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I Tuck My Mom In


“All night, all day,

Angels watching over me, my Lord.

All night, all day,

Angels watching over me.”

I remember the warm nights at camp in Kansas City. Perhaps nine years old, we sang that song each evening after our night meeting.

It comforted me.

You know, nine years old at camp by yourself without your mom–anything could happen.

But somehow knowing angels kept tabs of my whereabouts helped me sleep better.

As I sang those words last night, the scenario had changed drastically. This time I leaned over Mom’s hospital bed comforting her.

She’s 94 now. Her skin is breaking down, she often forgets what she’s talking about–can’t seem to retrieve words from her brain–and needs two people to help her walk. When she can walk.

But at night, when the lights are low, I cover her paper-thin hand with mine and we sing. I carry the tune while her raspy voice drops an octave sometimes creating a kooky harmony. It sounds perfect to me.

Mom and I have never been friends like I’m friends with my daughter, but I knew she’d always be there when I needed her.

Like the time I was three years old and rode double with my older sister, Paulette. I remember wondering what it would feel like to stick my foot in the spokes of the bicycle.

I did. Mom rushed me to the hospital, scolding my sister all the way. (Really, at that time she should have had me committed.)

Before I birthed Sarah, mom came. And stayed. And stayed. Sarah refused to come out.

Finally, Mom flew home.

Sarah decided to make an appearance and within a matter of minutes, I was prepped for a cesarian.

“Call Mom!” I shouted to Tom as they wheeled me into the operating room.

She came. I knew she would.

So last night, we sang. And tonight we will sing.

And the angels will smile.



Wisdom from My Mother

It had been one of those terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad, days and I was contemplating a move to Australia.

The farming, marketing, processing, and livestocking was about to kill me. Not to mention the fact I’m still a wife, homemaker, daughter, and church member. Everyday I got up looked at my list, checked it off and just like Pinocchio’s nose, when I got up the next morning it grew.

So a few weeks ago, after I’d had an especially taxing morning, I pushed Mom onto our front porch. We gazed over the 10 acre field dotted with colored leaves. My heart churned with anxiety and ungratefulness.

I glanced at Mom in her wheelchair. At 94, her life consists of eating, sleeping, watching TV, and reading when her eyes allow. She is dependent on caregivers to aid her in bathing, walking, and toiletry. Sometimes she gets out once a week and sometimes she doesn’t.

I had a thought. Maybe I could do one thing right. I’d try to be a better daughter and caregiver. “Mom, if you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?” I calculated the extensive list of circumstances and people I’d change.

Without missing a beat she replied. “Not a thing.”

I couldn’t believe it. “You mean you can’t think of anything you would change about your situation.?” I observed her worn face with skin that is breaking down.

“No, not really.”

I hadn’t even asked her for advice, yet her simple words spoke volumes. My eyes watered. My heart bowed low.

I say I believe in the sovereignty of God, but I’d been living like I’m the sovereign one.

Like Moses, I’m in a desert place. A place where I have to be dependent on God. Not my friends, not my church, not my family, but on Him. It’s a hard place to be.

Years ago, I studied the book of Isaiah and claimed a verse as my own.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” Is. 30:15.

I repented. And I’m trying to rest. Not work but trust. I need to talk less and pray more.

It’s a hard place to be, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Besides, who wants to move to Australia?



Missing Dad

Seated at a booth in the local Mexican restaurant, Tom and I shared a meal with a young farm couple half our age.

We yacked about farming for a good while, but then the young man shared a story about his father–who is probably our age. The story concerned a snake and a gun. The young farmer smiled as he spoke fondly of his father.

My mind traveled back to a time with my daddy.

“Do you know what to do if I get bit by one of the snakes?” Dad asked my 10-year-old self.

I nodded even though I had no idea. I knew nothing bad could happen when I was with my father. Even when we hunted poisonous snakes in a quiet cornfield in Kansas. Not usually what a 4th grade girl and her dad did for an outing. But then, nothing my daddy did could be labeled normal.

I loved it, even though I was scared.

After we caught various kinds of snakes, we’d take them home and put them in fish aquariums in our back yard. (This made us extremely unpopular with our neighbors.) Dad used the specimens as he spoke to Boy Scout groups in the area. He’d handle the snakes and point out their beauty and strength, and the intricacies God used in creating them.

He loved nature and always took time to appreciate it and share it with his three daughters and anyone else who would listen. But he loved the Creator more than the creature and always gave God the credit.

I appreciate all of it now.

Ray Wert was an in-your-face kind of guy. Most people loved him, but some hated him. I admired him in the 4th grade, was embarrassed by him in high school, and tolerated him in college. As an adult, I realized his imperfections and often concentrated on them.

“You have a good father,” my mom would say when I complained.

Then he got sick. Lost both legs to diabetes while he lived with us. My out-of-the-box father became dependent on me.

That was hard.

Sometimes it was incredibly sad. Other times he annoyed me.

Last night as I sat across from the young couple, I missed him.

Today, it hurt even more.

I have some regrets of how I handled his care. Mostly, I regret not enjoying him those last few years.

Now, my father is with his Father.

Walking on two legs. Maybe talking to the Lord or one of His saints about God’s handiwork.

One day, I’ll see him again.

That makes me smile.

So do snakes.


Slow Down, Part 2

The pain didn’t let up. Day and night, muscle spasms and stabbing, knife-like sensations coursed through my left shoulder, neck and forearm. I was desperate for pain killers. I’d been taking the highest dosage of narcotics, supplementing them with ibuprofen. I had a limited amount of sleeping pills to aid me during the long hours of the night, but still I found no relief.

I had a frozen shoulder. I’d never heard of it until my doctor said he didn’t want me to get it. (Sounds like an exotic drink or something you might purchase from an ice cream truck.) I did get it and eventually had to have arthroscopic surgery to have it fixed. After three long weeks with no relief and three sessions a week with physical therapists that trained with Hitler, I was miserable. I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. My life became a series of doing what I absolutely had to do, trying to rest and do my exercises and then trying to rest, again.

To top things off, my mother fell five days after my surgery and had a hip replacement. It was up to me to oversee her care and rehabilitation. I was at the end of my proverbial rope.

That day found me at my local drug store, searching for a pain-pill change. I noticed a new tech and talked to her. I guessed her to be about nineteen. To my surprise, she was the new pharmacist.

“My daddy has taken this pill since his car accident, and it’s wonderful!” she stated in an unmistakable southern drawl. “There’s no reason for anyone to be in pain in this day and age.”

Her statement took me by surprise. I knew what she meant. She was probably reciting one of her recent professors. But as I drove away, I thought her sweet, but naive.

Physical pain could probably be relieved for the most part, at least in the US. But just like pills, pain takes many shapes and forms. I knew. I’d seen lots of pain in the last six years.

During those years my elderly parents lived with me and my husband along with our two teenagers. I sat through numerous doctors’ visits with my parents as they made decisions that eventually led to both my father’s legs being amputated. I’d watched as they lost of their independence and became totally dependent on the caregivers and me. I knew the pain of finally having to say ‘uncle’ and putting my dad into a nursing home. Then a few weeks later, the pain of transferring my mom to an assisted living that was connected to it.

She didn’t want to go.

When she arrived, my sister and I walked her into a stunning lobby. Quiet music played as a gas fireplace burned, adorned with stately sofas.

We noticed a sign meant for Mom with colorful, floating balloons attached that read, “Welcome Home, Pauline Wert.”

My sister averted her eyes as I watched tears form. I looked away. I was well versed in this sort of pain, and had learned to detach myself in order to exist.

I knew the pain of making mistakes with my children and hurting with them as they made their own mistakes. I knew the pain of death. I’d been with both my father and my mother-in-law as they drew their last breath.

Still, this physical pain shocked me. Years ago, I’d written an article in The St. Petersburg Times about a severe illness that had attacked my mother. I said then that “Pain is the schoolroom of growth.” Well, I wanted to quit. I finally understood that I couldn’t because there are no drop-outs in this school.

I’ve learned from it though. I’m still sorting through it a bit, but thought I’d share what I’ve learned with you. (I’m allowed to do this since I am over 50 and have some fat hanging from my upper arms).

So, pull up your chair and a have a good cup of strong coffee, I’ll take extra cream, and let’s learn together.

First, I’ve learned to have more empathy with people in pain.

As I waited for the doctor to put me under, I thought of how often my father had waited for his surgeries. Knowing that he was going in with a leg and was coming out without one, and all that entailed, must have been horrifying. I remember thinking then that it must be frightening, but later told him to “suck it up.” As that thought passed through my mind, tears flowed. The nurse noticed and thought I was afraid. I wasn’t afraid, I was just feeling some of my daddy’s pain.

I read in a book once that there are two kinds of people. People who walk into a room and say with their presence, actions and speech, “Here I am.” Then there are those who walk into a room and with their presence, actions and speech say, “There you are.” I confess that for half a century, I’ve been a “Here I am” person. But I’m praying to be a “There you are” person. I want to be like that all the time, but especially with people in pain.

That’s how Jesus was. People with all kinds of pain followed Him around, some physical, some emotional, some spiritual. He never turned them away. In fact, while studying the book of Matthew, I was amazed at Christ’s compassion. He not only healed people, but often he touched them physically. Like the blind man in Matthew 9, or the leprous man in Matthew 8.

I’ve also learned that good health is not my right. If anyone deserved good health, Paul did, yet in 2 Corinthians, he states that he suffered shipwrecks, beatings, hunger, thirst, sleeplessness-all for the sake of the gospel. Here I was with a hurt shoulder in a comfortable bed in a controlled environment and I’d lost my joy.

I decided to go to the book of Philippians. I read through the book several times during those sleepless nights and grueling physical therapies. I also picked up a commentary on it titled “Be Joyful” by Warren Wiersbe. I thought of poor Paul, chained to a Roman soldier in a cold, dark, musty jail. Although awaiting execution, and probably suffering with indescribable physical pain, he continued to have immense joy. His joy didn’t come from circumstances or health or others, it stemmed from his grateful delight over his salvation and eternal home with Christ.

If Paul could have abundant joy in those circumstances, then I could have joy in mine.

I also learned that God reaches out to us when we call to him in our weakness. God uses weak vessels. Then He gets all the glory.

One night, there was excruciating pain radiating through my hand. I kept trying to massage it, or move it so the muscle spasms would go away, but they wouldn’t. Finally, in desperation, I retreated to my reading chair and decided to go to God’s Word for encouragement and simply to praise Him. Psalm 134 happened to be my reading for that particular day:

“Behold, bless the LORD, all servants of the LORD,

Who serve by night in the house of the LORD!

Lift up your hands to the sanctuary

And bless the LORD.

May the LORD bless you from Zion,

He who made heaven and earth.”


I knelt, and lifted my painful hands to the LORD of heaven and earth and offered praise and blessing to Him that night.

It’s not about me, it’s not about you–but you already know that, it’s about Him. The God of heaven, met puny little me at 3 AM one October morning while calling out to Him in my weakness. His answer to praise and bless Him made the pain bearable.

Before I could completely heal my shoulder, I had to do exercises and sit in this contraption prescribed by my physical therapist for at least 2-30 minute sessions a day. It was a chair with a hydraulic lever that I pulled with my good arm to stretch my bad arm. I set it up in front of the TV so the stretch could be endured.

It occurs to me that just like that machine, the Lord is constantly stretching us. Molding us into his character. It’s slow and painful, but just like the pain in my shoulder was eventually alleviated by inflicting the pain of therapy and surgery, so God Almighty uses pain in our lives to produce in us the eternal weight of glory.

The young, sweet pharmacist may have been correct about alleviating some pain, but I’m glad that our Lord doesn’t take pain from our lives instead He uses it to conform us to His image. That’s what I want-to be like Him.

How about you?





Brighten the Corner

Crying most of the day, I could hardly function. No one died. I wasn’t losing my house. Or my family.

I attended my own pity party.

Why is Tom gone so much? Why am I home so much with Mom? How can I do great things when I’m stuck here? The stench of my thoughts must have burned God’s nose.

It had only been a week since I’d finished the chapter about contentment in Pricilla Shirer’s book, “Resolutions for Women.” I even signed the resolution.

And now I whined and cried to God because I was confined to a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom, air-conditioned house. Oh yeah, did I mention I have a pool?


Mom’s caregiver didn’t come in until later that day. I sat next to Mom as we listened to the radio. The announcer spoke of a woman who wanted to do great things for the Lord. Then her father became an invalid. She took care of him for the next several years.

She wrote a song during the time of care for her father. Here are the lyrics:

  1. Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
    Do not wait to shed your light afar;
    To the many duties ever near you now be true,
    Brighten the corner where you are. 

    • Refrain:
      Brighten the corner where you are!
      Brighten the corner where you are!
      Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
      Brighten the corner where you are!
  2. Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear,
    Let not narrow self your way debar;
    Though into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer,
    Brighten the corner where you are.
  3. Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,
    Here reflect the bright and Morning Star;
    Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed,
    Brighten the corner where you are.

We lifted the chorus together. Her voice, low and raspy–mine, younger and stronger. Mom’s wrinkly face shone from the corner of her cheery, green room. She brightened that corner.

I smiled. God answered me. He didn’t yell. He whispered to me through a song written by a woman who thought what she did didn’t count for anything.

All those acts of service the world doesn’t recognize, the Lord treasures.

He knows.

Now I know.

I’ll talk to you next week. I’ve got a few corners to shine up.

What about you?