a tribute to Dad

My Dad is suffering from Parkinson’s and Dementia. It has been so very hard for my family to watch our strong, athletic, intelligent, independent father decline to the place where he needs constant assistance living in a memory care facility. 

It is hard for me to live far away and not be able to help much. It is much harder for my sisters who live nearby to visit and care for him regularly. 

My Dad struggles with some delusions and confusion. He knows who I am still – I am grateful for that – but he cannot consistently remember the day, time, or what he did just a few hours ago. 

On this Father’s Day, I am especially grateful that – years ago – I wrote out a tribute for him. I’m not sure he could understand it today – but He did when I gave it to him. 

I encourage you to write a tribute for your father – especially if he can still appreciate it. He may not be, or have been, a perfect father, but I can tell you that the process of writing and giving him your tribute will be a healing and honoring experience for both of you. 

I am attaching a copy of my tribute as an example for you to get you started. 


How have you honored your father? What are your Father’s Day traditions?

————

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I send you much love across the miles. Wish I could be with you today, but you are in my heart. ❤️

What I’ll Say to my Children if I’m Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s

These last months have been very heavy for me – first my mom’s death and now helping with care-giving for my dad with Parkinson’s. This post speaks my heart so well. So grateful for this woman’s ability to express words my pen has not been able to write.

God's Grace and Mom's Alzheimer's

I was skimming some other dementia blogs lately and a reader had written in saying, that though she felt guilty about it, she wished her mother would die in her sleep and not have to continue living through the pain and indignity of dementia.  I’ve heard others say things like, “I’ve told my kids if I ever get Alzheimer’s just shoot me.”

I understand where these comments are coming from, but they make my heart heavy.  I feel like these attitudes devalue my Mom’s life right now. Even though they are not specifically referencing her, they are in effect saying that people like her are better off dead. It is hard to see Mom changing and confused and upset. But she still has sweet times of love and joy, too.  And God still has a purpose for her life.

He is growing our patience as we care for her.  He…

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who will he be today?

Old Man 14037671409_bbb2f90095_cOne day he seems almost normal – making jokes, telling stories, expressing gratitude, communicating lucidly.

The next day he feeds animals that don’t exist; is irrationally paranoid and fearful, freezes in the middle of thoughts and sentences, and cannot remember how to accomplish basic life tasks, how old he is, or even his daughters’ names.

I do not know which father I will greet each morning.

That is dementia.

I have decided it reminds me of living with a teenager – one moment “almost” mature and grown up: making wise decisions, communicating with confidence and respect, interacting as an adult peer. The next moment acting like a child again: thoughtless of action consequences, emotional or surly, insecure and overly dependent. A roller coaster of crisis and climax.

That is dementia.

I am learning again how to help. Stay calm and do not escalate the situation by attempting to reason or argue. Use a quiet, clear, slow voice, respect, and a gentle touch. Do not let his response trigger my past father/daughter issues; do not react defensively, with anger, or with impatience. Do not surprise him with a change of plans or expect him to learn something new or hope for consistency from day-to-day.

I long for a standardized to-do list that I can follow faithfully each day. A defined cause and effect that I can rely on. A “2 + 2 = 4” dependability.

Dementia does not offer that.

Instead I need to face each day with grace, flexibility, prayer, and love-motivated sacrifice of my wishes and desires.

Unlike rasing a teenage, there is no chance that this situation will improve, that he will grow out of this stage, that he will get better. I can only anticipate more of the same or something worse. He is not making progress; he is declining towards the end.

That is dementia.

Who will I greet in the morning? An elderly man. A child of God. A test of my character. My father.

How do you face the challenges in your life that will not get any easier? 

_____

**If you are a person of prayer, please pray for my father and my family… wisdom for future decisions, strength for daily choices of love and sacrifice. Thank you.

grief comparisons

sadness

Photo credit: Wendy Longo photography / Foter / CC BY-ND

It has been three months since my mom died. Sometimes it feels like years ago. Sometimes it feels like yesterday.

I have not been able to write a blog post since that day. My mind has been foggy, scrambled, gray, and unclear. Some days my heart felt heavy, sad, and lifeless. Other days, I have sensed the warmth of her memory in the flowers and sunshine that she loved so dearly.

During the past months, some friends have asked how I am doing and others have kept an awkward distance, unsure of what to say.

Family members have all processed their grief uniquely, sometimes drawing close to each other, sometimes pulling apart because of tensions, anger, or a desire to process pain alone. Some have cried; others held their emotions in check; still others could not find tears even when they tried. Some went right to work arranging details; others were paralyzed by their loss.

In these three months, numerous other friends have also lost loved ones – children, siblings, parents, friends. Sometimes the deaths arrived as expected, peaceful, a long-awaited transition to a better place. Other deaths came suddenly, violently, shaking family foundations of faith and security.

Some of my friends experienced death much like I did… at the bedside, providing care and comfort, counting the minutes as they turned into hours. Other friends had no opportunity to sit nearby at the end or intentionally chose not to go there. Some appear unaffected by their grief; others are clearly rattled, and others experience a bit of both depending on the day.

I have found myself occasionally comparing my particular experience and my emotional response with others. However, I am learning that we cannot compare our different experiences with death any more than we can compare our different experiences with life. 

There is no right or wrong way to do this. There is no standardized approved amount of time, feelings, involvement, or impact that death brings to a person. Each birth, each person, each death is unique.

And so, for me and for you…

Take all the time you need.

Feel whatever it is you feel.

Do what you can and leave the rest.

Give grace, especially to yourself.

Chose safe people and safe places.

Sleep. Cry. Dance. Work. Laugh. Yell. Remember.

Don’t judge.

Don’t compare.

It is grief and so it will be.

∼∗∼

wrapping up 2014

IMG_1231I have a fun hangover.

All of our grown children came home – plus extras – for two weeks now. People slept in every room of our small townhouse. Imported belongings invaded every counter and every inch of floor space. We saturated days with fun and laughter, adventures, deep conversations, and delicious, not-necessarily-good-for-you food. We delighted in long-standing traditions and created new experiences this first Christmas in our new home. We connected at mind, heart, and spirit. It was an incredibly rich time.

My energy level is a bit low now, but my heart is full.

That seems a fitting condition for the year I christened last January with the word “fulfill”.

These family days together were a dream fulfilled. So is living in this new home and the purposeful work I get to do with my husband. One night at dinner, we all reflected on the past year and answered questions about our greatest challenges and biggest achievements and how we grew or matured or changed through both. I am satisfied with the responsibilities and goals I fulfilled last year and by the choices I made to feel fulfilled personally at this stage of my life. It has been a great year.

There have been hard times too. Death, pain, and poor decisions by loved ones crushed my spirit and drove me to my knees. The aching desire to be present in two – or three or four – places at once has weighed heavier than ever. Community, country, and world conflicts and tragedies have burdened my soul.

And so I consider my word for 2015.

What are my passions? What do I want to do? Where will I prioritize?

I’ve read many a great post about end of year reflection questions and have re-worked some of them for us here.

  • Where did you thrive last year?
  • Where did you struggle?
  • If you had to describe your 2014 in three words, what would they be?
  • What was your biggest time waster this past year?
  • Where did you best invest your time?
  • What, or who, are you most thankful for?
  • What advice would you give your early-2014 self if you could?
  • What one thing would you do differently and why?
  • What topics did you most enjoy learning about?
  • What did you learn about yourself?
  • What was a favorite compliment that you received this year?
  • What is one thing you can do next year to add meaning and relevance?

Maybe you’d like to take time to answer these  – and any other favorites you have – and choose a word for 2015. Find a quiet place, your favorite beverage, put your feet up, and enjoy the process.

I’ll post my word next week. I’d love to hear what you choose!

Old favorites. New traditions.

Old favorites. New traditions.

Christmas has finally arrived at our house! 

My husband and I decided to wait to turn in our final Capstone project. Yesterday afternoon the SEND button was pushed, and after 3 1/2 years, we have completed the work for our MA in Global Leadership degree. That is cause for celebration!

So we jumped in the car and drove to Hollywood Studios to see the (literally) millions of lights that “dance” to music for the wide-eyed, joy-filled, shoulder-to-shoulder packed-in-like-sardines, crowd in the street. It was truly impressive and a first time experience for this Orlando transplant.

… and so begin the new Christmas traditions.

This is our first year in our Florida home, so decorating requires new decisions… with the old favorites. Many plastic tubs of strangely-out-of-place snow and evergreen themed treasures, a life long of collected ornaments, and beloved hot chocolate mugs have exploded in my living room. I love the transformation that warm candles, white lights, and years of collected nativities bring to the home.

We are bringing all of our children to Orlando to celebrate this year – another new experience with “old” favorites. This Christmas will include Disney parks, warm weather, and lots of crazy people filling every inch of floor space in a small townhome and every moment of the days with silly insider jokes, laughter, music, adventures, hugs, stories, pictures, memories, and love. We need to buy more food, warn the neighbors, and make sure the camera batteries are charged. I can’t wait!

This morning, as I anticipate the craziness, I also reflect on my every-year desire to keep one constant in this season – a quiet, peaceful, heartfelt connection with the One who gives true meaning to this holiday. Jesus is my favorite part of all life, and each year I have the opportunity to create new “traditions” that keep us close.

Here are a few of my special traditions for CHRISTmastime perspective. 

Pentatonix a cappella cover of  “Little Drummer Boy”

The Piano Guys “Angels We Have Heard on High”

(an older favorite) A Social Media Christmas

What are some of your Christmas favorites? What new traditions are you starting this year?

power in forgiveness

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What is it about forgiveness? 

What is it that makes forgiveness so hard to ask for, so hard to give, and so life-changing when it happens authentically?

In my memories, my parents fought through all of my childhood. Different personalities, life and work pressures, insecurities and immaturities all added to the fire, and alcoholism added fuel. Eventually, they divorced after 25 years of marriage. It was not pretty. It was not amicable.

For almost 30 years they have lived in the same city, but never saw each other. At first, we could not even mention my mom’s name in front of my dad. We arranged every holiday and every family event around which parent we would visit when, or which one of them would be invited to attend. It could never be both of them at the same time. They will never know how many hours of planning, debate, maneuvering, and heart anguish accompanied each special occasion through the years.

This Thanksgiving, something amazing happened. My parents agreed – for the first time in almost 30 years – to give thanks…. together. The death of a spouse, terminal cancer, and many years passing finally cleared the way for reconciliation, acceptance, forgiveness, and peace.

There were a few uncertain and awkward moments (mostly by the siblings who were orchestrating the event), but all in all, it was one of the most significant and inspiring holidays that I can remember.

It was a powerful, healing moment for everyone – even the grandchildren – to watch my parents greet each other at the front door… both very frail, very tired, and finally… very at peace.

Neither could eat very much, but the meal was sacred. They did not talk of anything substantial – dementia has stolen that opportunity – but their interaction was deeply meaningful to all who were there.

My parents’ reunion after all these years does not change much at this point in time… and it changes everything.

Their willing hearts were a testimony to hope.

My family watched the life-end desire for peace overcome long-guarded anger and separation. We experienced genuine humility vanquish pride, regret, and deep pain. stubbornness lost to prayer, patience, and perseverance over time.

There is a new freedom in our lives – and in our children’s lives. A freedom won by broken lives restored and divided families reunited. A freedom earned by barriers torn down and destroyed. A freedom gained by letting go of bitterness and grabbing on to forgiveness. A freedom that carries a belief in the impossible, because we saw it happen with our own eyes.

Forgiveness is powerful.

Is there someone you need to forgive today? You don’t have to wait.

lessons from a wreck

accidentSomeone hit our car last night. It’s the second time in a few weeks that the poor car is in the shop for repairs through no fault of our own. Bummer.

On the other hand, I am so very grateful that there were no serious injuries, and we have a great insurance company that is taking care of the details. A few inconveniences and hours lost, but it could have been so much worse.

After the adrenaline coursed through my veins, I had opportunity for reflection and perspective since my life was (literally) shaken up a bit that night.

First, one more reminder of the frailty of life. My mom’s cancer is a frequent reminder, but this hit even closer to home. My husband and I are finally in the process of renewing our will. We are not going to put that off. We want to prepare to make the process easier for our family… just in case. (How about you? Do you have your will and important papers in order?)

Second, friends make a big difference. We were on our way to dinner when the wreck occurred. Instead, our friends came to join us on the side of the road for the four-hour mostly-waiting-around process. Their presence and companionship was soothing, entertaining 🙂 and encouraging. We are so grateful for them and their gift of time.

Young kids can act foolish. Two young men racing down the road by our house caused the accident. They lost control, hit each other, ricocheted into us, and skidded into a grass median yards ahead. One car totaled; the other banged up, and they stumbled out of the cars laughing. They are not the car owners; they probably do not think about the inconvenience, the increased insurance rates, the diminished vehicle values, the possible harm they could have caused. Someday they will.

Family is important. Ten or more vehicles arrived over time to check on the guys and offer concern, care, and community. There may have been frustration or anger too; we didn’t see that. It was good to see the support that rallied for the young men. They made a mistake, but they have a better chance to learn from it when people care about them.

Forgiveness is key… even for little things. My emotions swung first from concern for the young men to frustration with their apparent lack of concern. I could have let that frustration simmer into a distrust of all “young people” for their immaturity and foolish choices. But that would serve no purpose. Plus, it would be unjust, since there are many young people who are careful drivers, responsible, and making choices to better our world every day. I’d rather focus my emotional energy there.

Have you been in an accident? How did you respond? What have you learned from that experience?

tribute to a lover

IMG_5818 smallJesse loved abundantly, creatively and sacrificially. A man with normal human faults and frailties, he gave her his whole heart when he married my mom. There was never any doubt – His love was great. It might have been his greatest testimony on this earth – his unquestionable love for her.

It always impressed me that he did not leave the house without kissing my mom good-bye. They enjoyed time together – family holidays, planting flowers, travels to the beach, meetings with long-time friends. Simple pleasures filled their later days – easy walks to see the ducks at the nearby pond, watching sports on TV, a day at the casino.

He bought her anything he thought might make her happy. He wanted to spoil her and would return and re-buy items until they were just what she wanted. My mom was not always easy to please, but he never stopped trying.

He cooked her favorite foods. New Mexico favorites – enchiladas and green chile stew – were delicious specialties. Jesse kept Mom’s ice cream bowl and coffee cup filled.

As happens, there were impatient, angry words at times, but there was also recognition of the wrong in that and quick apologies and forgiveness.

Jesse not only loved my mom, but he loved her family too. He always made us feel warmly welcomed in his home, greeting us and saying goodbye with a hug. He asked about our children and rejoiced in their accomplishments.

When Jesse was very sick in the hospital, he told a friend he had to get home to take care of my mom. He wanted to care for her until the very end.

God had other plans. He took Jesse before my mom, even though she is the one who has stage-four cancer. My mom ended up caring for him, tenderly cleaning, soothing, accompanying him at his side. It was not the “plan” for him to go first, but it gave my mom a chance to sweetly love him back in his last days. She will miss him very much.

Jesse has set the standard very high. I know I could do a lot more to show love to others every day.

When I am gone, I wonder what people will say about how I loved them…

Do you demonstrate an abundant, creative, sacrificial love to others? 

emotional roller coaster

roller coaster
I have always loved roller coasters – the bigger and the scarier the better! I love the sense of risk and adventure and speed… all while feeling safe and secure by the buckles or bars that hold me safely inside the car. I enjoy the views and sites from above the highest peaks… and I never mind the flying-stomach sensation as the car dives down to the lowest levels or squeals around the curves. Wind in my hair, screams in my throat, hands lifted high… I intentionally look for that kind of fun at the amusement parks.

…but I do not want that same experience when I get back home.

Somehow when life’s happenings have the same character of risk and speed and change, it does not feel like fun anymore.

The last few days have felt like an emotional roller coaster to me. I have been on the high peaks of new friends, stimulating and encouraging work, and progress towards settling in a new home. Within hours, I have also traveled to the low valleys of family struggling with death-at-the-door illness, fear and exhaustion, carrying the guilt that I can not do more, and grieving the loss of my once-vibrant father who now hardly recognizes my voice when I call.

These ups and downs also affect my stomach, but now it is groaning and aching rather than flying, and I do mind it, and I wish it would go away.

I spoke at a retreat this weekend about how much we need to invite others into our life adventures and look for something to appreciate even in the hard times. The heart attitude and the help of others make a big difference for me when my life is twisting and spinning in all directions on short notice. I feel more secure on the wild journey when my faith holds me tightly and my friends sit in the car beside me.

I recognize that the peaks and valleys will be part of my experience until the ride ends. Sometimes I will slowly chug along on a mellow straight path, but adrenalin-pumping crazy tracks are often just ahead. I am learning that if I consider life’s challenges as an adventure, as an inevitable opportunity to grow and trust, and if I do not attempt the ride alone, it is not as scary for me. It is even fun at times.

Do you like roller coasters? How do you ride the emotional roller coasters of life?