Monday, February 18, 2008


A THOUSAND GOODBYES



Sometimes when I visit her I get a glimpse of yesterday in her eyes. There's that spark of recognition, tiny and short-lived. She tries to talk, but all that comes out is gibberish -- like, "I wonder wh--we--ah--caaaan--my--yes!"

I nod my head and say, "Yes, that's right. And Kendra's baby is due in late June. I'm going to be a grandma again. Can you believe it? Me--a grandma?"

She nods and smiles. "Yes!"

"Krissi's due any day, you know! Won't that be something? Can you believe how many great grandchildren you will have when this is all done? I mean, well, it's -- really something to think about, isn't it."

She stares at me as if I'm the one missing a few cells upstairs.

"It's a sunny day today, see?" I point at the window where the last rays of a rare February sun are coming to rest on the windowpane beside her bed, but her eyes don't follow my finger. Instead, she looks across the room at nothing - NOTHING. What does she see? And what is happening inside that head of white hair, that hair so thin, short, and styled in the most practical way, yet nothing like she would have worn it if SHE'D styled it herself.

Oh, dear Jesus, I'd give anything to watch her comb her hair again.

For no reason that I know of, a sob rolls out of her, but when I look close I don't see tears, just fear and confusion. She gives me the forlornest look. Lord, what can I do for her? I kneel at her bed and sing, "Amazing Grace...how sweet the sound." And then I whisper, "Jesus loves you, did you know that?" She listens, staring, wordless, of course.

I take her hand and rub it gently. We sit like that for several minutes. She closes her eyes, drifting off again. I stare at the wall beside her bed, then at the dresser piled with books she used to read, greeting cards from well-wishers, her beloved, cherished Bible, a stuffed animal dressed in clothes that used to make her smile.

I look out the window where the snow falls, pure and weightless.

In the other room, four or five residents lie in their recliners with the TV tuned to the cooking channel. The show host is explaining how to make the world's best spaghetti. I picture some of the residents, all ladies, staring blankly at the screen, afghans tugged snugly up to their chins, and others sleeping, mouths wide open to the elements. In the summer, one might worry about catching a fly or two, but not in February. Tillie, the resident bassett hound, stretches out in the middle of the room sleeping her life away. If you take Tillie's age and multiply it by seven, well, Tillie is the oldest resident.

I look at her again, her facial skin wrinkled, yet still smooth and clear. Her fingers are cool in my hand, thin, bony fingers, fingers that once spanned an octave with ease as they tripped across the ivory keys and played the finest melodies. Not just the printed notes, mind you, but with all the improvising in between.

Lord, I'd give anything to hear her play again.

She moans a bit and squirms under the beautiful white, furry throw I gave her for Christmas. But her eyes remain closed. She doesn't know I'm kneeling at her bedside, doesn't remember that I just sang Amazing Grace to her, or that I told her Jesus loves her. Sometimes I fear she's forgotten who Jesus even is, although I have no fears that He's forgotten her.

I bend over and place a kiss on her forehead. "Bye," I whisper. It must be the thousandth goodbye since we learned she has Alzheimer's, and with every goodbye I wonder--is this the last one?

Mom's going to be 95 this May. For 95 years, she's affected lives with her smile, her Godly outlook, her tender, soothing touches, her helpful, joyful, giving spirit. I know one of these days God will stand at the foot of her bed and say, "Come on, my sweet Dorothy, they've had you long enough. Time to come home to Me now," but until then, I will hold her hand and cherish her presence--talk to her unhearing ears--look in her unseeing eyes...

And hope for a thousand more goodbyes.


Shar MacLaren
February 18, 2008

12 comments:

Tim and Wendy said...

Aunt Shar,
There should be a warning before this blog, 'May cause emotional distress.'
I'm at work and look pretty silly crying while reading a blog.

I loved this post. You described Grandma perfectly and put into words how we all feel. Thanks!
Love, Wendy

smac@chartermi.net said...

Awww, Wen, didn't mean to make you cry, but actually I'm not surprised you did--as I cried, too, while I wrote it. Guess it was therapeutic! I'm going to put a picture of her up here in the next day or so...to go with the blog.

Taleah said...

big hugs to you and your mom, Shar!

Sharlene MacLaren said...

THANKS, TALEAH!

I went to send you an email, but then realized I don't really have your email address I guess...just your blog and your Facebook. Well, hopefully, you'll check back here. I plan to post a picture of my mom up here if I can capture a good enough one, so do come back and check in a few days.

Doing any writing lately?

How's the new church plant coming? Making some cool new friends?

Love and Hugs,
Shar

Anonymous said...

What a sweet post. Continue to cherish every moment you have with your precious Mother...even if she doesn't understand things, just talking and touching her is so important. I, too, am crying after reading this..my precious Mama had Alzheimer's too....and I miss her so much. Will keep you and your Mom in my prayers..I know it's hard. Blessings, Patti Moore

Sharlene MacLaren said...

Thanks, Patti! I so appreciate you stopping by. I'm sorry to hear you lost your mama to Alzheimer's. What a blessing that she no longer suffers. Maybe someday our mamas will get together!

Hugs and Blessings,
Shar

The Mihalek's said...

Hello Shar! Wendy is right, you do need a warning before reading this blog. It brought me to tears just thinking about my grandma and how much I love her. What a touching entry! I still remember the time Kendra and I went to stay with her at family camp. She is such a special lady! Thanks for sharing your heart with us!

Love,
Staci

Smac@chartermi.net said...

THANKS, STACI. YOU'RE A SWEETIE FOR STOPPING BY MY BLOG.

HEY, YOU GOT ANOTHER SNOWDAY - AND NO P/T CONFERENCES TONIGHT!

HUGS,
SHAR

Dorothy said...

It is hard to watch your parents making their journey home. I know...my dad is on his way now. Thank you for sharing.

Rich & Darcie said...

What a sweet post about your adorable mom!

Darcie

Katybug said...

Oh Shar, I am in tears. This was so beautiful. I care for my elderly mother as well. And while she may be blind, at least she is cognizant of what's going on around her. I can't imagine how difficult this must be for you and your family. My prayers are with you.

Sharlene MacLaren said...

Katybug!!!! So good to hear from you! Thanks for checking out my blog. I pray for you and your mom. I'm so sorry to hear she's blind. That must be a hard thing for you to deal with. What a blessing you must be to her. Don't think for a minute she doesn't appreciate your selfless giving.

What is going on in your neck of the woods?

My third book in the series is coming in a few weeks. Yea!

Hugs,
Shar