cultivate (kuhl - tuh - veyt)
v. 1) develop 2) nurture

graft (grahft)
n. 1) transplant 2) bud 3) union

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Mile In My Shoes: Unexpected Blessings

An opportunity for YOU to share your stories, in order that we all might learn to love more deeply.

This submission belongs to this awesome woman and mama.

Mom was standing in her dining room searching for something. Not only had she forgotten where it was, now she couldn't remember what it was. With a sudden realization of what her memory lapses really meant, she looked at me and said, "I am so afraid." Then the fog of dementia crept back into her mind and frustration, suspicion, and anger took over.

At that time what Mom didn't know was that I had already spoken to her doctor about her memory loss. After she forgot how to turn her headlights on at night, I had also written a letter to the Motor Vehicle Department stating that I didn't think that she was a safe driver. When she got the notice saying that she needed to take a driver’s test, I told her that I was concerned and I had written them. She wasn’t really happy, but she was confident that she could pass the test. Ironically, I had to explain the notification and give my confession several times that afternoon, because each time she didn’t remember what I had told her. And, no, she did not pass her driver’s test.

Kathy's mama and my grandma.
A few years before, I had taken Mom to a lawyer so she could update her will and prepare a Power of Attorney, Living Will, and Medical Power of Attorney. Now, documents in hand, I visited that same lawyer and prepared to officially take over caring for her.

Then Mom fell and broke her arm and her dementia accelerated at an incredible pace. She could no longer live alone or safely care for herself. Ultimately we made the difficult decision to place Mom in a nursing care facility that specialized in patients with dementia. That was one of the most difficult decisions that I ever have had to face in my life. Six months later Mom had a series of strokes that took her life.

While going through the tough times of caring for Mom, I found many unexpected blessings.

I learned to pray first - not last. God has an answer for everything, comfort beyond understanding, and eternal strength that will fill you. I know this first hand.

I learned that making preparations ahead of time let me spend more time with Mom and less time getting things in order. While her memory was still good, we got her finances and legal affairs in order. The lawyer also made a copy of all the documents for me as well as for Mom.

We worked to enjoy life to the fullest. My mother had dementia so I did not spend my time correcting her limping memory. I spent my time enjoying her company. In our travels, Mom and I often passed a house with a baby horse.  Every time we passed that house, Mom would point to the baby with great delight and we would stop and watch the horses. Each time she saw that baby horse, it was “the first time” even though she had seen the baby many times - and each time she had an enormous sense of delight. 

I continue to learn to forgive myself for my mistakes. If I had known then what I know now, Mom would not have needed to go into a nursing home. However, I did not know then what I now know and I can’t go back in time and change things. It makes me very sad to know that Mom spent her last few months in a place where she didn’t want to be, but Mom would not want me to be angry with myself. I am learning to extend grace and forgiveness to me.

I chose to view life through her lack of memory.   I went to visit Mom in the nursing home one time and as I walked towards her she said, "Look!  There's my mother!"  She smiled and was obviously delighted to see me.  I had a choice at that point - smile and start conversing with her, or be upset and try to explain to her who I was.  I realized that it didn't matter.  I knew that she was my mother and I knew that my mother was confused.  I smiled back, kissed her, and began visiting with her.  It was more important to me to be with Mom than for her to remember who I was.

During those last months with Mom, I was reminded again and again of what a blessing it is to care for someone you love.  I never thought when I bathed my daughter, changed her diaper, fed her, helped her get dressed - and the myriad of other things that parenting involves - that one day I would do all of those things for my mother. As I cared for Mom, I was reminded that she, also, had done all of those things for me. The blessing to be able to do them for my mother was extraordinary.

The day that she had her last stroke, I spent the night with her. I read to her and sang to her. And I was with her in the morning when she died.

One thing I know: I will never regret one moment I spent caring for my Mom. The unexpected blessings that poured over me during that time have greatly enriched my life.

Live richly - love deeply,

Engagement photo-Classy, right?


  1. Good stuff :) what a blessing for all and to us for sharing!

  2. Awesome, Kathy! Just awesome what God allows in our lives. Your attitude and gracious gift of care, I am sure, was noted by everyone around you and was a beautiful picture of God's love.

    1. Thank you, Linda! It's amazing what God can do with the tough times in our lives. Looking back, I sometimes wonder how I managed - but I know it was only in His strength.

  3. that was so beautiful. It made me cry though, since I believe I will be facing that time in my mother's life too. I don't know if I can be that strong...
    Thank you Kathy & Cynthia, for the post. {:-D

    1. (((hugs))) Thank you, Deb! Believe me when I say - all my strength to do this came from the Lord. He gave me wisdom when I had none, surrounded me with wonderful people who loved me and loved Mom, and comforted me when I called on Him in despair. Out of difficult times in my life, have come some of the greatest blessings from the Lord. Praying for you!

  4. You have such a good attitude about the things you cannot change. I love the fact that you celebrated the time you had left with your mother, and didn't correct her misunderstandings. That would only have lessened her joy, and increased her confusion. My father, who had lung cancer that spread to the brain, had symptoms very similar to dementia before he passed away. When his 81st birthday came around, he didn't remember it was his special day, and told me, "I can't believe even you forgot that my birthday is in December." His birthday was actually in March. I just smiled, and said, "Aren't you lucky, though? You'll get to celebrate twice!"

    1. Thank you. That was a great response to your dad, Judy! Hope he had fun at his "second birthday". By the time we realized the extent of Mom's dementia, nothing could be done to improve her memory so I didn't try to do more than visit and respond to her and to what was going on around us. LOL - at one point I had the entire dialog and all the songs memorized from "Naughty Marietta" - Mom's favorite Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy musical that she loved to watch over and over again.


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