I heard her coming down the hall. I’m not sure who designed this particular doctor’s office, but they didn’t have patient confidentiality in mind because I can hear everything that goes on in this office from anywhere in this office. I’ll call her Marion. “I don’t know what he gave me, but I felt so good this morning I did the hokey-pokey.” Apparently the staff thought this was pretty clever.
As she rounded the corner, I saw her walking with the aid of a walker, her old sunken face with toothless grin, her devoted husband with the same sunken face and toothless grin. She joined me in the waiting room.
“I don’t know what that doctor gave me, but I felt so good this morning I did the hokey-pokey!” she informed me, flashing me a wide toothless smile. I was immediately filled with love and compassion for this woman…for the struggle she is enduring, for whatever physical infirmaties she has that a morning of relative well-being would fill her with such joy, for a life once lived that was so very different than the life she is now living, for the slow decline into death that she never would wish on anyone else. She turned to me again, “My favorite color is purple!” she informed me.
As I rose to join Mavis in the exam room I was also filled with an acute sense of thankfulness that Mavis was not in the same place as this dear woman. Her memory is failing and she requires my help and support, but mentally she is still very active and engaged. Rather than spending any time or energy dreading that day when my dear mother-in-law will become like Marion, I think instead that I will choose to savor every day that she is still herself.
I don’t know why I didn’t see it at the time. I don’t know why the Lord didn’t make clear to me what happened until last night when John and I were out to dinner and we were talking.
I had taken Edmund to the pain clinic and we were on the way home. I said “Oh dear, I was supposed to stop by the library and pick up Nathan’s book on the way home.” (I should have taken a different route to do this.)
Immediately, Edmund sat taller and started guiding me through the backstreets of DeKalb until we had reached the library. I had a need and he could meet it. No more was he the tired, haggard old man dozing off in the front seat. He was for that brief moment his old self again, speaking kindly but authoritatively, completely alert, completely in the moment focused on the need at hand instead of his physical condition.
Oh dear Father, burn this picture in my mind. It is a precious jewel, a gift from You. Thank you so much.
This is not the death I would have chosen for my father-in-law. If I had chosen, Edmund would pass away quietly in his sleep after his 125th birthday. As I look back on the 14+ months, he has lost many things to cancer. He has lost several inches of height as the cancer has stolen his bone cells. He has lost his comfort and sense of well-being as every day has been marked by pain, nausea, fatigue, depression, or some combination thereof. He has lost his social interaction and no longer does any of the activities he used to enjoy.
As I was thinking about these things, the Lord encouraged me by reminding me that He Himself will restore all that Edmund has lost to cancer in heaven. Please understand I am not anxious for him to die. Even now, acutely aware of how much he suffers in life, I know how painful it will be when the Lord brings him Home. But God is helping to prepare my heart, looking forward to all that Edmund will gain on that day.
God will restore his height and Edmund will walk upright. God will restore his strength and Edmund will walk confidently, rather than shuffle his feet. God will give him a glorified body that is never in pain, never nauseated, never tired. There will be fellowship restored as Edmund meets up with friends and loved ones who have gone before him, but most importantly will be fellowship with Christ himself. O glorious thought!
I confess that we are entering into a harder stage of caregiving. It weighs on my heart that he does not seem to be getting any better, but remembering these things helps to lighten the load in my heart and I am already happy for him.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” ~ 1 Pet. 5:10-11