Last month, my mother took a tumble and faceplanted on the floor, breaking her nose and her kneecap. A cluster of events converged to create the perfect brain-storm and, by day three in the hospital, she had digressed from slight confusion to full-blown psychosis. My gentle and compliant mother was so combative, she had to be sedated.
Her journey back to clarity is painfully slow. While we are hopeful, we’re not sure if she will fully return to her pre-fall mental status. I know this is a day-by-day journey, and only time will tell. But I confess, I am impatiently waiting for time to tell. I am a yank-the-bandaid-off-quickly girl; just tell me already and let me begin to deal with it. Yet, that is not the way the Lord always chooses to unfold His plan. He works at His perfect pace and in His perfect time. Sometimes the bandaid is ripped off; other times it is gently and slowly pulled away to reveal His purpose. And, as always, I am discovering there are lessons for me to learn, and insights to glean, in this slow-moving season.
On the day when Mom’s psychosis was at its worst, she spewed hateful words, tried to gouge my arms with her fingernails, and, repeatedly swung wildly trying to hit me. Even though I knew it “wasn’t her,” I was traumatized. While she calmed as the sedation took effect, my anxiety peaked as I sat alone in the dark, cold hospital room. Her angrily spoken words had piereced my heart. Tears spilled unchecked down my face. I had always heard the idiom that “when we’re squeezed, what is inside seeps out.” Was there truth to Mom’s hurtful words? Was she speaking feelings that she had been harboring deep inside and never given the freedom to speak? Was that how she really felt about me?
I stood and stepped closer to the bedside. I was startled to see, that while she had quieted, her eyes were wide open, as if she was horrifed at whatever her brain was imagining. I laid my hands on her and prayed God’s peace and presence over her. I quoted Scripture, and in the attempts to comfort her, discovered I comforted myself. At that moment, I knew I needed to memorize more Scripture.
Lesson learned: I need to be armed, locked and loaded with God’s word, always ready to comfort the weary and, when necessary, engage in battle.
When I walked back into her hospital room the next morning, I was fully prepared to deal with more of her delirium. Thankfully, while she was still extrememly confused, she was pleasant. As the day progressed, she became more aware and focused; her sense of humor returned and she was appropriately chatty. Relieved, I exhaled…but I exhaled too soon. By the next morning, while not psychotic, she had regressed. And such began a pattern: somewhat confused, extremely confused, a day of clarity, and repeat. I felt as if I was on a runaway emotional rollercoaster.
As I have sat at her bedside visiting these past few weeks, countless thoughts have whirled in my brain. The big what-if questions are quick to wage war in my mind: What if she doesn’t get better? What if this is her new normal? What if she requires a fulltime caregiver? What if this is the beginning of the end? What if I can’t fix it?
Then I remembered words I had recently written: I can’t fix it, but God can. He will fix it according to His perfect will, in His time, for His purpose and for our good. I don’t know what the future holds, but God does. God will give grace and strength in all situations.
Lesson learned: I was the one who climbed onboard the emotional rollercoaster and gave doubt and fear permission to take me for a ride; now I need to disembark, find a quiet place and be still and know that God is God and He has this.
For the past few years, I have sensed the Lord was leading me to a distant pasture. Gradually, but noticeably, He began to disconnect me from unhealthy dependence on others. I first noticed it in the workplace, when one-by-one, my trusted sisters-in-the-faith moved on and I had to look to Him alone for encouragement in the hard places. He slowly removed my desire to remarry, and birthed a desire to depend on Him alone for provision and security.
As I sat bedside, I realized I was desperately clinging to an unhealthy, lifelong connection of emotional dependance on Mom. While I have been physically and financially independent for more than 40 years, every decision I have made has been based on how it would impact my emotional connection with her; unknowingly, I depended on her to make me feel deeply loved and fully known. I’ve made physical moves to be near her and turned down jobs, and relationships, that would take me away. I’ve stayed close by, not taking long or distant vacations, just in case I was needed. I have lived in fear of something happening to her and been disappointed when my emotional needs weren’t met. Now, in her current state of confusion, she can’t meet those needs and I realize I’ve had it wrong all along.
Lesson learned: While Mom loves me and has known me the longest, I must depend on God alone to meet my emotional needs. No one knows me more fully and loves me more than my Creator and Heavenly Father.
As I watched Mom’s steady breathing while she slept, I thought about how, in her confusion, she has cried out in anxiousness because she thinks she is alone and has been abandoned, even though I am sitting right there. When I am in the storm-tossed seas of a threatening storm, I often do the same thing.
Lesson learned: I need to stop panicking and realize that Jesus, whom I have chosen to follow is with me. Even if I can’t physically see the Lord, I am never alone.
That thought led to another. While I do not fear death — because I know Jesus as my Lord and Savior and know for certain I will spend eternity with Him — when the appointed time comes for me to draw my last breath, Mom can’t go with me, and I can’t go with her. In that moment of transition, it will be Jesus and me alone. The same applies to every one who has breath. The appointment with physical death will come and there is nothing anyone of us can do to change it. The only thing we can do is make sure we have prepared for that day.
Lesson learned: Ultimately, the choice is ours: we either transition totally alone, after living a life of self-dependence and rejection of Christ, or we transition with Jesus, in total dependance on Him.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father except through Me. - John 14:6
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son,
so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. - John 3:16
While this journey is a rocky and hard road with unpredictable twists and turns, I am so very thankful for the faithful friends that have come alongside of me. They have prayed for Mom, my sister, and niece. They have prayed with me and for me. The countless text messages, phone calls, emails and social media posts have encouraged me. My friends are my life preservers, continually reminding to hold tight to the True Lifeline, Who is with me in the storm-tossed boat and Who will see me safely to the shore.
Lesson learned: Be a faithful friend and always point others to Jesus.
Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will also help you, I will also uphold you with My righteous right hand.
- Isaiah 41:10