All posts in Caregiving

A Tribute to My Mama

As most of you know, my mother passed from here into eternity on March 22, 2016. This is the tribute I wrote and read at her funeral:

Proverbs 31:10 states, “An excellent woman, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”

Today I’ll share with you some jewels that our excellent mother shared with not only her own family but a host of people whom she served.

Faithfulness is the first gem our mom passed on to us. Proverbs 31:11 says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her and he will have no lack of gain.” 

When you talk about Pauline, you’ve got to talk about Ray—they came as a pair. They lived together, worked together, and played together. They not only loved each other, most days they liked each other.

As a teenager, or even as adult when I’d criticize Dad for one thing or another, she always stood up for him and encouraged me to think the best. “Your father is a good man,” she’d say.

And somehow I’d believe her. And she was correct.

The last several years of Dad’s life were difficult, to say the least, but Mom faithfully served him through it all. I’d try to get her to go out with me, but usually she’d say, “I don’t want to leave your father.”

Those who observed our family thought that Mom, or “Warden Wert,” ran the show. But those who really knew us knew the truth—Ray ran the show the show and Pauline did her best to hang on.

And Paula, Paulette, and I are hanging on to Mom’s faithfulness.

The next gem Mom passed on to us is caring. Whenever she visited people or people visited her, she always asked about them individually, remembering the details like the names of their children or parents.

Even in her last days—when thoughts remained difficult to grasp and harder for her to speak, she asked about her children and grandchildren. When they hurt, she hurt.

When word was posted on Facebook about Mom’s promotion to glory countless women who’d been under Mom’s guidance as they grew up said how much mom loved them and made them feel special. For a woman that would stand out in a crowd, had a minimum amount of education, and never signed an autograph, her life made a difference. 

I had the privilege of having my parents live in my home as their health declined. One of my fondest memories of both my parents was the morning devotions at our dining room table. They read a short scripture and an accompanying illustration. Then they pulled out their prayer list. The “list” was extensive and detailed. My children often commented on how many people were on the list—they knew each of them by name and when there were answers.

Both mom and dad cared enough to pray. I’m grateful for that.

The last gem we received from our mother was the gem of encouragement. She believed people could be better than they were and not only told them, she expected it.

I think this is what my children will miss the most. When they came home, Grandma was always there and ready to talk or just listen. I’ll probably never know some of the many words of encouragement that went on in her room.

Mom didn’t mince words. She asked the really hard questions everyone else was afraid to ask. Recently, my son came to visit. Knowing we’d been praying especially for him over the last several weeks and months she asked, “How are you, Micah?”

He hesitated for a moment, “I’m okay Grandma.”

Lying in her bed, she straightened herself up so she could look him in the eye. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Mom encouraged me not only by her life, but also by her death.

The last several months, Mom slept perhaps 18 hours a day. I’d go into her room to check on her after her naps and check on her. Sometimes I’d tell her of my very busy day, or complain about something that had gone wrong. Then I’d ask her how her day had been.

As she lay in her bed, after being bathed and changed and fed—eyes half closed she’d say, “Good.”

The Bible says in Psalms 90 to “Teach us to number our days so that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”

I learned a lot from her.

I’d like to end with 2 short stories.

The first was when my father was still alive. Although he couldn’t walk, they’d travel up the block each evening from our house in Florida. Dad in his wheelchair, mom hobbling along with her cane.

One day as I pushed my father and mom ambled ahead of us, Dad motioned for me to bend listen to him.

“There goes the most beautiful woman in the world.” Then he pointed to my mama.

The other story happened about a week before she died. During the cool North Carolina evenings, we’d hoist mom into the chair in our living room in front of our wood stove. On that particular night, I read from the Salvation Army publication the War Cry and then I pulled out the hymnal.

She’d had a few good days in a row and we began to sing.

“When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!

When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!”

She threw back her head and sang along with every word—not in her low, gravely, old-person voice, but on tune with a young fresh sound.

“That’ll be good won’t it Mom?”

She smiled and said, “Yes it will.”

That night as I prayed, I told the Lord that if he wanted to take my mama in her sleep, this would be a good night.

He didn’t. He allowed her to hold on a while so that I held my sweet mama in my arms and whispered in her ear how much we loved her and what a difference she’d made in our lives as she passed from here into eternity.

I began with Scripture, and I’ll end with it.

Proverbs 31:28-31 states:

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also and he praises her. Many woman have done excellently but you surpass them all. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


How I Met My Mother

Mom and Silas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I surprised my parents with my birth when Mom was pushing forty. They thought the child-rearing role was behind them with my two older sisters. The Almighty had other plans.

My memories of Mom are vague until I reached almost school-age. Even then, the pictures in my brain are foggy and mysterious. Always a sturdy woman, she towered over me. Her stomping walk resembled that of a duck–feet turned out, head erect, eyes forward–she moved so quickly my two little legs could never keep up.

No one is stronger than my mom, I thought.

I moved through the terrible teens, and managed through my twenties. After my first child was born, my parents retired from serving as officers in The Salvation Army and moved about four miles up the street from our family.

Fast forward a few years and our roles began to change. I accompanied them to doctor visits as their health declined. I checked on them and made a few of their weekly meals.

Fourteen years ago, they moved in with our family of four and it felt right.

But it was hard.

My uniquely passionate father died six years later after two leg amputations. My mother stood by him through it all–his rock–although she wasn’t as sturdy as she’d been. Her shoulders slumped, her hands didn’t work, and she walked with a cane.

It’s like I met her for the first time. Although she appeared strong, she wasn’t. She simply did what needed to be done. Caring for my dad–a full-time job–her family, and her congregation from the Salvation Army where my parents served.

Now I’m caring for her.

She’s ninety-five years old and probably doesn’t have much time to live. Through these fourteen years of caregiving, I’ve experienced a range of emotions from anger to resentment to deep sadness, even despair. But recently, when I look at my mama’s creased face, I’m filled with love and compassion and mercy.

It’s a God thing.

In fact, the similarities between how I feel about my new grandson and my mother are astounding.

The time with Silas as a baby is quickly slipping away. The time left with Mom will be over soon. Both are precious.

Both are completely dependent on someone to care for them and protect them. They each have personality traits to be discovered and encouraged.

I know I’m a writer, but I couldn’t possibly put on paper the emotions I experience with them on a daily basis.

Each evening I’m with Silas I sing a special made-up song and watch him smile and try to sing along.

Every night, I slip into Mom’s room, hold her hand and sing, All night, all day, angels watching’ over me, my Lord. All night, all day, angels watching over us. Then I pray.

She used to sing with me each night, but lately she will sing a word or two or not at all, but I know she hears.

What am I trying to say?

Solomon said it best in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.”

And both should be experienced and treasured to their fullest.

Happy New Year! I pray that your lives will be lived in the light of the joy of eternity.

 

 

 

Dead or Alive

“Pauline!” I smiled as Mom’s caregiver had to shout to get her attention since she can’t hear out of her right ear. Tom and I sat on the couch, getting ready to go into town.

“Pauline!” I heard again, this time with a tinge of panic in her voice.

“Do you mean me?”

“Yes. And come now!”

Running into her room, I searched Mom’s face. It was a combination of fear and panic, then as I watched, her eyes glazed over.

“Quick! We’ve got to get the food out of her mouth! Pull her up and hit her on her back!”

I complied—numb.

Tom ran in, climbed on the back of mom’s bed and tried to pull her up. Her body slumped back like a ragdoll. Her lips were blue as were her fingernails.

We continued to beat on her back.

“I can’t feel her pulse!” Tonya said.

We raised her arms as Tonya continued to try and unlock Mom’s mouth.

“I think she’s seizing! Let’s turn her on her left side,” Tonya shouted.

As she lay on her side, I thought This is it. Ninety-five years on this earth and it will end in a matter of minutes.

Then I remembered the Living Will Mom and I had filled out. She’d answered yes when the social worker had asked her if she’d like her family to hold her hand, play music, and express their love while she was dying.

“Tom, put on Christmas music.” I pulled a chair close to her good ear and stroked her hand. “Mom, I love you,” I said over and over again as tears coursed down my cheeks.

I cried out to God. I’m not even sure what I said. Then Mom gasped. Her eyes, which were dull and unfocused flitted and stared at me.

I sobbed.

A few minutes later, she moved her arm.

The Hospice nurse arrived to check Mom over. We’re not sure what happened, but whatever it was, it was quick.

It’s hard to catch your breath after that.

It’s not that I’m afraid of my mother dying. I know she’s going to heaven. By God’s grace and His Son’s sacrificial death, heaven is my eternal destination, too.

It just made me think.

For a while, my mother was suspended between heaven and earth—and it all happened so fast.

The Bible says this, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

So according to the Bible, we are all dead spiritually. It’s God who makes us alive in Christ.

We do need to do something. Cry out. Admit that we have trespassed or sinned against a holy God either in thought, word, or deed.

Romans 10:13 says, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

This Christmas season, I’m grateful that the Lord heard my cry for my mom and I get to hang out with her a little while longer.

But I’m eternally thankful that God heard my cry for salvation.

And just like that, I became spiritually alive.

How about you?

(The above picture was taken in 2008 with three generations…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

FYI, this blog is intense. There’s nothing funny in it unless I insert a knock-knock joke… we’ll see.

“Ma! Dorothy!”

I entered Mom’s room around 2am. Hands clenched behind her head, she called out into the darkness for her deceased mother and sister.

“Mom, it’s me, Pauline.” She turned her head the opposite way. “I’m over here, Mom.” Her head moved toward me as her eyes tried to focus.

“Where’s Pauline?”

“It’s me Mom. I’m Pauline.”

Focusing her eyes on me, her face relaxed.

“Were you sleeping?”

I assured her I was and that I very much wanted to return to bed.

As soon as I entered my room, guilt washed over me. Why couldn’t I be more patient? What must it feel like for Mom to not know where she is and who is there? 

Then sadness washed over me. Mom’s life is simple. She moves from her room to the table, occasionally onto the porch where the dogs lick her hands and check her bib for food scraps. A cat may hop into her lap or circle the wheelchair. She’s cared for and we love her, but it’s hard to watch. Harder to live.

Recently, my pastor began his message with, “We’re all going to die.” He quoted Larry King about his obsession with death.

I face death every day in the face of my mom. Before her, I watched my father die. I know what it looks like from a growing old point of view.

It ain’t pretty. But it’s not the end of the story. For a follower of Christ, there’s eternal hope. It’s not our best life now.

Good thing.

And I don’t even have a thing to complain about.

But I do–complain, that is.

My pastor went on to speak about the resurrection. Here’s what Paul said in I Cor. 15:53-57:

 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

That is a great promise. Victory over death.

The book of Hebrews helps me understand life, death, and the resurrection better when it describes Abraham’s life:

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11:8-10

When I’m overwhelmed with the decline of my mother or sin in the world or my own sin, I need to remember this…

I’m not home yet.

In America, it’s easy to want to hang around on earth.

It’s comfortable.

But it’s not home.

My mom is almost home.

She’s knockin on heaven’s door.

One day we will all be at that door and the only way to enter is through faith in Jesus Christ. Not good works, not church attendance, not even the stuff we didn’t do. Just faith.

Not to accept this free gift brings judgment.

So let me tell you a knock-knock joke. You decide if it’s funny…

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

God.

Will you enter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caregiving is Servant Boot Camp

Don’t you just hate the way God answers prayers sometimes?

Just because I’m praying to be more of a servant doesn’t really mean I want to be more of a servant.

At least, that’s what I’m finding out. Praying for holiness isn’t the same as actually being holy. And no, I don’t mean by works, I mean by practice.

You see, my desire is to be more like Christ but my flesh is weak.

Take yesterday for instance. Because in the Tar Heel State when it snows more than an inch, it’s an emergency, I’ve been shut in for almost two weeks. Sure, I’ve been to the store and a few other errands, but our society as we know it took a two week break. Schools included.

Mom’s caregivers have come most of the time, but there’ve been times when it’s been just me. And Mom. And Tom. (Do you feel the tension?)

So yesterday, when Mom called for the fifth time after going in several times, I told her I couldn’t come every time she called.

She cried. So did I.

It spilled over into today. I called my sister. We both cried.

Caring for a parent in your home is tough. Being the one cared for is tougher.

I can see that and sometimes that makes it harder for me when I look at my mother, because I see me in a few decades.

It’s intense.

So after I cried in my room and to my sister, my mom called me in.

“Sorry I called you in and made you,” great sniffling, blowing of nose, wiping of chin, “feel bad.”

“I’m sorry too Mom.” More crying and nose-blowing on my part. “I sometimes just need time to myself so I don’t go crazy.”

“I know.”

There were other words said and tears wiped. Then Tom prayed.

Knowing there is a God Who cares and gives me strength when I need it and joy when there is none is comforting.

Humbling.

Most people would say I’m a servant. I know better. The Lord knows better. Yet, it’s my prayer.

I know my blogs are usually short, but I have to add a few more lines.

I’ve been studying the Exodus. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, God does not take kindly to complaining. And that’s what I’ve been doing and I’m ashamed.

Because God’s Word teaches that He has me right where He wants me and I need to be content.

And really, my deepest heart desire is to want what He wants.

So it’s back to boot camp.

As Gibbs would say–Hoorah!