“’Lord, I am Thine, wholly Thine; all I am, and all I have, I would devote to Thee. Thou has bought me with Thy blood; let me spend myself and be spent in Thy service. In life and in death let me be consecrated to Thee!’ Have we kept this resolve?” from “Daily Help” by C. H. Spurgeon
As a caregiver, I prayed this prayer and spent quiet time with the LORD to help me answer the question… much I did in God’s service and much I did not.
I spent 15 years as the primary caregiver of my mother, along with the staff of the facilities in which she lived. We needed to move Mama near one of her three daughters. For affordability reasons and because I was the one who would be able to be this primary caregiver, we moved her to Texas. God had much to teach me and the school’s door seemed open to me 24/7 (still does!).
I attempted to hold the reins of control, to hold back the flood of change. None of us wanted to move Mama. A move is hard for anyone, but for one of 84 and strong willed, that proved especially tough. I also have one sister who truly struggled with the move and had words for me since I “seemed” to be the main decision maker in her eyes. Once the decision was made, then I held those reins for I wanted to control the physical and mental downward spiral of my mother as I watched her age and live with dementia and the related fears, anger, frustration, confusion, jealously, and so much more. Those reins were hard to hold though. Eventually, I had to give them and Mama to God. I could not control her life nor the changes that were occurring. I had to allow her to live out her days with the best quality I was able to oblige her and assuring the best care from the others watching over her.
During the fifteen years here, changes of residences from a senior apartment to an assisted living to a nursing home happened according to her abilities, her health. She received the care she needed from loving staffs. She was still able to watch her baseball games with the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox, plus the San Diego Padres. She ate fairly well, and got to enjoy some of her favorites like ice cream sodas and sundaes, my home baked peach muffins, and fresh fruit I brought to her each time I grocery-shopped for myself. She was allowed to choose even with the diabetes. There must be some independence no matter what the consequences. Even though there was a narrowness of life because of the need for a nursing home, I found ways to broaden the opening. We attended a local AA baseball game once or twice during each season, ate lunch out together when she was able or in when she did not feel up to going out. I would bring a meal treat to her as often as I could. We spent time together most every day, just the two of us, or in a small group for a Bingo game or a favorite karaoke singer. Decisions were hers as often as she was able. I followed through with her choices when I could. And if not, I did as she did when I was a child saying, “We shall see, Mama,” and, by the next day, her dementia-riddled mind had usually forgotten. But, at that moment, she was satisfied because she had made the decision.
Did I keep the resolve? As best as I could. I wanted God to orchestrate the care I gave to my mother. I wanted Him to open my heart to her love, accepting it with the love He gave to me so that I could give back to her. I wanted to be able to accept the hard and not-so-good days that often came with dementia and being 86, 98, or all those in-between. I wanted God to shield me from words that hurt, but also to help me not take those words personally when they came like grenades. No matter what the day brought, I wanted to be able to love my mother unconditionally. God loved me unconditionally (and still does) and I had His love through which to love my Mama. And I did.
I shared my life with many other residents at the various living facilities too. I learned their names, addressing them when I would see them. I sometimes was able to touch them on their backs with a little rub or by holding their hands. I talked with them. I stopped for a conversation or a prayer. I sat with them when Mama was asleep, when I could dawdle. I smiled at them. We all need someone who cares about us.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” John 15:12
I resolved to be near my God so that I would obediently follow His will for my life, and for my Mama’s life in regards to my part in it. More than once, I was called to the home because she was not feeling well and needed comforting. At times, she needed to eat something in order to raise her blood sugar (rather unusual for her!) so I would feed her (usually running to get her just what she would desire at the moment…eggs and bacon, an ice cream soda…!). She, ever so sweetly, would tell me, from time to time, how much she loved me or how much she appreciated all that I did for her. I returned the love with hugs and words, but my heart felt like it was overflowing. I knew God was with us. I prayed I was being spent in the service of my LORD. (Mama was not always one to get “mushy” yet when she told me how she appreciated something that I did for her or what I meant to her, I knew that her words were really coming from her heart. She became more precious to me with each passing moment. At those moment, I felt that I was being spent in His service.)
We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19
Father God, these precious moments with my mother were far more than doing her laundry or taking her for lunch or cleaning up after her. They were about being Your daughter in her presence. They were about being Your child for her in whatever way she needed me. They were about staying true to You while being there for her and for the other residents too. You are now, and were then, my Beacon from which I was guided. Thank You for lighting my path to be Your best for my Mama. Thank You for loving me so that I could love her as I did. I loved her so, Father. And I miss her now, yet it is with a peaceful heart that I came to know that I did my humanly best to keep Your resolve in the midst of many a moment…sweet ones or extremely difficult ones, all beautifully filled with Your Grace. Thank You for Your forgiveness when I failed to be in Your service for her (and now, LORD, too). Thank You, my Abba Father, for putting these tears of mine in Your bottle for they come, even now. You are the most beautiful Lighthouse, LORD. I am so grateful that You are my LORD. In the Light of Your Son’s Name, I pray. Amen.
How are you keeping this resolve?