Welcome!

This is where I talk about the books I read and the books I write. It's also were I explore, record, and share the life that is my legacy.

It Will Be All Right {A Mama & Me Post}

Me & Mama Last Post

This will be my last Mama & Me post. Those simple words cut. I’ve put it off for over two weeks. Mama went Home on November 29, 2014. I was privileged to be with her. It seemed so right – she was there for my first breath, and I was there for her last.

I know this post will elicit your sympathy for us, and I’m grateful for that. But the point of this post isn’t a plea for comfort. I am trusting and believing in God. My faith isn’t rocky although the road is. I realize my words are raw, and some of you are facing a similar future. And that will make this very difficult for you to read. It’s okay if you stop here.

I promised God and Mama I’d be honest about the journey, and this is me keeping my word. Do tell me your stories, but please – no pep talks or advice okay? I know my pain is not the worst ever suffered, but it’s the worst I’ve ever suffered, so don’t put me down for putting it out here. In the darkness of my sorrow, I am keeping my eyes on the One who is the Light – trusting His will and His Word. I greatly appreciate your prayers and your stories about trusting Him in the middle of your pain.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:2-4 (NIV)

This post is about one of Mama’s rough mornings a couple of months ago when she took a turn for the worse. She was tired and slept on and off – more restless than restful. Each time she woke she was delighted to see me and childlike (transparent and honest) in her surprise. Each time she said, “Oh there are you!” as if she’d just found a great treasure or something valuable she’s misplaced.

I knew she was in pain, but she resisted help. She told me at one point, “I need to feel the pain.” Then she tenderly reached out for my hand because she could see the grief in my soul.

In a very clear moment that morning she said, “I hate what’s happening to my brain.”

I responded, “I hate it too, Mama. And I hate your pain.”

She looked at me quizzically and said, “What pain?”

Either the pain was gone or she didn’t remember that I knew about it. Most likely, it was the dementia. Truly, I hated the dementia, but never Mama. And that day, she was with me – alive, holding my hand, and even though I knew we were approaching the end of her life, I had her. Thoughts beyond that were too heavy to bear.

She watched me closely that day and told me to get back to work. As my fingers worked my laptop keyboard, I stole glances at her. She watched me in that way she always did- as if seeing someone beautiful and to her, I was.

Before she nodded off again, she asked, “What are you doing?”

“Writing,” I said.

She smiled. “Of course you are.”

I stored this conversation and many others in my heart because I knew that one day, when God called her Home, they would end, and I’d still need them.

We put off some things that day. I looked at her fingernails, and she said, “Oh please, not today.” She wasn’t in the mood for a manicure. Instead, we held hands and listened to Elvis for a while because it was the desire of her heart. And it was fun to give her what she wanted.

Later, we read Psalm 122, and she said, “That’s a good one.” I said to God, Oh Lord, she is right. Our help comes from You.

While she slept, I watched her wondering, what God’s plan in all of this was. Surely He has one. I asked Him to show me. Because I needed there to be value in this journey; in the story of a woman who rarely said I can’t and whose life was now full of them.

I know God gave her a number of days before she was created in her mother’s womb. I knew He wouldn’t take her a second too soon or too late based on His plan. I believe that with all my heart. But still, even believing, this hurts. The void where she was is huge.

On that fallish day, I wrestled with my desire for her to stay even as I knew she was suffering mentally and physically. I told God I trusted Him, and when my soul rebelled the truth coming at us, I begged Him to help me trust Him more. On my own, letting her go to Him made me want to stomp my foot and demand a healing. Because He could have, and I knew it. But He didn’t. And there has to be a more to it right? A reason that will glorify Him and give those of us left behind a better understanding – an answer to our whys.

As I battled these things out that day, Mama watched me. I could feel the gentle, weight of her eyes. After what seemed like a long time, she said, “Joy, it will be all right.”

It is one of the last times she called me by my name. The one she gave me. Her mother’s name and now mine. I had no idea how much names mattered until I stopped hearing her say mine.

It is also the last time she comforted me. And I knew she wasn’t talking about the dementia – she meant it was going to be all right forever.

Visiting her grave the other day, I knew Mama was right – she usually was. About almost everything. God. Boys. Writing. Love. Generosity. And the rest. Even this and especially this.

The wind blew cold and harsh, but the truth in my heart was warm and tender. For her, it is all right. She is with God and is fully healed.

It is hard, lonely, and terribly sad on earth without her. To be honest, I had no idea how much it would hurt – the pain still takes my breath away, and I think it always will. Grieving is like that. It will get easier to handle, but it will hurt  until I see Jesus and her where they are.

In the second it took for her to leave here for there, Mama was more than all right.

And there is great value in her life – including the dementia. I have no idea what it is, but that’s not my job. That’s completely up to God. He will use it all for His glory.

Mama loved Romans 8:28 passionately. To her, it was the truth spoken to us by the One who is Truth. For me, in these dark days of sorrow, I cling to these verses like a child who has lost her mother, but not her way. I believe this with all my heart, mind, and soul: Because He is God and she is with Him and although the pain is intense, it really is going to be all right. Forever.

Romans 8: 28, 37-39 (ESV – italics added by me)

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Until Next Time,

Joy

Temporary Treasures {a Legacy Post}

childhood stuff 2

There are things in our home and storeroom that are very dear to my heart. I call them treasures knowing most of them won’t matter far beyond my life.

They are my temporary treasures.

Already some have had to be tossed because they were ruined by age, rust, and even some mildew although I’ve been careful with them.

It’s just the way things this side of heaven are.

In one box is my favorite doll, Chatty Cathy. Tucked in beside her is my mom’s doll. They are wrapped in my baby blankets, 2 buntings made for my by great-grandmother, and my fancy baby dresses.

All together I have 12 plastic drawers and 3 cardboard boxes. What delights me about these old things are the memories of the people attached to them. Fifty-seven years of things not worth anything to others, but of tender earthly value to me.

20141025_114033

Every now and then (once a year or so) I bring them one by one out to my craft table. I take a deep breath and take out each piece. The one requirement is a full box of tissues because they are going to give my heart a great big work over.

This box contains memories from school. It’s amazing what fits in a small cardboard box. Toys. Books. 8-tracks. A View Master. And more. So much more. Placed there by my mama. Carefully as she remembered. When she still could.

20141025_114021

 

And a book we read as adults (Mama & Me) that we talked about for years to come, and that I tucked under the cardboard flaps.

20141025_112720

It’s the cards and letters that grab me by the heart and don’t let go. Words written on the pages just for me. It is here those who wrote shared their faith, dreams, wisdom, and sorrows. It’s where they encouraged me and left inky fingerprints of their love for me.

Like this one. A card from my mom who now has dementia. Words she can no longer say, but that mattered so much when she wrote them and matter even more today. Because I need them. Her encouragement and blessing are tenderly written here. It’s not likely this one will last to the next generation – I will probably wear it out. It’s that kind of valuable.

20141023_104330

As I put my keepsakes back, I am overcome by a wonderful sense of gratitude. (And yes, more tears.) The kind that overflows from these temporary treasures into me, and then through me into the lives of others. Legacy lessons have that kind of power.

Standing there, I am undone and redone; amazed by they love/loved me. And by how deeply some of them love/loved Jesus.

In the remembering, the desire to share Jesus is reignited in my heart one quiet testimony at a time. My temporary treasures lead me there every time. To the remembering place where I smile, weep, and am again lead closer to God.

These things will one day rot and be thrown away. But while they exist, He will use them to touch my heart and teach me old and new things.

Until Next Time,

Joy

A New Neighborhood {a Mama & Me Post}


Hauschuhe im Pflegeheim

Today is Mama’s second day in the nursing home. The dementia, another stroke, increased weakness, and the loss of her ability to communicate left Daddy with only this option. She needs 24/7 skilled nursing care.

Yesterday, I walked the halls listening, watching and smelling. I sat by her bed while she slept realizing I was in Mama’s room, and it wasn’t at home with Dad. It was here. I wanted to bawl, throw-up, and runaway. I wasn’t being spoiled or selfish, but I was terribly sad and afraid…for her, for Dad, for our whole family.

All day, family and friends were there for me. One, whose Dad lives in the same place, stopped by to give me a hug, and her  mother loved on me. My brother’s wife sent I love you’s, and so did a couple of the kids we love. A sister-friend sent a Bible verse to me on Facebook at just the right moment. And many prayed. My husband let me cry and talk. Then he said what I needed to hear and held me when he knew I wanted him to. He’s smart that way.

In the still of the night, even as I wept, I felt the comfort others so generously gave. And I received it with a grateful heart. Before I slept, I asked God to help me see Mama’s circumstance with greater clarity. And to remove the fear and even the guilt I felt for having a life beyond hers. A life I enjoy.

This morning I had to turn the news off – the struggle in Ferguson was too much for my aching heart to bear.

I worked for a while then went to visit Mama. On my way to her room, several nurses, a couple of PCAs, and some of the cleaning staff greeted me. They introduced themselves, told me they’d met Mama, and that they thought she was beautiful, and told me to ask them if any of us needed anything.

In her room, she rested and again I listened to the many sounds of a nursing home. For a moment, I felt panic rising in my soul. Not all of them were pleasant sounds. This isn’t where we wanted to be. It wasn’t part of our hoped for plan. Then it happened. The thought I needed came, and I embraced it.

I was sitting in Mama’s new neighborhood. That choking fear I’d been sure was going to spill out in the form of tears, subsided. My breath came easier, and I waited. Because there was more to the thought than that.  There always is.

And it was about neighborhoods. In some, there is very little noise beyond the predictable lawnmower now and then. Others the rumble of Harley’s and loud trucks can fill the air and the lawn mowers sound like the motorcycles. There are those where the voices of children call out in play and the engines of school buses. In ours, we hear the distant bellows of cows and the occasional farm vehicle on the gravel road. In some there is the sound of gun shots, rioting, and sirens.

It was the last part that pierced my heart, but not for the reasons you might think.

All the people who greeted me in the hallways were a mix of diversity. From the palest white, to the deepest ebony. Slavic, Asian, Mexican, and other accents blended in with those of us who use “ufda” on a regular basis. I soaked in their conversations, laughter, and the way they talked to the residents – with respect and dignity – and in the place of fear, a sweet almost delicious gratitude rose up in me. It was sort of like being handed a bowl of ice cream I wasn’t expecting.

Hot Fudge Sundae On The Table

Daddy came back, and I told him I’d be back tomorrow for a couple of hours. He said gently, “We can’t be here all the time, and that’s okay.”

He’s right, and his words comforted me. Because Mama has moved into a new neighborhood, and while it’s no more perfect than any other, it’s hers and ours when we’re there. And if Daddy trusts them to care for her, I can too.

Before I left, he started playing her favorite music and the voice of Elvis Presley singing, “there will be peace in the valley for me. . .” were like the whipping cream on a hot fudge sundae.

On my way out, I thanked every person I met for what they were doing. They all smiled. My goodness, there sure are a lot of beautiful smiles out there! These were the cherries on top of the calorie-free and completely diabetic safe treat God gave me today.

In my car on the way back to the office I realized three things:

  • I’m looking forward to going back for a little while tomorrow. To see Mama and her new caregivers – to spend time in her neighborhood.
  • And this part of my life is part of my legacy and it’s part of hers.
  • I’m going to have emotions that swing because even at it’s best, this is hard. But there is goodness and sweetness and  peace. Not the peace easily understood, but the peace that comes from faith in God – the One who loves Mama more than I can imagine.

Until Next Time,

Joy

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6 & 7

 

Graphics purchased from Fotolia © Peter Atkins – Fotolia.com and © Edie Layland – Fotolia.com

Time-out! {For Me}

When I was little, I was a frequent visitor in a certain corner in our home. Seated in a small chair, my mom told me to sit quietly, and think about whatever misdeed I’d done or tantrum I’d thrown.

Sitting there and reflecting, I had a secret. Once my gulping tears stopped, and my cheeks dried, I sort of like time-outs.

They were great for rethinking my actions, but also for daydreaming and relaxing. Other than letting my mind wander, nothing else was expected of me. There was a tremendous relief because my pent-up emotions had been unleashed.

As a teenager, being sent to my room had a similar effect on me. Being grounded from my friends or my favorite music, or the mall was hard and a shock to my social-system and could cause more tears, and perhaps I stomped up the stairs. Quite dramatically. But I eventually found inner quiet snuggled on my bed or in my chair grandpa’s rocking chair (inherited after his death) reconsidering my recent behavior, choices, attitude, or comments.

And again, daydreaming. About being a wife. A mom. A writer.

Looking back, I realize that even as a very young child I could feel it coming on; that overwhelmed, prickly, restless, agitated, ornery, angry, I’m going to pitch a fit feeling.  The following emotional explosion was terrible and a tremendous relief, similar to a summer storm that pelts down on us and leaves freshness in its wake.

These days at the first sign I know it’s in my best interest, and everyone else who has contact with me, if I schedule a personal time-out. Immediately. Or I’m quickly a tangled, snarly, brittle, mess of emotions.

Snarly Mess

Here are my symptoms:

  • I’m easily annoyed. Little things my husband (or anyone else in my life) does bug me. These are things not even on my regular radar. On a good day, if I notice them, I might even think they’re cute. Not so much on these days.
  • Soon, I’m irritated. I sigh. A lot. Or roll my eyes. I can feel my eyebrows sort of freeze into a furrowed position. My stomach is unsettled, and that ticked-off feeling takes over.
  • Next, I’m tense. My jaws clench and a headache is on its way. My shoulders are getting into the act. The volume and intensity of my words increases.
  • Finally, I’m stressed out. The headache has arrived, and it’s about to get worse. A this point, I cry, pace, and my jaws now hurt. There’s pain between my shoulder blades and my right eye twitches. Panic is sometimes involved. I’m undone, and it’s bad.

My solution:

A time-out!

Like most of the women I know, life is busy. Carving out me-time seems impossible and even a little selfish.  My daily list is full of things I have to or need to do. I have expectations (usually my own) to live up to. My Google calendar is a rainbow of responsibilities with very little space in between.

I want and sometimes need more white space in my life!

It’s taken me years to realize that calling a personal time-out is one of the best things I can do for those I love, for my work, and for myself.

What does a time-out look like?

My time-outs take very little effort and cost almost nothing.

  • Sometimes I send myself to my bedroom. I’ve created a small oasis in one corner I can enjoy any time, but on these days, it’s my haven.
  • Other times, it’s a walk with my dogs, Sophie and Tucker. Or a ride on our John Deere Gator with them riding shot-gun, coffee in my to-go mug, and my camera.
  • When it’s a work day, it might be ten minutes of yoga in the ladies room. I am not in great shape, but have four favorite moves I can do in the handicap stall of most restrooms. Yes, they can see my feet under the door, but this effort on my part is also in everyone’s best interest, so it doesn’t matter!
  • At the office, I have been known to close the door, drink some water or a cup of coffee slowly, put my head down on my desk, breathe, and rest.
  • Long or short walks work, and in the building where I work. I call them “hall-walks.” There are long hallways that are often empty except for me. Because I also listen to music on these time-outs, I’ve been known to sing. Out loud. Not well. So, I tend to save this option for early or late in the day.
  • If I’m away from home, I go to my car. I don’t drive unless I have to. It can be the perfect time-out corner. I can rest my head on the steering wheel, cry, whisper loudly, and listen to music if that’s helpful.

There are three parts to my plan I consider essential:

  1. Early recognition. If I can catch myself in the annoyed stage, I rarely advance to the others.
  2. Prayer in a solitary place. I know where I’m headed, and it’s certainly no surprise to God, and I pray without boundaries. He gets the worst of me so I can give Him the best of me when this passes. To keep myself on track, I sometimes journal my prayers.

Jesus is my example for this. In Matthew 6:6a he says, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.”

  1. One day I asked myself, “What if I treated myself the way I treat others? What if I forgave myself quickly, moved on, and let peace and grace replace the chaos? What if I forgave myself the way I forgave them? Self-forgiveness is essential.

In Mark 12: 30 & 31 Jesus tells us, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

Notice He says, “as yourself.” Offering myself grace empowers me to do the same to others.

Here’s why I say that with such confidence. We’re told in 1 John 1:9, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

The response from God is immediate. I confess; He forgives, and as far as He is concerned, the sin I took to Him is gone. So are its three amigos: guilt, shame, and regret.

How long does a time-out take?

It depends on what’s happened, how long I’ve waited, what’s still on my agenda, how many others I’ve hurt along the way, and where I’m at; the office, home, in the car, or in a public place.

The results of a time-out?

Peace. It’s like God gently pours a bucket of cool, fresh water on my injured, worn, sad, angry, and/or swollen soul.

drop

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT

If I go sooner than later, I don’t do as much damage, and that’s good. Then there’s the fact that the relief is fantastic, but it’s much bigger than that. After some quality corner-time, I can live out the Golden Rule joyfully without a shred of spiritual fakery. You know what I mean. Here’s an example: I can walk into church and be asked, “How are you?” and answer, “Fine, thanks, how are you?” and mean it, even when life is hard or worse. No snarky internal voice is saying, “If you only knew! But then you don’t really care to know do you?” I’m free from that voice and its harping words, because God cares and He met in that place and we’re good and now I can ‘do to others whatever I would like them to do to me. (Matthew 7:12a).

After a time-out, life isn’t perfect, but my heart is less tangled.

Tangled Heart

When you feel a melt-down on its way, what do you do to release it and live in freedom again?

Until Next Time,

Joy

Night Birds – Just Being Me

DeKok Pond

Jon and I bought our first house exactly one month before we were married. I moved in first so I could nest. I loved nesting!

Our little home was in Rochester, and that worked well for me. But Jon couldn’t get the country out of his system. Although we built another home in town, and moved in a year or so later, that was Jon building up equity and biding his time.

On weekends, we drove gravel roads looking at places for sale. It was fun, but it seemed like a faraway dream.

One day Jon said he wanted me to join him and a contractor to look at some lots. That sounded more serious, and a little scary. How would this city girl do in the country?

We met the guy, drove around the lots and stopped at the one the guy thought was the least attractive, except for the pond. We stood by the little body of water where cattails grew and the men talked about wells, septic tanks, and prices.

I focused on the sounds around me. It was like an evening choir! In my excitement I said to the men, “Listen to the night birds!”

DeKok Pond Cattails 2

In the pre-dusk I could see both of them clearly. Their eyebrows raised and although they both smiled, it was obvious they were holding back chuckles.

Not content with their response I said, “Really! Have you ever heard them sing so loud?” I was delighted, and suddenly in love with the idea of living in the country beside a pond where I could listen to these mysterious birds every night.

“What kind of birds are they?” I asked determined to know as much as I could about my surroundings.

The contractor looked at Jon (in that way that says, “This is all yours, man!”) who quietly said, “Honey, they are frogs, crickets, and toads.”

Hopeful the gray of the evening would cover my red cheeks, but not discouraged I said, “Wow! They don’t sound quite like this in town.”

I’d never been so close to them, and couldn’t get enough.

We didn’t buy that piece of land, and the first one we did buy didn’t have a pond, but even there, oh my how those country bugs and amphibians could sing!

After a few years, we moved back to town, thinking it was time, but it wasn’t. I liked our house, we had great neighbors, it was more convenient, but I was lonely for the solitude, and I was homesick for the wildlife choir. In our lovely neighborhood, their song was drowned out by cars and motorcycles – even at night.

Soon, it was me asking for drives on gravel roads in search of a country place. I’d fallen in love with space between homes, where one can pray or sing or cry or plan novels outside, out loud and not be heard.

One day after work, Jon mentioned he’d found some land for sale and asked if I’d like to see it. We drove up a gently curved driveway and parked. The house needed a lot of work, the only out-building was (and is) a worn-out dirt-floor shed with big holes where mice hid and feral cats hunted. Even in the slightly overwhelming structural needs, there was just something about this place that called to my heart. I asked Jon when we could see the inside of the house. He said he’d call a realtor soon. We decided to stay awhile longer in the quiet.

Then it happened.

They started to sing from somewhere deep in the woods. First it was just a few then the air seemed to explode with sound. Night birds! Lots of them. More than we’d ever heard before.

We smiled at each other in the now soft gray of the approaching evening as the sound swelled around us. It felt like a welcome home. We came back the next day and the one after that. Then, we came again with our realtor and our great-niece Grace. We walked among the apple trees and in the fields, and finally down the hill to the country choir loft.

We were hooked.

The pond that is more a bog is in a valley at the bottom of our woods (quite a ways from the house). During three seasons of days it’s where red-winged blackbirds build neighborhoods in the cattails, and raise their young, and where baby wood ducks follow their mother closely leaving paths in the soft green pond scum. And where dragonflies, bees, and butterflies dance, bumble, and flutter. And later, it’s where there crickets, toads, and frogs sing. In time, from across the way, the coyote, fox, and owl join in.

DeKok Pond Cattails

Some nights they’re so loud, we can’t hear each other talking and head back up the hill to listen from a distance. We open the windows and listen, at home in our hearts when the “night birds” sing.

Soon, before the snow flies, I’ll go to the pond and say a quiet seasonal good bye to this lovely place. It’s a tricky walk down there for me, and winter makes it more difficult. I’ll miss the lovely mess it is, and the songs of the creatures that call it home.

On the first day of March or April when the path is dry enough for a Gator ride down, I’ll go back. And again I’ll be delighted by the trills and croaks and bug sounds that announce the advent of warmer days, blossoms, and the rustle of old cattails and bullrushes.  I’ll shut the Gator off and remember the first time I heard the night birds. I’ll smile at the heavens, enjoy a peanut butter sandwich a hot cup of coffee, and be grateful for my front-row seat in this wild sanctuary of sorts. Because God created them and put them here. And when I’m there, it feels personal. As if He created them and put them there for me. And perhaps, He did.

DeKok Pond Bullrushes

Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:20 & 21 (NLT)

Until Next Time,

Joy

I Can & She Can’t {Mama & Me)

I Can & She Can't Fall 2014

Riding the gator, I stopped to look at fall whispering its way in over the almost-ready-to-harvest soybean field. And I remember what Mama can’t.

Last year was a grieving fall. The leaves changed, and so did we – Mama and me. We’d stopped denying the onslaught of the dementia months before, but it felt more real when our favorite time of the year arrived. She no longer enjoyed it the way she had. Fall was just another time to be.

So, I didn’t decorate our home the way I had in the past. Because we both thought of September through November as the best time of  year, we decorated as much (or more!) then we did at Christmas. Instead, I decided to leave my pretties in their boxes. It hurt too much not to share it with her. But grief is often a two-sided emotion; it also hurt not to celebrate the loveliness of the season. I hesitated until it was time to put out Christmas decorations, and went through the same ping-pong game with my heart. I stopped doing most of our  Mama & Me things.

I kept hearing a question in my heart that caused me to shudder: if I enjoy fall the way we used to, am I betraying her?

The obvious answer is, of course not, but sometimes the journey to cherishing the past and allowing joy in our present takes some time. And even though I knew it was okay, I let grief-driven fear, and lie-driven guilt stop me.

This year, in a determined desire to live free, I decorated for fall. I’m late – we used to start in August, but it happened a day or so ago. Although I’m using many of the same decorations, these days I prefer less. A little something over here and another over there are not only enough – they are exactly right. And every one of them has a memory attached – a moment we shared when Mama was fully herself.

As I putzed and decided where to put each pumpkin, acorn, candle, placemat, or dish, the tears flowed because I wish she could come over and celebrate fall with a piece of homemade whole wheat apple cake and coffee again, but she can’t, and while it’s all so important to me, it no longer matters to her.

acorn

fall dish

So, I pray and cry and thank God for the many years we reveled in the colors, arrangements, smells, and flavors of fall. For oodles of trips to Old America (an older version of Hobby Lobby), The Crafty Mouse, Michael’s, apple orchards, and lunch at our favorite Amish restaurant/bakery. Daddy drove on our apple day because baked chicken, mashed potatoes with real chicken gravy, green beans, and pie sitting in a wooden booth was the perfect date for three.

We grew gourds, little pumpkins, and Indian Corn for our tables and other nooks and crannies. I didn’t do that this year, but there are other ways to enjoy corn.

Corn Pitcher

As I write this, I’m with her. It’s a gray day, and she’s snoozing. She woke up briefly and asked me why I was smiling.  I said, “I’m remembering our good old days.” She said before nodding off again, “That’s nice.”

And it is nice. So very nice. Later today, I’ll go home and enjoy my fall feeling home for me and Jon and because it’s fun when the house smells like apple potpourri in one room and pumpkin spice in another. And I do love my funky metal pumpkins.

funky pumpkin

This part of our journey isn’t just about the pretties, it’s about honoring her legacy to me. She taught me to celebrate the times of my life with my heart wide open. Especially fall. So I will. Because it’s our season.

For every season

Sometimes when someone you love has dementia, you have to trust what you knew about them before to know what they’d want you to do now. And in the best days of our past, if Mama had known I was going to struggle with this, and she’d have said, “Don’t let this or anything else stop you from doing what you love!”

I want to tell her that her words are still guiding me, but today is a tired day, and I’ll let her rest. Instead, I’ll let go of the guilt, take a few deep prayer-filled breathes, and accept the stark and crushing truth that I can and she can’t and she never will again. And I’ll trust Him to help me because even in my determination, dementia hurts.

This year it’s a grateful, grieving fall. Maybe I’m getting better at it, but it’s more likely that God is infusing my heart with His merciful comfort. That’s what He does for grown women who sometimes feel like lost little girls because their hearts are breaking and full of joy at the same time. I still have Mama, and our memories and I’m grateful. Even in the moments when she looks at me as if I’m a stranger. Because I remember her and for now, that’s enough for Mama & Me.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  

2 Corinthians 1:3 (NLT)