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“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:17-19

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Remembering. . .

I've wrestled with my thoughts for over three weeks, wanting to publish a special post dedicated to my mom, but struggling over exactly what I wanted to say. Last month, I traveled to Pennsylvania to visit my sister and her family, and to see my mother--one last time.

For the past three years, every time I visit, I've wondered if Mom would remember who I am. Alzheimer's is an insidious disease--stealing tiny pieces of a loved one a little bit at a time. When our son was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, we decided not to tell Mom, because it would have been too difficult for her to remember who Jonathan was. So every time I visited, I stepped into her room at the nursing facility with a bit of trepidation, wondering if this would be the visit when she wouldn't know me. Early in June, the visit that I dreaded happened. No recognition lit her eyes. The disease had robbed her of her speech. A veil seemed to be drawn between us.

My sisters and I spent our visits with Mom talking about "the old days". "Mom, remember the time we went to the beach and we buried Daddy in the sand?" "Remember the time Pam told me to drink vanilla extract because it smelled good?" "Mom, remember the time you tried to fry eggs on the grill and they all slid off?" "Remember the snow coaster slide Daddy built for us, and you rode down the slide with the dog in your lap?" Laughter and tears punctuated our time together. Memory after memory carressed my heart as I shared them with the woman who helped make them. As I knelt by her wheelchair, I started to remember some precious times of my own.

My mother was never idle. When there was work to be done, she plunged into each task with energy. Her smile was given readily. She loved to laugh. Endless patience defined her as she gently guided me through the process of learning to be woman. But I think most of all, I remember my mother's hands--work-worn, gnarled by time, and twisted by arthritis, her hands held mine when I was afraid, they hugged me to celebrate joyous events, held me to soothe away my tears, and applauded for me when she felt I'd accomplished something significant. My mother's hands, by example, taught me how to pray. Those memories are forever etched into my soul. The sweet times we once enjoyed can never be lost--not even to Alzheimer's. All that we love deeply becomes a part of who we are.

Three weeks ago, as I knelt beside her, my mother's fingers wrapped around mine and wouldn't let me go. Did she know who I was? Did she know I was there? I couldn't be sure. But on my last day there, before I left, Mom grasped my hand and pulled my fingers up to her lips. Was she trying to say goodbye? Did she know it was the last time we see each other this side of heaven?

Almost two weeks ago, June 25th, my mother took her last breath and stepped into glory. Oh, how I wish I could have peeked into heaven to witness the reunion with people she loved: my father, her parents and grandparents, her sister, my son.

The tears I've shed haven't been ones of sorrow. Yes, I miss my mother, but I've been missing her--the person she was, the person we've been in the process of losing--for more than five years. Our prayers for my mother were answered exactly as we prayed them. God reached down and gently, sweetly took Mom home. My tears were a demonstration of gratitude, relief, and joy. I'll see her again soon. And the next time I see her, she'll know who I am.

I love you, Mom.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.


Margie Vawter said...

Oh, Connie. What a sweet tribute to your mother. I'm so glad we were able to be with you when you got the news of your mother's homegoing. What precious memories you have. And what wonderful joys and reunions await us. Love you, my sweet friend!!

Rose McCauley said...

Dear Connie, I loved your tribute to your mom, and as I read how you described her in her younger years, I thought of how much you mirror her love and laughter, her energy and smile and patience! I know she is happy with the Lord and all the loved ones who have gone before. I think she is loving and smiling at them as well as down on you.