I wrote this poem on the beach in Florida, while watching the power of the surf and admiring the extreme beauty of the ocean.

My parents have lived in Florida during the winter for about 20 years. My parents built their dream house there about 15 years ago. I traveled there frequently when I was in college, first married, and when my first born was a baby. It became a second home to us, and we treasured our time spent there.

It all changed when my second born was a baby. My parents had separated (due to my mom’s addiction problem) the year before he was born, and 2 years later, in the the summer of 2006, was when mom became very ill with hydrocephalus, just after our last trip with her in Florida. We stopped going to Florida after that, for a few different reasons. We were very busy trying to get mom good care and manage her healthcare, as that was the year she started needing full time nursing care.

Another reason is that it was to emotionally painful to spend time in the paradise that mom helped build, knowing that she would most likely never get to experience it again. The other was that we started going on yearly trips with my dad instead, which I feel was a way of escaping from the painful memories & loss we were experiencing. We had amazing family adventures together all around the world, and the memories will last a lifetime.

We recently started going back to their home last year. It has been great for my kids to spend time with their grandpa & have fun exploring his beautiful home. It feels like the start of a new chapter, and we are very excited and grateful to embrace it. Life is to short to live seeping in grief for to long. If it is one thing the pain of loss and illness has taught me it is…life and love are precious & that life is made for living.

The erosion
Of time,
the years

the relentless
weight of
silt and sand,
so grand

and grottos
of secrets
to keep

You thought
you built
your love
to last

On strong
solid rock,
sinking sand

Broken promises
and deception
again and again

Were to much
For this towering
to withstand…



Holding Pattern

Living with dementia or addiction within the family, often feels like you are flying within a storm. The air is rough. Yet, you have unexpected calm periods, which you joyfully accept.

Learning to peacefully live within the chaos is a sort of learned skill; which takes much patience, courage, faith, and perseverance. It is a continual quest trying to hold the tension of uncertainty and fear, and also learn how to not only accept the pain in the journey, but to embrace it.

Every time I visit mom, I never know how she will be that day. She may be having a good day, like last Monday, where conversation came easy and she was content to live in the moment. I treasure those moments. Because I am not sure how many more we will get.

Some days we go, and she has her bag packed, ready to go “home”. She is fixated on getting out of there, wanting to experience a sort of freedom she once had, even though she doesn’t quite remember what that was like. She no longer remembers where her home used to be, she just knows that where she presently resides, is not it.

On those days, I do a lot more redirecting and talking of the past (not of “home”!) to help keep her mind on pleasant things. On some days, it is easy to do, and on others, it is very emotionally exhausting and depressing. I focus on the love we share, and gratitude for the things we still have.

Lately, I have found much comfort in my convictions and beliefs in redemptive suffering. As a Catholic, I firmly believe that suffering offered up for the good of others (mine or another’s) can have real redemptive power and strength. I found an easy to understand explanation of that here:


II Corinthians 4:8-12
In all things we suffer tribulation: but are not distressed. We are straightened: but are not destitute. We suffer persecution: but are not forsaken. We are cast down: but we perish not. Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake: that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us: but life in you.

In the wings,
Living for each day,
Never knowing
What time will bring

Living within the tension,
Striving with intention,
To seek
New meaning in the pain

One day,
Soaring above
Holding on
In smooth skies,

The next,
And we are all
Taking a dive…

His grace will catch us,
And we’ll never
Just fall out
Of the sky…

Eloping and Teddy Bears

A sad, yet funny conversation with my mom:

My mom called me the other day. Here is why I don’t always answer the phone:

“Mary, I was looking at my numbers in my address book and saw the number for Mary and Eric Snustad, and I thought, that SNEEK…she went and got married and didn’t even tell us!”

“Why didn’t you tell dad and I that you got married? Did you elope?”
She has no memory of me marrying Eric almost 14 years ago.

So, I proceed to take a deep, deep breath and calmly, yet, gently explain that Eric and I have been married for almost 14 years, and that we did not elope. I tell her all about the many details of our wedding, hoping to refresh her memory of our very special day.

It can be very difficult to repeatedly have these types of conversations, yet it helps tremendously to try have a sense of humor. My husband and I chuckle about how awesome it was when we eloped (we actually had a church wedding).

I bought her a teddy bear a few days ago. She absolutely loved it. It is interesting how the more forgetful she gets, the more small comfort items like this seem to make her happy.

I remember the same thing happening with my grandma. During the last few years during her journey with dementia, I would also bring her stuffed animals. There are so many times where I am with mom, and it’s like being with Nana again. They look alike, sound alike, and are both ending their lives in very similar ways with dementia. Talk about “history repeating itself”, and only about 10 years later.

Last week she left a completely heart-wrenching message, that left me broken hearted.

“Mary, I can’t remember anything…my memory is going…please just call me, so that I know who I am…so that I know I have family and that I am not alone. I don’t know what to do.”

I rely heavily on my faith to get me through. The grace of God carries me…through going to mass a couple times a week & receiving Him in the Eucharist. Confession is also very cleansing and helpful to feel his love in a much more tangible way. After participating in these sacraments, I have no doubt of the power of God’s mercy and grace. His love and strength is almost palpable…giving me a warm peaceful feeling. When celebrating the love of Christ with our church “family”, I no longer feel so alone.

It strengthens me and gives me hope to live a joyful life, even amidst this long journey of heartache and pain of loss. I offer most of my masses for mom, or those who are suffering with similar illnesses. The redemptive power of prayer and sacrifice is at the core of the Catholic faith, and those prayers can go a long, long way….

A favorite song:

I Forgive You

My mother has early on-set dementia, which was mostly caused by years and years of chemical abuse. She has lived in a nursing home now for almost five years. Prior to that, she had at home nursing care for three years. She just turned 71 years old.

It was my mom’s birthday this past Monday. My young kids and I took her to dinner in the upstairs dining room at her care center, and had a nice time. When we got there, she was franticly waiting in the hallway saying that she has been lost in the airport all day. She had her bag all packed to go to Florida, and she said she
just needed help to get to the car. She broke down when she saw us, relieved to see loved ones to help her.

She was very confused, but many times when she is with us some of that extreme confusion dissipates, as things feel more familiar to her. But on days like that, I wonder if her dementia is progressing even more rapidly. Perhaps she has had more mini strokes. We played UNO with the kids and she could not match the colors together, and seemed to have no idea how to play the game. Even though it is a game we had played a thousand times together when I was a kid.

It is those little moments that make me the saddest; When she suddenly has no recognition for very common things. Like how at dinner she looked at Colin and said, “Him…you know…that one”, as she struggled to recall my eight year old’s name.

It is difficult, because I know that eventually she will lose recognition for most everything. One day, she may not recognize me and that terrifies me. It is the fear of one day walking in her room and her blankly staring back at me void of recognition or acknowlegment. Although, A part of me feels that she may know me until the end. My own grandma forgot everyone except her children. It wasn’t consistent recognition, but her memory would recall them the most.

On the way home the song “Forgiveness” by Matthew West came on the radio. It is a song that has helped me heal and find peace with the painful moments in my past with my mom.

Forgiveness is difficult, especially if the one who did the hurting never seeks forgiveness. And some people get stuck in their resentment, because they feel that recognition and a sincere apology are necessary in order to forgive the other. What they are unable to see, is that forgiveness doesn’t justify the wrong done or get the other “off the hook”. It sets themselves free instead, from the anger and toxic resentment. Without all that negative weight, the person who forgives, can finally begin the process of moving on and healing.

Forgiveness is key in any Christian’s life. Jesus was ALL about teaching to forgive others, no matter what. I always think of the passage from Matthew 18:21-22:

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

Forgiveness was so important to our Lord, that he included it also in His prayer,
“…forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”

It all comes down to His golden rule of “treating others the way you want to be treated”. We must try to put ourselves in another’s shoes. How would it feel or make a difference to be forgiven? How would it feel to a person who knows he or she doesn’t deserve it?

There was one moment since my mom has been in the nursing home during these past 5 years, where she seemed to be seeking forgiveness. I was telling about a friend going through a hard time, and she looked up at me and said with emotion, “I am sorry, Mary, that I could not be the mother you needed me to be”. I choked up and said, “It’s OK mom, we have now and that is enough right now.”

A part of me wanted to go in to a tirade of, “It’s about time!” And proceed to tell her of all her bad and hurtful choices. But, a bigger part of me thought and felt “Why? She knows, deep down, the hurts she has caused. Why rub her nose in it? Especially when she has lost it all anyway?” Instead, I took a shaky deep breath and asked God to help me to take the much higher road…and forgive.

I would be lying if I said it isn’t a daily battle to forgive. There are moments that are almost to painful to even talk about, and it is torture to have to relive that pain in my heart again and again as I remember. But It is then I remember that no matter how deep the pain, God can heal it. I am not alone, and never have been. Today, and tomorrow are new days, and the pain has helped me grow, and has given me much strength.

I found a post that clarified this well for me yesterday from this blog post:


“I would make that decision to forgive and pray for healing – sometimes over and over. Out of nowhere it would rear its ugly head again, and I would need to do it all over. I found that the more I surrendered the hurt to God, the more I was likely to come to peace with it. Really that’s what I wanted – freedom from the hurt. But before I could experience that freedom, I had to let go and release the anger and unforgiveness so that I could make room for God.”

And so, for the 100th and something time…”I forgive you, mom….for all of it. I only have hundreds more times to go, but I know He will be there to help.

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those
who don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused
Is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…


It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying
‘Set It Free’

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible

It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what
it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see
what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what
You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Burn Bright

The words of this song runs deep. The artist wrote it for her nephew struggling with addiction. It could be the anthem of the life led with my mom, as I struggled to help her see the light throughout the years. It is a battle so many face. I pray everyday for those fighting the battle, for both the addict & their loved ones…for courage, strength, faith, & hope…




Ode: Imitations of Immortality

This is my favorite poem by William Wordsworth…

I love the fifth stanza, and how it shows as children, we are so connected to the awe and wonder of life.  And as we age, it gets harder to stay connected to that pure celestial wonder, as we grow dependent on the pleasures of this world.  Yet, ultimately, our years can bring a “philosophic mind” as we age, which can help us love and appreciate our life’s triumphs and trials & beauty of nature all the more. It is a long poem, with 11 parts, but it is amazingly beautiful. The video is a complete reading of the entire poem.

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Shades of the prison-house begin to close

Upon the growing Boy,

But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,

He sees it in his joy;

The Youth, who daily farther from the east

Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,

And by the vision splendid

Is on his way attended;

At length the Man perceives it die away,

And fade into the light of common day.”

In the fifth stanza, he proclaims that human life is merely “a sleep and a forgetting”—that human beings dwell in a purer, more glorious realm before they enter the earth. “Heaven,” he says, “lies about us in our infancy!” As children, we still retain some memory of that place, which causes our experience of the earth to be suffused with its magic—but as the baby passes through boyhood and young adulthood and into manhood, he sees that magic die. In the sixth stanza, the speaker says that the pleasures unique to earth conspire to help the man forget the “glories” whence he came.

In the seventh stanza, the speaker beholds a six-year-old boy and imagines his life, and the love his mother and father feel for him. He sees the boy playing with some imitated fragment of adult life, “some little plan or chart,” imitating “a wedding or a festival” or “a mourning or a funeral.” The speaker imagines that all human life is a similar imitation.

In the eighth stanza, the speaker addresses the child as though he were a mighty prophet of a lost truth, and rhetorically asks him why, when he has access to the glories of his origins, and to the pure experience of nature, he still hurries toward an adult life of custom and “earthly freight.”

In the ninth stanza, the speaker experiences a surge of joy at the thought that his memories of childhood will always grant him a kind of access to that lost world of instinct, innocence , and exploration.

In the tenth stanza, bolstered by this joy, he urges the birds to sing, and urges all creatures to participate in “the gladness of the May.” He says that though he has lost some part of the glory of nature and of experience, he will take solace in “primal sympathy,” in memory, and in the fact that the years bring a mature consciousness—“a philosophic mind.” In the final stanza, the speaker says that this mind—which stems from a consciousness of mortality, as opposed to the child’s feeling of immortality—enables him to love nature and natural beauty all the more, for each of nature’s objects can stir him to thought, and even the simplest flower blowing in the wind can raise in him “thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”


A Poem: The Children

This poem feels like drowning, gasping for breath from the raw agony. And then suddenly the light catches your submerged eye…and you can see it…a strong hand has reached down to lift you out of the blackness. You tightly grasp it, and the brilliance grabs you…sunshine, hope, love, peace. You are saved. You are free…

I see my would have been older sister,Leslie,waiting along with these children in the poem. She died before I was born…at only 8 1/2 months in utero. I often wonder what she will look like…if she has my laugh or same color eyes…

I also see, the millions and millions of children who were aborted in our country…who await to be reunited with the ones they love…when they ever come…

The reading of the poem by the author at the end is amazing.

The Children

Somewhere safe from all the dangers,
Somewhere safe from Crack and AIDS,
Safe from lust and lurking strangers,
Safe from war and bombing raids.

Somewhere safe from malnutrition,
Safe from daddy’s damning voice,
Safe from mommy’s cool ambition,
Safe from deadly goddess, Choice.

Do you hear the children crying?
I can hear them every day,
Crying, sighing, dying, flying
Somewhere safe where they can play.

* * * *

Do you see the children meeting?
I can see them in the sky,
Meeting, seating, eating, greeting
Jesus with the answer why.
Why the milk no longer nourished,
Why the water made them sick,
Why the crops no longer flourished,
Why the belly got so thick.

Why they never knew the reason
Friends had vanished out of sight,
Why some suffered for a season,
Others never saw the light.

Do you see the children meeting?
I can see them in the sky,
Meeting, seating, eating, greeting
Jesus with the answer why.

* * * *

Do you hear the children singing?
I can hear them high above,
Singing, springing, ringing, bringing
Glory to the God of love.

Glory for the gift of living,
Glory for the end of pain,
Glory for the gift of giving,
Glory for eternal gain.

Glory from the ones forsaken,
Glory from the lost and lone,
Glory when the infants waken,
Orphans on the Father’s throne

Do you hear the children singing?
I can hear them high above,
Singing, springing, ringing, bringing
Glory to the God of love.

* * * *

Do you see the children coming?
I can see them on the clouds,
Coming, strumming, drumming, humming
Songs with heaven’s happy crowds.

Songs with lots of happy clapping,
Songs that set the heart on fire,
Songs that make your foot start tapping,
Songs that make a merry choir.

Songs so loud the mountains tremble,
Songs so pure the canyons ring,
When the children all assemble
Millions, millions, round the King.

Do you see the children coming?
I can see them on the clouds,
Coming, strumming, drumming, humming
Songs with heaven’s happy crowds.

* * * *

Do you see the children waiting?
I can see them all aglow
Waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting,
Who of us will rise and go?

Will we turn and fly to meet them
In the light of candle two?
I intend to rise and greet them.
Come and go with me, would you?

By John Piper