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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day 30 of 31-And miles to go before I sleep…

Listen to your father, who gave you life,
    and do not despise your mother when she is old.
Proverbs 22:23 (NIV)

Yesterday, as I rested, I had time to think about my grandmother’s 94th birthday, and considered the words of Robert Frost’s poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. At 94, my grandmother suffers dementia. While she is in relatively good physical health, she routinely disconnects mid-conversation. We’ve come to describe it as her “leaving the room.” In the midst of an otherwise lucid exchange, she quite suddenly becomes remote and disengaged. She remains pleasant and unfailing polite, but the conversation is as with a stranger. It reminds me that even at this stage of her long life, God uses her to teach us lessons. He is not done with her yet. She has miles to go before she sleeps. 

I struggle with understanding dementia, and pray for patience and discernment. I pray for wisdom and patience in supporting my mother as primary caregiver to her ailing mother, as well as to find the language and the capacity to facilitate my children’s on-going relationship with the great-grandmother who has attended each of them since before they were born. I struggle to pleasant and loving when I speak to Granny on the phone. Silently, it breaks my heart to experience the strong, wise, and wonderful woman I have always admired endure the dismantling of intellectual capacity in slow motion. Wikipedia describes the dementia as “a serious loss of global cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person.”  Understanding what I do about the nature of God, I know that every conversation with her teaches me lessons I must learn. He is not done with her yet. She has miles to go before she sleeps.

For her birthday yesterday, her great-grandson serenaded her. She and her great-granddaughter prattled on (as only the two of them can) about Christmas, birthdays (both Grannys and hers, which Gram remembered falls in February) and being a teen-aged girl. I know they are reluctant to speak to her on the phone; it is emotionally taxing, adding these hollow memory to the richer ones they treasure of her, but they rise to the occasion, not solely  out of obligation. They realize, each in their way, that they continue to have a relationship to her that sets them apart. They are special in that they still have a living great-grandparent. They can appreciate that God is not through  with her yet. She has miles to go before she sleeps.

They even support and encourage their grandmother, appreciating her role as caregiver. They understand that hers is not an easy path, and they reach out to her often. Talking to Granny helps them remember their grandmother’s daily struggle, and they often lift her up in prayer. Granny may not have the presence of mind she once had, but still she teaches. She’s not done yet.

Granny offers us the gift of compassion. Hers is a lesson well-learned and long-lasting.  While I grieve the loss of the relationship I’ve had with her all my life, I am grateful for what she teaches us all now. I know it will serve our children well. It blesses me.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep…

Granny, though it is hard, I still love talking to you. You’re still here with promises to keep. There is still work for you to do, lessons to teach us before being called home to take your final rest. We thank God that He is not through with you yet. There is time. You have miles to go before you sleep, and we have lots to talk about, before you leave the room for the last time.

OneWord 2015

OneWord 2015

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