Tag Archive | Motherhood

Dear Tears

I wrote the poem “Dear Tears” about 15 years ago, while my grandma was suffering with vascular dementia. She had the same type of dementia that my mom has. My mom’s mom, whom we called “Nana”, had dementia for about seven years, until she passed away in 2000. My husband and I got married just a few months after she passed.  By the end of her illness, she did not recognize most of her family. Occasionally, she seemed to have fleeting glimpses of recognition. Sometimes she seemed to remember my mom, and bits and pieces from her old life.

I have vivid memories of visiting Nana at the Care Center, which was situated not far from my parents home. At the beginning of her stay, she would beg and beg me to take her home in my “red car”. It was heart wrenching to leave her there and witness her sad, forlorn, and confused eyes, with her never understanding why we were keeping her there. I would visit often with my mom, taking Nana for walks in her wheel chair around the property.

Many times Nana mistakenly believed that my mom was married to her first boyfriend, John, whom she had dated before my dad. She hadn’t seen or talked to John in over 30 years, but my grandma would often ask how he and his family were doing, and what he was up to. Mom and I would sometimes joke about that, and I would tease her for once throwing an engagement ring John had given her into the snow, when they had gotten into a fight one night. Nana also sometimes believed that her parents were still alive, and she wondered why they never visited her. It was painful explaining to her over and over again that they were in fact, dead and gone and now in heaven.

We would often go and visit the song birds down the hall from Nana’s room, where they nested and flitted about in their wall sized enclosure. Some days Nana didn’t mind going to sit with them and listen to the tiny bird’s sweet tweeting and chirping. As time went on though, she frequently rebelled at having to see those birds. On some level, I imagine that she understood that those tiny little things of beauty were stuck and trapped inside, just like she was.

Mom and I were at Nana’s bedside when she passed peacefully to her new life with God. I remember praying the Rosary, and my mom later told me that she had felt “a strong wind” blow across the room just after Nana died, even though there were no windows in the room, and the one and only door in the room was tightly closed. We both firmly believed that her angels took her, and that the gush of wind could’ve very well been them leading her on to her next life.

I remember having emotional conversations with my mom, where she would plead with me saying things like, “Mary, if I ever end up this way, you can not put me in a nursing home. I’m serious Mary, your father and I have enough money to get full time nursing care and that is what I would want. Promise me that.” I am sure that I promised her. I probably said something like, “OK, OK, OK mom, geez…do we really need to be talking about this right now?” Little did I know then, that less than 10 years later, I would be needing to do the very thing that she made me promise her I would not do. No wonder I had severe anxiety attacks while searching for a suitable care center for her to move into. I have since gotten help for that, thank God.

In many ways, caring for my mom feels so similar to how it felt caring for Nana. They both have the same witty humor, inquisitive natures, and stick to it stubbornness. My children call my mom Nana, just like I called her mom Nana. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, because I have such clear memories of being with Nana, and I get a sort of shock or “twilight zone” type of feeling when it sinks in that yep, it’s deja vu. I’m here again with dementia. Only it’s not Nana. It’s my mom. I am thankful for the kids in those moments. They are perfect for sucking me back into the now, and for helping me to appreciate the joy and innocence again, which they exude so well.

Dear Tears

Deep within,

my soul cries.

 

Tears and sadness

for the one,

who can not shed.

 

Tears for the one,

who knows not

what’s in her head.

 

Tears for the one,

who’s so alone,

in a world so

mangled and twisted.

 

Crying out my pain

for the precious and the dear,

who one day awake,

and know not

the face in the mirror.

 

These tears

which fall

will rest,

knowing that in the end,

His will

is what’s best.

 

This is a beautiful song written about the singer’s grandma, who had dementia. It is written and sung by the Dixie Chicks. (I don’t know the people in the photos)

This beautiful song, written and sung by Jon Foreman (lead singer of Swicthfoot) reminds me of my long journey of caring for my mom, and of all the years I spent trying to help her get better. It also helps me remember to unite my sufferings with Christ, who holds us close in our pain and deep fears.

 

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The Long Goodbye…

I love poetry. I love it for its simplicity and depth. I love rhyme, metaphor, and alliteration. So often, poetry can capture thoughts and emotions that other types of writing can not. I love the idea of using just a few words to say so much.

Dementia is often called “The Long Goodbye”. That is because hour by hour, day by day, month by month, and year by year, we watch our loved ones with dementia very slowly fade away before our eyes. There are so many moments of letting go, deep grief, and also countless opportunities to embrace the “now” of those moments. A person with dementia primarily lives in the present moment. They have no choice. They can not remember specific experiences from the past, and when they do, they often get the realities of those moments confused or misplaced. Sometimes, the act of remembering hurts them, as they forget long-held, precious memories. On the other hand, not remembering certain painful moments can be a nice relief. I wrote this poem a few nights ago.

The Long Goodbye

You reach out

your frail hand

unsure

alone

on this unforgiving,

precarious land.

 

Wishing you had built

on sturdy rocks,

instead of unsteady

sinking sand.

 

Your synapses

fire at random.

At times, there is sense.

We never know what

we will get.

 

Your illusions

confuse you

“Is Nana still alive?”

“Did we have a funeral?”

“Did Bapa go before her?”

 

I answer the best I can.

“Nana passed 12 years ago, mom.

She had a beautiful funeral.

I spoke part of her eulogy.”

“You did?”

You seemed surprised by this.

I wonder why.

 

I will hold tight

to this frail

hand and mind.

Leading, as I try,

through the darkness,

on a road slowly fading,

a bitter-sweet journey

The Long Goodbye…

The following clip is of Bono, the lead singer from U2, reciting a poem titled “The Mother of God” written by William Butler Yeats. It is beautiful.

 

 

 

 

Love is a Gift

Anna and Nana

 
Authentic love is not a vague sentiment or a blind passion. It is an inner attitude that involves the whole human being. It is looking at others, not to use them but to serve them. It is the ability to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and to suffer with those who are suffering. It is sharing what one possesses so that no one may continue to be deprived of what he needs. Love, in a word, is the gift of self.
 
~ Blessed Pope John Paul II
 
 
 
Grandparents
 
Grandparents bestow upon their grandchildren
The strength and wisdom that time
And experience have given them.
 
Grandchildren bless their grandparents
With a youthful vitality and innocence
That help them stay young at heart forever.
 
Together they create a chain of love
Linking the past with the future.
The chain may lengthen,
But it will never part….
 
 

Fall in Love
Attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907–1991)

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

– See more at: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/prayers-by-st-ignatius-and-others/fall-in-love/#sthash.nTKtSwvu.dpuf

 
 

A Different Kind of Motherhood

August 2008,after the birth of Anna (Our third baby)

Sunday was a feast day in the Catholic Church. Feast days are holy days when we honor Saints and Martyrs who have gone before us. We look to Saints as inspiring examples for how to live  holy and virtuous lives. On Sunday we honored the holy sacredness of the Motherhood of Mary.  We honor Mary as the Mother of God, who was chosen  to nurture and be a loving mother to our saving Lord.

All throughout that day I thought of my own gift of motherhood and of how my life has been blessed and enriched in countless ways because of it. Tonight while looking through my oldest daughter’s scrapbook, I saw a sticker that says: “When a child is  born…..so is a mother.” It made me think of how precious a gift motherhood is. Next to that sticker, I had placed a picture of me kissing the top of my daughter Lauren’s head, who was giggling happily.

When I first became a mother, my heart grew in ways that I never thought possible. The love my husband and I shared seemed to grow exponentially, and when I first held my daughter in my arms…well, there really is not a word that can describe that kind of love. It felt like I was finally viewing the world in full color, and not just in black and white. My heart bloomed with intense gratitude for this precious,warm, plump, perfect little baby who I would be forever bonded to in my heart and soul.

I have had a deep love for Our Blessed Mother for much of my life, but it was when I first became pregnant when my respect and love seemed to grow enormously for her. I began to realize what an intense sacrifice motherhood truly is. I thought of the intense courage and trust that Mary had in saying “Yes” to bearing the Christ child, and of the enormous sacrifice and faith it took for her  to raise Him up in those harsh conditions.

Right from the start, the Holy Family underwent persecution from those around them. They weren’t welcomed in any respectable place to give birth, and afterwards they had to flee to Egypt to escape being killed by King Herod’s men. I can not even begin to imagine the fear and worry that would grip a mother’s heart in those situations. Mary is a perfect model, after her Son, for what it looks like to completely trust in God’s plan for one’s life.

All throughout the day Sunday, I couldn’t stop thinking about the beautiful white porcelain Hummel statue of Mary that my mom has adored since receiving her for her First Communion 60 years ago. That statue has stood on her dresser drawer for as long as I can remember, and has been a comfort to me since I was a very small child. As a young girl, I remember running into mom’s room and gazing up at Mary’s peaceful face, with her head bowed lovingly and her hands gently clasped in a prayerful pose. Looking at her, I felt more at peace and secure, as if she were silently saying to me, “Don’t fear, my child… all is well…I am here”.

I have become quite attached to that statue of Mary, as I have had to repair her 2 or 3 times in the past 3 years since mom has lived in nursing homes. She has had her halo glued back on twice, her hand repaired twice, and her head glued back on once. Despite all that, she still looks great! You can hardly tell she was glued together, unless you look at the back of her hand (which is missing!)

I make sure that the mom’s Mary statue is always near her, as I know it is a comfort to her, and helps to instill some loving peace into her tiny room. When I picture mom in her room at night, I almost immediately think of Mary standing watch over her, guiding and loving her, and it helps to bring me some needed peace and reassurance. My faith and love in Mary and her Son will never fail to provide me with that trust I will need in caring for mom now, and into the future. I know that we are being guided and given the strength we will need to persevere through this tough journey.

 The following are the lyrics to my favorite Marian song….Ave Maria (Hail Mary). I like Celine Dion’s version, because it is the original, and she sings in beautifully. I also added the Ave Maria sung by Josh Groben. That version is the one most typically sung. The lyrics are in Latin, and they are the words of the traditional Catholic prayer Hail Mary, which are:

Hail Mary! Full of Grace!

The Lord is with You!

Blessed are you, among women,

and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us, sinners,

now, and at the hour of our death. Amen. 

 

AVE MARIA (The original composed by Franz Schubert in 1825)

(Based on the poem “Hymn to the Virgin” by Sir Walter Scott which was a portion of his Epic Poem “The Lady in the Lake”)

Ave Maria! Maiden mild!

Listen to a maiden’s prayer!

Thou canst hear though from the wild;

Thou canst save amid despair.

Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,

Though banish’d, outcast and reviled –

Maiden! hear a maiden’s prayer;

Mother, hear a suppliant child!

Ave Maria

Ave Maria! undefiled!

The flinty couch we now must share

Shall seem this down of eider piled,

If thy protection hover there.

The murky cavern’s heavy air

Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;

Then, Maiden! hear a maiden’s prayer,

Mother, list a suppliant child!

Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! stainless styled.

Foul demons of the earth and air,

From this their wonted haunt exiled,

Shall flee before thy presence fair.

We bow us to our lot of care,

Beneath thy guidance reconciled;

Hear for a maid a maiden’s prayer,

And for a father hear a child!

Ave Maria.

“But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives…It is like when you throw a stone into a pool and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end?…But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.”

~ C.S Lewis

Hope in Waiting

All of us are waiting for something. Right now, someone may be anxiously waiting for an anticipated job offer, or for a long-awaited medical test result. Or perhaps, someone is joyfully waiting for a child to be born, or sadly waiting for a loved one to peacefully die.

I think of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who is the ultimate example for how to endure deep fears, doubts, and pains, while waiting with a completely grace filled heart. She consistently put her complete trust and hope in God for leading her and her family through their trials and darkness. This hope was rooted in a promise. It sustained her and gave her tremendous courage, which allowed her and Joseph to wait patiently.

 In his book, “Finding My Way Home”, Henri Nouwen talks about the secret to waiting. He says,

“If we wait in the conviction that a seed has been planted and that something has already begun it changes the way we wait. Active waiting implies being fully present to the moment with the conviction that something is happening where we are and that we want to be present to it. ”

 “A waiting person is a patient person. The word “patient” implies the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us….Waiting, then is not passive. It involves nurturing the growth of something growing within.”

Like Mary, we can sometimes get frightened when our waiting becomes hard to bear. Yet, our faith helps us to realize that we need not wait in this darkness all alone. We have the everlasting bright light of Christ to guide us and keep us focused on His promises. We have the gift of community with our close friends and family, who sustain us with their friendship and love.

I waited for more than 20 years for my mother to fully love herself and choose sobriety, until her body inevitably began to give out on her about 10 years ago, when she was in her mid-late 50’s. It began with multiple broken bones (the dog was always to blame from her “tripping” over him).  Then it was  Gull Bladder surgery, Colitis, Pancreatitis, Osteoporosis, bleeding on the brain (twice), Hydrocephalus (with brain surgery to have a shunt placed), Dementia, 2 broken hips, and now Kidney failure.

For most of that time, I struggled with waiting with hope. I desperately tried to trust that God was leading our family towards healing. The problem was, I held on to tightly to what my vision was of what that healing should look like. I held on to the false notion that I could control certain situations that were very much beyond my control.

It is only within the last 6 or so years, that I have begun to more deeply understand what this surrender of trust truly looks like. I have slowly come to see that God never takes us where He cannot lead us through, and that there are very large lessons and spiritual gifts to be gained within our painful journeys.

I have learned what true forgiveness requires, and how to practice compassion despite my deep fears, anger, and anxieties. I have learned how to have obedience seeped in love. A love for my mother, who was and is a close friend, and who gave me life. I have learned that I will never stop learning, and that is a beautiful thing.

This Advent, I focus on the hope that my trust in God’s promises will allow Him to dwell in my heart, not just on Christmas, but everyday. I have hope as I wait, knowing that where God is leading me, is filled with goodness and gifts that are better than I could ever possibly dream of.

 “To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear.”  ~ Henri Nouwen

 

 

ABC’S of Parenthood

I “borrowed” this from a plaque that I saw recently and wanted to share it.  I have always loved simple statements of truth in quotes or sayings. It gave me the idea to share my own ABC’s of Parenthood….I hope you enjoy 🙂 Mine are in parentheses next to them.

Ask for help!  (Answer the tough questions) (Allow for mistakes)

Be proud of them (Believe in them) (Bake together)

Call a babysitter  (Create peace & balance)

Discover Joy (Dream together) (DANCE!)

Eat birthday cake (not just on birthdays) (Exercise your mind and body)

Find Time (Free your lost inner child) (if it’s lost or broken)

Give them a road map (Glorify God) (Greet strangers kindly)

Honor individuality (Host fun parties) (Happily help them with their homework) (seriously)

Inspire! (Invent exciting adventures!)

Just Listen (Jump in puddles)

Kiss them goodnight (and good morning) (Keep the good memories alive and make many more)

Let them go (Love them unconditionally) (LAUGH LAUGH LAUGH!)

Meet their friends (Make music together) (Munch really tasty and unique foods)

Nurture Kindness  (Never underestimate what they understand)

Order Takeout (Organize your junk!) (that one is for me :))

Pay Attention (PRAY together everyday!)

Quiet Fears (but don’t dismiss them) (Never Quit making your own list!)

Read to them (Regularly) (Reach out to others in need)

Set high standards (Send thank you notes)  (Sit together at the dinner table)

Tip the Tooth fairy! (Treat others the way you want to be treated)

Use Hand Sanitizer (Understand their pain and struggles)

Value Opinions (Vent your anger responsibly)

Wear comfortable shoes (Wish upon the stars) (Wake up with good thoughts)

EXplain the Important Stuff (Xpect ups and downs)

SaY “I love you” (everyday) (don’t Yell (to much)

BE AMAZED (catch enough ZZZZZZZ’s!)

The following is a poster I have hanging in my daughter’s room. It is by a favorite writier/artist named Sark. It sums up much of what parenthood is all about!

HOW TO REALLY LOVE A CHILD

BE THERE. SAY YES AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE. LET THEM BANG ON POTS AND PANS. IF THEY ARE CRABBY, PUT THEM IN WATER. IF THEY’RE UNLOVABE, LOVE YOURSELF, REALIZE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO BE A CHILD, GO TO A MOVIE THEATRE IN YOUR PAJAMAS, READ BOOKS OUT LOUD WITH JOY, INVENT PLEASURES TOGETHER, REMEMBER HOW REALLY SMALL THEY ARE, GIGGLE A LOT, SURPRISE THEM, SAY NO WHEN NECESSARY, TEACH FEELINGS, HEAL YOUR OWN INNER CHILD, LEARN ABOUT PARENTING, HUG TREES TOGETHER, MAKE LOVING SAFE, BAKE A CAKE AND EAT IT WITH NO HANDS, GO FIND ELEPHANTS AND KISS THEM, PLAN TO BUILD A ROCKETSHIP, IMAGINE YOURSELF MAGIC, MAKE LOTS OF FORTS WITH BLANKETS, LET YOUR ANGEL FLY, REVEAL YOUR OWN DREAMS, SEARCH OUT THE POSITIVE, KEEP THE GLEAM IN YOUR EYE, MAIL LETTERS TO GOD, ENCOURAGE SILLY, PLANT LICORICE IN YOUR GARDEN, OPEN UP, STOP YELLING, EXPRESS YOUR LOVE, A LOT, SPEAK KINDLY, PAINT THEIR TENNIS SHOES, HANDLE WITH CARING

CHILDREN ARE MIRACULOUS

Here is a favorite song of mine about parenthood. It is beautiful!

 

Grace Happens!

"This is better than a lifetime!"

You know that scene in the movie, “Forrest Gump “, where Forrest is running across the country, and a guy comes up to tell him that he stepped in some dog feces? Forrest’s response was an accepting: “@#$% happens!” That scene reminds me that we always have it in our power to either focus on being open to God’s grace, or to focus  on the !@#$ that happens in our lives. It portrays Forrest’s simplistic and honest nature, which is partly why that is such an inspiring movie.  It’s true that bad things happen to good people… and to all people. That is the nature of being human in a wounded and sinful world.

As a Catholic, I believe that grace flows through participating in the sacraments, especially through Reconciliation and receiving  Holy Eucharist, and through the practice of regular prayer and meditation. Grace is also more readily present through our conscious intentions during our daily moments to ask for God’s grace, so that He can give us the necessary strength &  wisdom to find peace & joy within those moments. 

 Hundreds of grace filled moments happen in our lives each and every day. When we strive to align our hearts and minds to what God wills for us within those moments; we can start to see that ALL moments can be grace filled moments. I believe that saying YES to be an open channel for that grace to flow more freely is key .

 Grace happened last month when my kids and I went and made St. Patrick’s Day crafts with my mom and the other residents. Despite my kids hogging all of the shamrock and pot o gold stickers, it was a really rewarding activity! The highlight for me was when I delivered a mini

St. Patrick's Day Fun!

decorated green hat to a woman sitting off in the corner by herself. As my daughter and I walked over and bent down to hand her the hat…her downcast face looked up at us and just beamed with joy. Tears formed in her eyes as she emotionally said, “You just made my day…thank you!” God’s grace is so palpable in those moments, that it just oozes out into the air around us, surrounding us and charging the atmosphere with a profoundly sublime and loving energy.

 Grace happened the other day when my son very sweetly asked for a spoon at breakfast (without any prompting), instead of  impatiently screaming out, “Mom, get me a spoon!”, as he has been prone to do frequently lately!

Grace most definitely happened the other day when my two oldest kids came running up stairs and very uncharacteristically called out saying, “Mom we picked up all the toys…come and see, come and see! I tried not to fall over and faint from the shock. Instead, I very innocently said, “oh really? Let me go see!”

Grace happened on our spring break trip the other week, when my kids were enthusiastically climbing this hugely sprawling 100 or so year old tree,  and my son Colin randomly called out, “This is better than a lifetime!”

 Wow, I thought, he thinks this moment sums up what is better the VERY BEST that can be offered in a lifetime (at least that’s what I gather that he meant). The best part is , he probably had no idea what he meant, he just knew that he was having  THE BEST TIME EVER! There was a pretty heavy dose of joy and grace present in that moment. Again, the joy and grace were thick in the air that day…as we stood around soaking up all of the awe and excitement of new adventure.

 Grace happens every time my 2-year-old sweetly tells me, “I U mom”(her version of I love you)!

Grace happened that other week when my kids played a crossword puzzle game with my mom and the residents at her nursing home in the dining room. They use this mega sized cross word board and write the answers with a dry erase marker as people call out the answers. I was shocked when some of the men and woman called out an answer…expecially when it seemed as if they were totally checked out in that moment! It was so sweet to watch my daughter call out some answers, feeling so proud of herself that she was beating all these people who were WAY older than her! Mom came in second place behind Lauren 🙂

 One of my favorite lines from the movie “Forrest Gump” is, “My mama’s always telling me how miracles happen every day…some people don’t think so…but they DO.” I also love, “Mama always says that stupid is as stupid does.”

Another favorite is, “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.” This line reminds me of all of those people, like my mom, who suffer with all types of dementia. Over time, dementia robs a person of their thinking capacity. They can no longer remember basic information. Eventually, most of them will not even remember the names of their children or even their own name. Ultimately, when that time comes, what is important to remember is that they will still need your love….when all else fails…love still endures….

The most famous line in “Forrest Gump” is…..”Life is a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get!” But, with God’s help….You can sure bet that no matter what the circumstance, that it can be FULL OF GRACE!