The Circle of Life
We’ve had Mom and Dad Somerville with us now for over four months. As I’ve shared before, obeying God by taking care of frail and needy parents is for me an act of faith, and because it is such, God regularly blesses me by it. My latest episode of blessing came this morning.
Grampa has not been doing well. He probably has low-level leukemia, and at any rate, suffers with constant headaches. He also battles anxiety and depression. He sleeps a lot, getting up rarely–mostly for meals. Yesterday, he prayed at breakfast, “Lord, don’t let me be a hypocrite… saying words of reverence when I feel so lousy.” He’s struggling. Daily. It’s a world of pain that has no hope in sight except for one pure ray of light: the gospel hope. Heaven is his only prize, and it’s still out of reach. He wonders if he can even hold on to that hope. And, Mom has significant dementia ( if not the beginning of Alzheimer’s) so we hear her thoughts, stories, and concerns over and over each day. Patience is at a premium as we fulfill little whims, brush and braid her hair, and wash and change the sheets.
My daughter, Marjorie, is helping Scott and me as her summer job while home from college, since we have other significant family and work-related events going on and can’t handle the load alone. She’s pure joy: a 20-year-old servant, gifted with a sweet, God-oriented spirit and significant abilities to help. But this morning she was blue. She’s been battling a cold, and her room is right next to Grampa’s so her sleep is often broken when he struggles in the night to go to the bathroom, or cries out in his pain. Furthermore, there was a short in our downstairs’ neighbor’s apartment that has been causing his (very loud and obnoxious) fire alarm to go off every couple of hours day and night for the last week or so. This loud noise stresses Dad night and day, and Dad’s anxiety distresses all the rest of us.
So, Marjorie was weary this morning, and I was trying to encourage her. I was saying that she was gaining good training for young motherhood (her goal!): broken sleep, doing lots of meals and dishes, and enduring cheerfully the tiresome care of serving people physically hand and foot. “That’s the way it is with babies, and we have babies in the house again,” I said, lightly, trying to get a smile from her.
She turned to me suddenly and burst out in tears with, “It’s not the same! It’s hard serving Grampa. It’s hard to watch him in pain, and to see the ugly sides of age, and to wipe up after him, and yet to know that helping him isn’t growing anything. He’s just going to go more and more downhill.”
Tears sprang to my eyes, as the Spirit filled my heart. “Oh, no, Marjorie. Don’t you see? We are growing something! We are helping a soul towards eternity. We are watching the final stages of the fiery trial of sanctification, and being Jesus’ very hands and feet so that Grampa can hang on! All our efforts are unto life–eternal life–in Jesus! If Grampa were unsaved then, yes, it would be miserable. But as it is, we are given the incredible privilege of caring for him, comforting him, and then–one day–seeing him off to life eternal!”
Her eyes sparkled with joy as she caught the vision. She got it, and it changed everything for her. Nurturing our dying parents is hard, but what a privilege to be with them in the transition to eternity. It’s just as holy, and just as awesome, as watching a woman struggle with the last few centimeters of dilation that precede a newborn baby coming into this world. It’s the circle of life, and Grampa’s transition is to life eternal, because His Savior is faithful.