say a prayer for this person with me.

The other day I was in church for some quiet prayer time.  I was praying in particular about this situation. I suddenly stopped praying which is very unusal for me. When I have my prayer time, I often talk the whole time.  If I stop, I get distracted or feel awkward like I need to say something.

I find it difficult to just sit and listen for some inner voice to speak to me while I am praying.  I am never sure if it is me talking to myself or if it is God talking to me.

But this time I suddenly stopped praying and just sat there.  I looked at all of the things on the altar and the surrounding walls as if searching for something. My eyes were drawn up to the rose window at the front of the church.  It is a stained glass rose window which shows Jesus surrounded by lambs and He is holding one of the lambs lovingly in His arms.

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It became clear to me that this extremely special person is that lamb.  Emotions flooded my eyes and heart at the realization Jesus is carrying this person through this time.  The other lambs surrounding Jesus are those of us drawing closer to Him and walking this path as well ~ staying close by and ever watchful. The lamb in His arms may not realize it just yet, but if they could just stop wiggling and trying to get down, maybe they could see whose loving arms are around them.

It got me to thinking that so often Jesus is seeking to rescue us out of difficult situations.

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He is constantly looking for us when we become lost or choose the wrong path.

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His hands are always reaching out to us, inviting us to draw near to Him, wanting us to let Him take care of us and nurture our needs.

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1 Chronicles 16:11 Look to the Lord and His strength, seek His face always.

Note:  Images are not my own.  They were taken from free images on Google

Prayer Shawl

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I have never heard of a prayer shawl (aka comfort shawl or peace shawl).

Not too long ago I was submitting a personal prayer request to various churches when I kept seeing the words Prayer Shawl Ministry appear on some of their websites.  My curiosity got the better of me and I decided to investigate.

I am so glad I did!!!

I learned that shawls can be used for ~ someone undergoing medical procedures; as a comfort after a loss or in times of stress; during bereavement; prayer or meditation; nursing a baby; during an illness and recovery…there are endless possibilities!

After some research, I located a church nearby that had one of these ministries and emailed a request to purchase one of their shawls.  I quickly heard back from one of the ladies on the shawl ministry team and was invited to their meeting a few nights later to pick it up.

When I arrived I was shown several different colors, textures and sizes.  I wound up choosing a smaller very soft, silky shawl that had various hues of blue, with some green and a touch of white.  When I held it to my face I knew immediately that was the one by the warm feeling of comfort and peace.

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The ladies asked me to select a charm to attach.  They also told me that each stitch represented the prayers said for the unknown recipent while the shawl was being created. They invited me to pray over the shawl with them before I left for the evening.  I was so moved and very honored.  They would not take one cent for this lovely shawl stating with a smile it is “just what we do”.

One other thing ~ While everyone was arriving for the evening, one of the ladies walked over and gave another lady in their group a large, beautiful pink shawl.  Tears came to her eyes and they gave each other a huge hug.  The lady in this group looked at me and shared that she had just endured two rounds of chemotherapy and was battling breast cancer for the second time.  We talked for a little while and I shared that a friend of mine just found out a week ago she had breast cancer.  This lady immediately insisted I take a smaller knitted scarf she had just recently completed to my friend.

Since I cannot physically be with either recipient of these lovely prayer shawls, I hope in some way they can feel my love, care and support during their personal journeys.

But most of all, I hope they feel safe, warm, and cared for as a result of the prayers to our heavenly Father that surround them as they wrap themselves in these shawls created by the godly women of this ministry.

I also found this bit of information as to how these shawls got started: “In 1998, Janet Severi Bristow and Victoria Galo, two graduates of the 1997 Women’s Leadership Institute at The Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut gave birth to a ministry as a result of their experience in this program of applied Feminist Spirituality under the direction of Professor Miriam Therese Winter, MMS. Compassion and the love of knitting/crocheting have been combined into a prayerful ministry and spiritual practice which reaches out to those in need of comfort and solace, as well as in celebration and joy. Many blessings are prayed into every stitch.”

Lent

When I was a child I never really looked forward to Lent. Unlike Advent, a time of joy and anticipation when candles are lit each week as Christmas Day approaches, Lent would often seem like something to be endured rather than a time of grace and spiritual growth. Childhood memories of giving up candy or sitting through church services with sermons about sacrifice or self-denial come to mind.

As I entered adulthood I would often either breeze through this season without a thought or start out with good intentions only to wind up failing and giving up the journey. This would lead to guilty feelings and my inner spiritual weaknesses glared at me.

lentLent is a 40-day period leading up to Easter that begins on Ash Wednesday. It is a time of self-examination, of penance, and an opportunity to deepen your relationship with God. It is also an opportunity to de-clutter your life in both material and spiritual ways.

Lent is a journey if you chose to take it. This journey is not for the faint hearted. It is difficult and you can get easily discouraged as it can be filled with struggles. It can also be very rewarding and full of victories.

Each year I have come to realize that as a believer, I am not alone on this journey. Deuteronomy 31:8 states “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave or forsake you.”

At the end of Lent there is a Resurrection which leaves us with joy, hope and promise.

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The place of the crucifixion is marked by a Byzantine altar.  Under the altar is a bowl shape with a hole in it which marks where the cross stood. (Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.)

This year, I do not want to endure Lent. I choose to embrace it and allow it to shape me and change me.

My hope for this season of Lent is that whatever I add will remain a part of my daily life even after Lent ends. And through this season of Lent I hope I can focus on deepening my relationship with Jesus and continue to grow in my walk with Him.