We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Many of my friends are experiencing the pain of caring for aging parents. James tells us that pure and undefiled religion is found where widows and orphans are visited in their affliction. Although the form this care takes looks different for each family, it still shines forth as a beautiful display of Christ’s love, mercy, and compassion in a world that idealizes youth and gives little thought to the previous generation.
When Brian and I were married, we both agreed that we would care for my mother if the need ever materialized. We had both watched her live the Gospel day in and day out. When I was a child, she began teaching me about Jesus before I could walk or talk. She prayed for me and taught me to pray. She read the Bible to me until I was old enough to read it myself. My mother was a gift to me and to everyone who met her.
Over the course of time, the day did materialize when my mother could no longer care for herself. It didn’t come the way we would have imagined, but it came all the same. I hope my story is helpful in some small way to those who are struggling. Elder care can prove to be quite challenging, producing emotions we’ve never experienced before and we hope to never experience again. It can be fraught with frustration, angst, guilt, anger and a host of other negative feelings with which we must deal. But its purpose is so much larger than we can imagine.
Writing about a subject that is so personal and painful has not been easy, but I do believe it’s needful. God brought people along side me during those difficult years who had walked the same road as I was walking. They put ballast in my flailing boat that often appeared to be capsizing. My only hesitancy in writing this has been the desire to honor my mother while at the same time sharing enough detail to testify of God’s sufficient grace even when I thought I was losing the battle emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I hope I have found that delicate balance.
We all have hopes, dreams, and aspirations. In the late 1990’s I was living my dreams. My youngest son had recently graduated from college and married a beautiful Christian girl. A few years prior to that Brian had been transferred to Asheville, a city nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains where one is enveloped in beauty and grandeur every waking hour. After postponing some educational goals while raising my children, I now had the opportunity to see them realized—almost. And the cherry on top came as several Christian publications approached me with invitations to write for them, which I gladly accepted. Life was good.
During this same time period, my mother decided to move from Florida to North Carolina to be closer to me. This news surprised me since my mother loved living in sunny South Florida, but I was overjoyed at the thought of having her live nearby. I immediately set about the business of finding a realtor and making the necessary preparations for her trip.
Everyone who knew my mother loved her. She was a godly woman who served others selflessly from a heart full of love and compassion. One of my greatest treasures is the imprint in my mind of my mother studying her Bible late into the night. After completing her nightly routine of cleaning the kitchen and tucking me and my siblings into bed, she would turn on a small reading light and open her Bible. Hours would pass. Then around midnight, sleep would overtake her as her head slowly dropped into the open pages. This scene was iconic of my mother’s life. She loved Jesus and she loved her Bible. The thought of her move excited me, especially knowing that my children, who loved her dearly, would have the joy of her presence in their lives once again.