My faith journey has been tested vigorously throughout my life, as a result of the various illnesses my mother has had during her life. Currently, I find that my patience is routinely tested as I help to care for my mom each week. Having a loved one with dementia is very frustrating at times, as you find yourself repeating question after question and answer after answer. My mom’s short-term memory is very poor, so a lot of the time, she will have forgotten some or most of what we talked about 10 or more minutes prior. So, you find yourself having the same conversation over and over again. On some days, I find it easy to retell my stories. On Some days I even add a few more details, just for fun! On those days that I feel tired or emotionally worn out or sad, the repetition can be almost torturous. Some times I just don’t have it in me to elaborate, so I just make it short with a “yep, it is” or a “we’ll see”.
Lately, my mom has started to get much more settled in and comfortable at Waverly Care Center. She has lived there since November of 2009, and has only started to routinely come out of her room and spend time with the other residents within the last few months. She is on average 15 or so years younger than most of the other residents, so she has had sort of a rebellious attitude like, “I’m not like them“, which held her back from interacting with others. But, lately she has seemed to thrive from some of the friendships that she has made with a couple of the women there. She seems to be much happier lately, which is nice to see.
At certain times, she remembers bits and pieces of her old life, and she gets very discouraged and depressed. The other week she said to me, “If I don’t get out of here soon, Mary, I’m going to lose it…What did I ever do to deserve this?” Whenever she asks me those types of earnest questions, I immediately take a deep breath and ask the Holy Spirit to please help me find the right words to say (like right now?) That day I seemed to have the kind of answer that she seemed alright with.
I told her, “I don’t think, mom, that this has happened to you because of anything that you did or didn’t deserve in your life, I think that it has just happened. God must have his own plan.. we can’t see it all yet.” She then said, “You mean like, it just is what it is?” I responded with, “Well, yeah, sort of…but I also am trying to focus on and recognize all of the things that it is teaching us and strengthening in us…like patience and humility and love.” She then said, “Yeah, I guess..you have been very patient to deal with me and I am too, with having to sit in this bed all day long…I pray all day long for patience.”, and I said, “I know you do mom! I do too, for you and me!”
Here is one very clear example of just how much my patience is being strengthened. Since my mother’s short-term memory is very impaired, she often forgets that she has eaten or gone to the bathroom. She will say to me, “Quick, take me to the bathroom”…even though I had just taken her 5 minutes ago, which she has already forgotten about. My patience is tried as I then try to get help from the nurses or aides, who are to busy helping other patients at that particular moment. My patience is further tried as I lift her out of her wheel chair and help her to the bathroom again, all the while my 2, 5 and 7-year-old kids are in her tiny little room starting to get wild and do naughty stuff! My patience is tried yet again in the next moment, when my mom suddenly “doesn’t need to go”, so I repeat the whole process all over again as I lift her up and wheel her back to her bed. That is just one small 15 minute example of how my virtue of patience is tried and strengthened on any given moment of any given day while caring for my mom.
I will probably talk in future posts about how I feel some of the other virtues are being strengthened in me as a result of this journey. For example, whenever I help my mom in that way, my virtue of love seems to increase for her. My love also grows for our Lord, as he continually shows his mercy by granting me the necessary grace and strength to help me get through each one of those difficult moments….and even with joy most of the time!!
God is still so GOOD!
We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. Romans 5:3-5