Tag Archive | Heaven

Phoning Home

The other night we watched the classic movie E.T. The kids loved the part where Gertie dresses up E.T. like a girl for Halloween. They laughed when E.T. see’s a Yoda while Trick or Treating and repeatedly calls out….”Home…home….home…”. They screamed with delight when Elliot lets out all of the frogs in the classroom. Of course, the scene that is a favorite for all of us is when Elliot flies over the treetops with E.T. in his bike basket.

I had forgotten how alarmingly scary E.T. looks when Elliot finds him lying helpless in the river all grey, shriveled up, shrunken, and slowly dying. It is around that time when Elliot begins to also get more and more ill. He is so metaphysically connected to E.T. that he emotionally and physically experiences whatever E.T. does. The poignant scene of them both lying on stretchers with Elliot reaching out to E.T. is a tear jerker moment.

As I was watching this scene, I thought, “Sometimes I feel like Elliot”.

Watching your parent and friend very slowly fade away and deteriorate can sometimes leave you feeling like you are experiencing their pain right along with them. When my mom looks so helpless, I sometimes feel helpless with knowing how to best help her. When she repeats a story over and over again that makes no logical sense, I feel confused right along with her. I am not always sure how to respond. Do I tell the truth? Or do I lie and “meet her where she is” in her memory (which is called therapeutic fibbing) . Sometimes it is a fairly easy choice. Like when she says she just went somewhere with my father 2 weeks ago, and it has really been close to 5 years since she has last seen him. Telling her that no, she hasn’t actually seen him for that long would upset her, so why go there?

I have recently found out that mom’s kidneys are not doing well. She has one diseased kidney that is barely functioning and the other is not doing well either. They are going to give her a CAT scan of her kidneys to see where we go from here. Of course, a kidney transplant is not an option. And Dialysis would be very tough on her already fragile system. In the long run, I suppose we are looking at acute kidney failure.

By that time, all that can be done, would be to keep her comfortable as this disease slowly takes her from us. I had always known that this could eventually be what finally takes her. She has had kidney issues in the past. Of course, the doctors can’t give a time line. All the nurse has said is that “we are not near Dialysis yet”. But she did tell me we need to discuss how much treatment we eventually want to go forward with.

For now I will focus on enjoying the time we have left with her, and be grateful for that.

In so many ways, my mom and I have had an Elliot/E.T. type of relationship. We have always been so dependent on each other, for companionship and friendship. I  like Elliot, have tried in vain to repeatedly try to fix her and to lead her to safety. I have felt compelled to hide her “condition” of alcoholism from those outside our family for most of my life. I became consumed early on with keeping my mom alive, sober, and healthy. I feared her leaving me for good and much to early.

Through Al-anon, I learned how to detach from my controlling tendencies of trying to make her “stop” drinking. I still need to practice daily how to “let go, let God” and remember who is really in control. All I can control is the choices that I make for my own life. I practice gratitude continuously to stay focused on living in the “now”. God’s grace and mercy are so much easier to see that way. It’s like leaving your windshield wipers on high all day long. Sometimes that is what it takes to clear away all of those dark negative thoughts from clouding my perception and reality.

This all makes me think of When Peter said we are like “strangers and refugees in this world”. (1 Peter 2:11) That holy longing that I have felt for so long is normal and even good…like E.T, we are not meant to be truly content in this world. This world is a temporary pit stop, or “school”, where we are preparing how to one day live with our Maker. Our trials, disappointments, and losses are all teaching us, and refining our spirits…so that we can make it Home at last!

I like what Max Lucado said: “The only ultimate disaster that can befall us, I have come to realize, is to feel ourselves to be home on earth. As long as we are aliens, we cannot forget our true homeland.

Unhappiness on earth cultivates a hunger for heaven. By gracing us with a deep dissatisfaction, God holds out attention. The only tragedy, then, is to be satisfied prematurely. To settle for earth.”

 I feel good about the fact that I will never be wholly satisfied here. Sure, I am blessed with so very much joy and love and goodness, and I feel tremendously grateful for all of it. But, I know that life here was never meant to be easy. Afterall, our Lord never promised easy. Easy is meant for Heaven….and until then…. I will never give up phoning Home.

The following song illustrates perfectly what I am talking about…..

 

 

 

 

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Called to Witness

My mom and I with my kids on Halloween!

Some different definitions of the word  ‘witness’ are, “one who testifies in a cause”, “one who has personal knowledge of something”, or “one who gives evidence”.  As a Christian, when I think of the word  ‘witness’,  I think of how the apostles of Jesus were first hand witnesses to His teachings, and then to his eventual passion, death, and glorious resurrection.  These followers gave up everything they had in order  to go and testify  how their lives were completely changed by the love of God.   I think of how Jesus told them to “Go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation (Mark 16:15).  I think of how God calls every one of us to be a witness to His love and mercy in our lives.  We are all called to testify and share how God’s love has changed us, or how his mercy and grace has inspired us.  I feel personally called  to  let people know how the promises of God have given me a lasting and joyful hope, as a direct result of watching and caring for my parent who has a chronic and debilitating  illness.

When you have a relatively young parent who has dementia and is physically impaired like my mom, it takes awhile to get used to the ways that people tend to react to her.  People tend to notice us, both because mom is obviously ill, in a wheel chair,  and because we are both relatively young (I’m 38).  We often get the sympathetic, sad stares and the disbelieving looks that seem to say, “they look so young!” or “that poor girl or woman”.  At times, I even imagine some of them may be thinking, “Thank God that is not me!”  Sometimes you also get those welcomed truly genuine smiles of compassion that seem to tell me, “Good for you”, “Good job”, or “you are inspiring to me” On  some days, the looks seem to say all of the above!

At the beginning of her illness,  I loathed those uncomfortable stares.  I would dread taking her places, knowing I would  need to receive those unwanted looks of pity.  I was having a hard enough time fighting off and coping with my own internal feelings of intense anger, despair, and confusion, that those additional stares felt more like a burden to me.  In a way, they felt like just another painful stab at my already wounded heart.

As time has gone on, those looks of pity have given me an odd sense of  fulfillment.  Sometimes, I hear in my head the words, “I am a witness”, and sometimes I silently pray, “Lord, make me a witness and your example”.  At times, I get the feeling that it  is no “coincidence” that we are in this particular life situation.  I get a strong sense of “knowing” or a sense of a deep purpose, like I was meant to play this role in being an example or a witness  for this sort of compassion and mercy that is needed.

An example of this is when I took my mom to the neurologist the other day.  She was being evaluated for some  irreversible  involuntary facial and body movements that were caused by a particular strong  psychiatric drug.  During the appointment, there was a young med school student who was in her final year, who sat in to observe my mom’s appointment.  I could sense the young girl’s uncomfortable posture,  with her foot twitching and her legs crossed, as well as her obvious lack of eye contact with  me.  In those moments, I try to remember that my witness and compassion matter a great deal.  It is my hope that I showed this future aspiring young doctor what it looks like to lovingly and joyfully care for a parent with dementia.  It is my hope that I showed her patience, gentleness, and kindness; all of the things that she will need to exhibit to her future patients in order to one day be a good doctor.

This lent, I think about the ways I am called to further testify and be a witness to the love of God for others.  How can I extend my self even further than I have?  In what areas have I been only giving “just enough”?  How  can I strive to make more of a sacrifice for others by giving more of my time, more of my care, concern, or charity to others in need?  Have I given until it “hurts”? Because, sometimes that is the only way that any lasting and authentic growth can occur, when we are forced to “live outside the box”, where it is uncomfortable and difficult.  We can then gain a humility and a compassion that we could not other wise receive if we always live to “safe”.   Afterall,  If we are giving “just enough”, what is our true purpose in giving?  Is it to make a true difference and change….or is it just to appear to do so????

The following are a few songs that have been really inspiring me lately to look beyond “my own little world” of comfort…and help me to think about how I can give more, and strengthen my love for God and others!  The first is Josh Wilson’s song “I Refuse”.  The second is “Small Rebellions” (sorry, this one you need to go to youtube!) by Jars of Clay, from their latest cd “Shelter” (VERY good btw :))  The third song is called “In My Own Little World” by Matthew West.  For the last song, all you need to do is click on the address link at the end of this post to hear/see it on YouTube!   All of the videos show the lyrics of the song.

……enjoy & let them inspire you too 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UywpoHe61sE

Feast Day For St. Therese of Lisieux!

Today, October 1st, is the feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux, who is one of most celebrated Catholic Saints of all time!  Catholics honor saints because of the virtuous and selfless ways that they consistently lived their lives.  We don’t worship them, but we do ask them to pray for us and help us along on our faith journey.  Saints are our good friends…they are “best friends” with God, so they know God’s heart better than anyone!

St. Therese was born in 1873 with the name Marie-Francoise Therese Martin, and was the 9th and youngest child of Louis Martin, watchmaker, and Azelie-Marie Guerin, lacemaker.  After her mother’s death from breast cancer when Therese was 4 years old, the family moved to Lisieux, France.  At the age of 15, Therese entered the Carmelite order to become a religious sister.  She died at the age of 24 from tuberculosis.  She was canonized in 1925 and was named a doctor of the Church in 1997.  She is one of three women doctors of the Church, along with St. Terese of Avila and St. Catherine of Sienna.  She is known as St. Therese the Little Flower or St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

I am currently re-reading her autobiography titled, The Story of a Soul.  I have been so inspired by her wisdom and how she always tried to have trust and complete self-surrender to God in both the small and big things in her life.  She wanted to be known as the “little flower” of Jesus, a humble and simple follower, who always sought out the warm rays of God’s love in every moment,  through self-sacrifice and giving to others.   She used visual imagery so beautifully for describing the love of God.  She describes how in her mind she would present to Jesus a beautiful flower for every good deed that she performed….and then at the end of the day she would have the biggest and most beautiful bouquet to present to Our Lord!  That, to me, is a very tangible and accessible way to try to be closer to the heart of God!  I love some of her descriptions of  “Jesus’ garden of souls”,

“I understood how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy.  I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with wild little flowers……..Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be……Just as the sun shines simultaneously on the tall cedars and on each flower as though it were alone on the earth, so Our Lord is occupied particularly with each soul as though there were no others like it.  And just as in nature all the seasons are arranged in such a way as to make the humblest daisy bloom on a set day, in the same way, everything works out for the good of each soul.”

I want to share an excerpt from a poem written by St. Therese, titled         “The Little Flower’s Prayer to Mary” .  I had recited a line in this poem during a very heart wrenching moment this past May, just before praying the rosary with my rosary group friends while standing around the bedside of our friend Angie Hegele, who was very courageously passing away from breast cancer.  Angie had a strong love and devotion to Our Blessed Mother, as well as to St. Therese, and I have no doubt that she is with them both now!

Beloved Mother   

in this harsh exile,

I want to live always with you

and follow you every day.

I am enraptured by the contemplation of you

and I discover the depths of  the love of your Heart.

All my fears vanish under your Motherly gaze,

which teaches me to weep  and rejoice!

Like St. Therese, may we learn to blossom where God has put us and realize that “Love is repaid by love alone!”