Saturday, September 8, 2012

the art of canning peaches...

 at least in one's mind.

Every August my mother and father would roll into the graveled driveway of our then farm home, ladened with two bushels of vine-ripened peaches. They had stopped by the peach orchards on the way to my house while I was at home making preparations by pulling out the pressure canner, the quart-sized jars and the new lids.

So is this why I have had a strong desire to can peaches this season?  It has been at least a decade since my mother and I would spend the last of our summer days canning peaches. We anticipated the joy of canning peaches together every year. I still hear in my mind's memory the dancing metallic sound of the weight as it jiggled atop of the pressure canner and the sight of the many quart jars of peaches stored on my pantry's shelves.

Even before I opened my eyes to the haze of the morning's light spreading into my bedroom this morning, the very first glimpses that stirred in my consciousness were of my mother's face, she was wearing pink and she was smiling. And I thought of those late summer days we would spend canning peaches once again.

 But now September has arrived and the peach season is past.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

sprouts of grief

"She was no longer wrestling with the grief,
 but could sit down with it as a lasting companion
 and make it a sharer in her thought."
                                                      ~George Eliot

Somewhere in the crevices of my mind I was hoping there was a designated place specifically that would read
"Time to Grieve". One would spend an appropriate time of grieving and then one would consequently  move on. Maybe it was conditioned in me when I was younger upon the death of my grandfather. Grandma wore black for a spell, I understood it to be her time to grieve.

I planted a little clay pot of tiny black basil seeds the day before yesterday.  I water the black rich soil daily knowing those little seed's propensity to sprout quickly and thrive in hot weather is inevitable. Something about those little now hidden seeds created a sprout of grief in me. 

Wrestling with it is to no avail. It is a loosing battle at best. Much better to let it sprout in its own good time in its own way and then tend it.  Better yet, allow it to be a companion that will produce in the end something good. Several women had come up to me since my mother died and with a tone of voice that makes you stop and listen, they basically all say the exact thing,"There's nothing quite like the death of your mother, you will always miss her."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the other side of the road

I have decided  rather than close this space since my role of caregiver has ended, I will instead post on other aspects of being a caregiver to elderly parents. I am looking at it from having traveled and reached the other side and maybe, just maybe, I can provide encouragement to those who are still walking that unique road.

It's certainly not a resignation nor is it a termination due to poor work must follow that  the time and the work has ran its course and has expired.

Among other things I am in the process of dropping the role of caregiver from my status. Funny, it is not as if I have been doing this job all my life, but the past seventeen months of full-time caregiving for my parents has defined me in ways that absolutely nothing else ever could. It has been the "best of times and the worst of times"....but it has marvelously enriched my life like nothing else could. Unless you have had the privilege of having such a call as being a caregiver to an aging parent, it will not make a true connection with you. You may try and may even think you can put yourself in that place and understand all that it involves...but it will fall short of how consuming that role is in your life.  It embodies heart, soul, mind and strength. For some it might have been a gradual change, for others is was instantaneous.

                                                                               November 2010

I had a little of both. Mother's brain-altering disease was gradual... years of climbing hard places alongside her and my primary caregiver father. Then when Daddy got sick and needed constant care,  it became as a speeding train with decisions having to be made quickly.

                                                                              February 2011      

Would I have changed anything, the manner in which I acted or the processes I mentally and emotionally walked through? Yes, most certainly. I am for the most part still processing many things as I get back to my life before the caregiving role became a huge part of my daily life as well as my family's life. What was then considered normal.

I am not sure I like the normal in that sense.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

not like the rest of men

"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, 
or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.

We believe that Jesus died and rose again
 and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him."
I Thessalonisans 4:13-14

We surely grieve, yet He surely comforts.

Monday, April 30, 2012

last rites

She said I did not have to do it.

But I could hardly imagine not doing it.

 The Hospice nurse that showed up at my door early Sunday afternoon was a new face, it being a Sunday and all. She was extremely welcomed because having someone in charge was important at that particular time to all of us.

 It would be the last time I would assist in cleaning my mother's body. The body that had carried me for nine months and  had given birth to me. The body that had grown old and could no longer function. The body that had died.

Now she has a new body. I smiled as I took an afternoon walk with the thought of her walking again, running even...a new body that is no longer sick or riddled with pain. And with a mind that functions perfectly.

(I ran across this several months back when reading about those who had sat with dying parents. It touched a part of my heart and says with a precious simplicity what my heart is feeling  right now.)

Gratitude for a precious relationship,
and sadness that it is over,
all combined with relief that frailty and pain are gone.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

one long week later

Does the road wind uphill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
                                        -Christina Rossetti

They call her a fighter. Sunday she "woke up". But as the day wore on we could tell even though she might have returned to us in some ways, the pain had only intensified, extreme pain became her blanket.

Against every deep desire in me I have begun administering the heavier meds. She was in pain and I knew I had at hand's reach the little drops to give relief. She wears a pain patch on her skin now which has helped greatly unless we go to move her and then the pain is stirred like a pot of hot bubbly oil. I cry along with her. 

Ice chips between her lips, her only intake. Lips that are cracked and peeling even with the continual applications of lip balm. This afternoon she got agitated when I put it to her lips. Her words are so low it is very difficult to understand her for the most part. Sometimes you might understand what she is trying to tell you. I long to know so badly.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

sea glass

 Rose loves to collect sea glass.  She spends hours combing the seashore amongst the shells seeking for the pieces of colored glass that have survived the rough turning of the ocean tides resulting in the metamorphosis of magical fragments of beauty. I like the thought of the glass I am presently walking on being like the smooth washed- up glass of the sea.

Every morning I wake up and before I even open my eyes I pray for grace and wisdom. Life goes on here even though for some it is inevitably shorter and harder, a struggle. The sharp edges of death are being pounded by something my visible eyes can not see. A metamorphosis taking place.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


"I go to prepare a place for you..." John 14:2

She has had no food today. The little sip of water attempted choked her. But even without the pain meds there is no pain that we can sense, though there is a horrible sounding cough which acts up from time to time due to the congestion in her lungs. It causes us to wince. But other than that she rests quietly for the most part.

My sister and her husband came this afternoon from out of town. My husband, Charlotte, and I went out for lunch then on to a few random errands. I believe with all my heart my mother knew my sister was here even though there was no words to let us know that was true.

 I am wearing a path from her room.

We wait.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

a baby spoon

The past two days have displayed a mood of dreariness outside my windows. It is cooler and the sun has taken a vacation behind the clouds.

 It fits perfectly with the mood in the rooms on the inside.

 Mother has not been well. A spell which we believe might be the beginnings of pneumonia. She is not eating. The only amount of nourishment is a tad of applesauce. She  will open her mouth just a little bit which allows me to slip a baby spoon with applesauce containing her medications. In the evening she clamps her lips shut and will not take anything. I know I have backup suppositories, but then I must roll her over and in the evenings she is not feeling her best. I despise her pain.

She will open her eyes when you call her. She speaks little. Today I smiled at her and told her I loved her  and I knew she understood.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

a file to tender

There are those who upon hearing of you providing care for a parent in your home get almost affronted. They do not understand the nature of what is involved with the care of a sick and elderly parent full time and their embarrassment is understandable. The physical care is the first thing they may think of and to them it seems like such work, an adult sized baby needing complete care, changing, cleaning, feeding, turning.

 But truly that is the easy part. I have been "trained" as a CNA, and all it would take is certification to make it official, on the job training. That is the part I can do, it has become automatic, a daily duty of care.

The emotional side affects, however, are gruesome. Recently I realized I had emotionally withdrawn from my mother. It had become too difficult to bear her emotional pain and suffering and I found my heart had developed a huge callus.

Today I prayed the LORD would remove that callus. The journey is her journey and it is mine. Calluses rob the victory in the end. And there is an expected end.

And it will be glorious.

Friday, March 30, 2012

peering into my day

Quiet here does not mean that it is, even though mother has had some sleepy days lately and that certainly makes it quieter from her end. My favorite quote that gives so much understanding to these cheesecloth days is, "The only thing that is predictable about a day is that it is unpredictable." Sorry. I do not know to whom credit  is due for that statement, but I have some kind of consolatory thought it could be someone taking care of a sick loved one.

She eats less and less. A larger woman in her day, I find rolling her is no longer a physically difficult thing for me to do. Always trying to "read" her, because part of caring for a person with dementia is knowing what they are trying to tell you; sign language with no one ever having written the how-to manual. And her vocabulary is diminishing so the fewer words she speaks mean more. And there are those times she comes up with her own words, "thinasisha wataban."

If we did not laugh at some things if would be unbearable. So is that why sometimes I just feel a need to go into a corner and have a good ol' belly laugh?  And is there anything wrong with that?

Christmas 2004

However, pulling out photos from the past bring such joy.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

stumbling and grasping

I got angry at my mother yesterday. Right in front of my girls I became irritated at her relentless irrational behavior and I raised my voice at her. I was ashamed of myself as soon as the words were out of my mouth. But while she would never remember, my girls would never forget. I am not looking for sympathy here or even excuses, just revealing the truth of how weak I truly am and how common it is to my original fallen nature.  But isn't that the bottom line of why I needed Him to rescue me in the first place? He came to the earth incarnate and preceded all the way to the cross, to suffer and to die for me.

The events of this past week have left me in a conundrum. What is next? Sedation? Yesterday she was extremely restless and literally talked all afternoon, all evening and throughout the entire night...or at least she was when I last checked on her sometime around midnight, and as I came down the stairs early this morning I could hear her incessant words, carrying on a conversation with someone. Her mouth was dry and her lips were parched as the aid and I tried to give her morning meds and water.

I did not bring her here to my home to make her happy, those days are long gone. Therefore, her happiness is not the issue. But sometimes I find myself stepping into that mode of thinking, maybe I can control parts of what is happening. When that happens I must stop and readjust my thinking in order to continue on this path that I knew would be beyond my strength to manage from the beginning to the end.

I rejoice to think that all things are at thy disposal
and it delights me to leave them there...
I can of myself do nothing to glorify thy blessed name,
but I can through grace cheerfully surrender soul and body to thee.
                                   Valley of Vision:  A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Friday, March 9, 2012

purposeful silence

The silence here has been purposeful. I didn't know when to stop all the busy activity or how to type the words that convey what my heart is feeling. It was so much easier to just move on, get the next thing done, whatever it might be, keep moving and do not stop.

Knitting helps. It can put me in a different world for a moment, but even that has taken a backstage assignment these last few days.

 Suffering is a fact of life and the tenacity of the flesh to cling to life is unbelievable. But watching the daily suffering of someone you love is emotionally draining. The never knowing what the next day will bring is the only thing that is predictable. Then the hardest of all, the decision not to use the strongest pain medications, in spite of what some might say will provide relief for her. I have increased mother's pain meds, actually her "pills" and other meds are always changing. There is a wonderful apothecary that delivers to my door so there isn't even a need to run out and get the medicine that we are hoping will provide the comfort needed. Singing to her sometimes helps, along with numerous standing-by- the-bedside head rubs. We also pray, quite a bit. Some of my aids have become sweet prayer warriors right alongside me in the care of my mother.

And right now as I as am sitting here in my sun room typing this post I hear, "Mama, come here!"

Better go.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

the power of words and song

Every morning I pick up a turquoise blue journal with the words, "With God Everything Is Possible" etched on the outside front cover. It is a journal I kept this time last year and it records the every day pithiness of my days as well as those last months and days of my Daddy's life. I am purposely each day reliving those times through the words I wrote over a year ago. It might sound peculiar to someone if they have never actually experienced the death of someone close, someone whom you are responsible for as the main caregiver. But for me it brings a certain realm of peace and surety. Not of completion necessarily, just the provision of the amazing surge of His grace and mercy.

My mother's behavior a year ago caused an anguish of soul that was very difficult for me to bear. I got to the point that even eating became difficult. Her illness along with her circumstances of change and medications had caused her to be very abusive with words. Even though it was necessary for her to live in a facility, due to her proximity I was responsible for her care and upon a daily visit I would leave crying with hurt and not knowing what to do. In the meantime I was also managing my home, my children including homeschooling and very occupied with the care of my bedridden father who was living upstairs dying of cancer. Now why am I recording all this now?  Because I want to convey with total abandon and truth that the thanksgiving, joy and peace that flows from Him is real and I am only made the richer from this seemingly hard thing my life. James 1:3 states, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." It is unexplainable to those who do not know the power of His Holy Spirit as the treasure it is living in these earthen vessels. His grace and mercy is as real to me as what I can clearly see with my eyes. It cups me and holds me close. It strengthens, encourages, and never lets go.

Now it is winter again and I am sitting here with my dear mother. No longer are her words abusive. She is at times as sweet as dripping honey thanking me with her upturned eyes looking into mine. There are  times of great confusion and talking incessantly without really communicating anything. Other times, which are getting more frequent, are bouts of hallucinations. These personally are the most difficult for me.

Yesterday, she was scared. Bringing her comfort with my words did not work, so I went to the piano and I played hymns. Those old hymns of the church, the ones I knew she knew and somewhere they must still be back there in her consciousness. I played those familiar tunes and as I sang those ageless words I could sense His peace pouring into me too. I got up from the piano and went to peek in on her. Her eyes were closed, for awhile anyway.

Joy is not gush; joy is not mere jolliness. 
Joy is perfect acquiescence, acceptance, and rest 
in God's will, whatever comes.
~Amy Carmichael~

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Saturday, February 11, 2012

sweet and bitter

Something is different.

On Thursday Mother had a great day. She had her normal nap for the morning then she woke pleasant and remained so throughout the afternoon. The hospice aides showed up and were able to give her a thorough bath and wash her hair. Then the girls and I had fun "playing" beauty parlor rolling her hair with Charlotte's soft colorful rollers. We all laughed and it was a wonderful memory. We applied the hair dryer on low temperature and then combed out her soft gray tresses. She thought we were fixing her up to take her somewhere. She was so disappointed when that was not the case. We all were.

But for the past two days she has not truly slept, a doze at the best.  This is very unusual for my mother. Sleeping comes easy for her and her normal routine involves sleeping throughout the night with several naps during the day, sometimes even sleeping most of the day and only coming awake for a few select hours.

This morning as I checked on her I realized she is getting less and less responsive and she can not form sentences anymore. She garbles and once in a while she says a word that you understand that has nothing to do with anything. "Fuzzy".  "Important". Her eyes will close and open wide looking around.

I have seen similar behavior before in my father during his last days. It is the same but it is different for every person because individual personalities are still present. As I touched her face this morning, she winces thinking I had put something sharp to her head.

I long to crawl on bed beside her.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

grace links

Now that mother is living with me here at my house she is surrounded by loud talking, the barking of a dog, constant conversation, giggles and laughter, the sound of the piano being played, all ages of people either coming in or leaving through the several doors throughout my house. She lives in the midst of school lessons, the girls squabbling with correction given, the voices of song and appreciations bestowed. She hears the familiar and poetic words of the Psalms as they are read to her by someone sitting in an armchair by her bedside.

Can I even begin to explain the depth of unexpected emotion that squeezed me tightly this afternoon?  I was spooning vanilla pudding from a cup into her partially opened mouth when Rose began playing "Amazing Grace" on the piano. I could have wept with the beauty of that simple moment. Many times I feel as if I can only manage baby steps in the fields of His grace, one small step in front of the other. But those times when the waves of His grace come washing over me it leaves me unabashedly soaring deep and wide.

" He will my shield and portion long as life endures".

Sunday, January 29, 2012

the day before

As I walked the halls of the nursing care facility where my mother resides this afternoon I was somewhat stirred. After tomorrow I would not be making a daily trip here, a place that I have been coming to almost every day for the past ten months. Some things won't be missed, but there are people that have crossed my path here that will be sorely missed indeed.

Cute story.
 I was sitting on Mother's bed this afternoon and I asked her would she like something to drink.

 She grimaced her face with such expression and stated, "I haven't drunk in all these years I am not going to start now."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

the fine details

She remembers.

But she is not sure what she remembers. I walk into her room and she will ask me when am I moving or on other days I can tell by her confusion she is trying to ask me something. When I explain to her that she will be coming home to live with me next Monday, we spend the entire visit talking bout it.

"Okay, I am ready to go."

I continue reminding her," Monday, not today, but Monday".


Thursday, January 19, 2012

coming home

"Honor her for all that her hands have done..." Proverbs 31:31

google image

I am like one that has reached the shore after a long swim across rough waters. The shore is uncertain too at times, but finally the time has come to do what has been in my heart to do for a long time.

I am bringing Mother home to my house to care for her.

To honor her...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

as the world turns

It is an up and down kind of world these days with Mother.

I sit on the edge of her bed in order to get eye to eye contact. It satisfies something in both of us, something that can not be divided, a world of us.

How I miss her.

I seek relationships with women my mother's age. I find myself gravitating toward them, not expecting to replace my mother by any means, but just the comfort of women the age of my mother is, well comforting, like a warm cloak on a cold night.

 This realization first captured my attention when Witt was getting married. One morning I was making the table assignments for the rehearsal dinner and out of the blue an avalanche of extreme sadness washed over me. I was flummoxed with this emotion and the force of its strength. I continued with the task at hand, but my mind and emotions were not synchronized. Then it became necessary for me to make a telephone call to Claires' grandmother to check something about the guest list. After I had hung up from my conversation with her it hit me!  Her place was empty, the sharing of this important memorable event with my mother was not possible and her absence was greatly felt.

My world is not any smaller these days, quite the contrary. It just courses up and down, through and out, sideways and curvy as it turns on its course. I never know what a day may bring but I do know where my hope and strength abide.

This photo was actually taken back in early November, it puts real faces to our world.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I was not able to convince anyone else to make the trip to the nursing home with me this afternoon. Being New Years Day there were other things to draw them and the weather was gorgeous causing reasons to be outside tops on the list. But truthfully, I like it when I am visiting my mother with no one else along. These are my best times of all with her.

We had to succumb to a daily pain medication for Mother last Wednesday. She was obviously in pain and telling us quite often. The key is to get her comfortable and pain free, but not sedated. She is no longer accounting for any pain, but she is so very confused and rambles more than what has been normal for her as of late. Another meeting is planned for tomorrow to discuss this new issue with the medical staff. I've discovered I must stay on top of her medications. I have educated myself to a degree and I can help make suggestions and refuse those things I know are not personally fitting for her.

Today I tended to her hands.  Mother eats small amounts but what she does manage to feed herself is always with the use of her hands, if not assisted.  The use of eating utensils has become something outside her box of know how for some time now. Her nails become quite untidy, but she does not like for us to clean them sufficiently. The dry skin on her hands builds up too and it takes some serious scrubbing to get them clean. She does not care for any of these administrations and lets you know it.

But after I had applied the clean smelling lotion, I sat on the side of her bed and with our eyes locked and both concentrating, but in entirely different modes, we attempted a conversation. I listened with everything within me to try to understand what she was trying to tell me. Her nouns and verbs might have different meanings and it's a code you must decipher first. Finally I found a common ground. My name and a *Chatty Cathy* doll I was given one Christmas long ago. I rested my head upon her arm and we laughed together, she remembered my name. It felt so good to the both of us!