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Home » All Posts, That Kitchen Drawer

The Circle of Life

Submitted by on June 22, 2011 – 4:46 pm17 Comments

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.


  • Pam Steele says:

    Thank you, Marcia. What a lovely, encouraging post. Exactly what I needed right now. ~Pam

  • Tricia says:

    This is so precious and such an enormous lesson of love. Truly all of our lives we are ministering, aren’t we? I watched my mother and aunt love my grandmother in this way. And I so appreciate the perspective you shared of eternity with your daughter!

  • Shari says:

    what a lovely tribute; what lovely words for a dying world. Thank you for loving mom and dad as they transition to the eternal; the journey will end, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” for Grandpa and for you! Love you!

  • Marcia says:

    Thanks for commenting on a grace-filled moment, Ladies, and sharing our joy in believing. Marjorie and I knew that we were standing on hallowed ground, and it’s been such a joy to see the new strength and joy that have come into both our hearts since this precious insight was given to us. Wouldn’t trade the memories that Marj and I will share from this summer’s work for the world!

  • Marsha in OK says:

    Oh, sweet Marcia. Thank you for reminding me of these truths, of how holy was the ground I stood on when my husband passed into eternity. I had never thought of helping him through that time in quite this way, either. I am so very thankful for you! I’ll be praying for all of you as you walk this path.

  • Maggie Hogan says:

    Powerful testimony – beautifully stated. May God continue to pour out His blessings on your family as you faithfully serve Him day by day, hour by hour.
    Sending hugs,

  • Melody says:

    Our prayers are with you and Marjorie as you lay down your lives for these precious saints.

  • Debbie says:

    Hi Marcia,
    I found it interesting you chose beginning of life and end of life as the examples of blessing to give your daughter because I’ve always felt the same. I have only witnessed one birth up close and personal- the birth of my nephew, Nathan. And what an incredibly awesome experience it was to watch him take his first breath. He went from still and peaceful from one world in the womb to a new world now red and screaming in a matter of one breath. And equally as awesome and amazing it is to be in the presence of someone who is crying, tired and in paint, struggle and then with one breath becomes still and peaceful, gone from this world and into the presence of the Lord.

    Both are gifts given from the creator of all things. I never thought of death as a gift until I became honored to experience the very moment someone leaves this world to enter eternity. In two cases, I knew these souls were belivers in a holy God and had given their hearts to him. My grandfather, on the otherhand, had a very difficult passing – no peace- as he struggled in anger and agony during his transition as if he wrestled with our creator. Sadly, I don’t know where he is spending his eternity and that hurts my heart. Nonetheless, after a gap of 20+ yrs of seeing him, I cared for him with the love of Christ knowing I had to a choice to be the only Jesus he may ever know or be the bitter granddaughter hurting at the way the mean, angry man treated his family. Taking the windy Roman Road those few weeks in caring, praying, even lighting his pipe for him and making him smile his last smile, as well as giving him the small pleasures he would ever know on this earth gave him small comforts. And daily reminding him of a loving, forgiving mericiful God waiting for him when he was ready to say yes and praying for him, holding his hand,and speaking the gentle truths of our Lord and Christ gave me peace that no matter my grandfather’s choice, I was being obedient to Christ’s commands to honor our parents and elderly and to give a cup of cold water in his name. One day I’ll know if he made the choice for Jesus. One that day, I’ll praise God regardless for the gift of being able to be a part of a few gifts rare and uniquie – those of having the honor of sharing one of the only two moments on earth that we all will surely take – our first breath nd our last.
    To encourage each of you I off a simple reminder to Enjoy this difficult time as an honor and a gift. And know that for such a time as this, you have been chosen to be honored to be apart of a significant time in their lives.

    Bless you and your family during this time.


  • Patti says:

    Thank you so much for this. It has renewed me. I’ve taken in my parents this past October, Dad 90 and Mom 85. Dad passed away here in November, Mom has moderate Alzheimers. It has been quite a year. All the feelings you mentioned pass withing my sould daily. Yet, the Lord blesses me continually. I remember being at my dad’s bedside while he passed into heaven. (Thankfully he was saved.) I held his hand as he gasped for his last few breaths and turned blue. His beautiful blue eyes looked up at me as I held his hand and told him it was okay, that He’d be with Jesus very soon. I literally felt like I was the mid-wife helping my dad deliver his soul into the Lord’s hands. Oh my! I was cheering him on with much love, joy and tears. A few months later, my mother was officially diagnosed with moderate Alzheimers. I realized I lost my dad, but also my mom. Very hard year. Yet, such is the circle of life. I am thankful my five children were blessed to experience such normal life. I must add that after a dream of asking the Lord, how long must I wait for my mom to get saved….I heard Him in the dream say tomorrow….sure enough the next morning my 11 year old daughter and I sat with my mom (yet again) and read a tract sharing the gospel. She was like a little child and willingly agreed and accepted the Lord Jesus as her Saviour. This is a major blessing after years and years and years of praying for her and witnessing to her. This is life at it’s best because of the hope we have in Jesus. Thank you Marcia, for reminding me that it is -special and a gift to be able to care for our parents in their last days before they go home!

  • Julie S. says:

    Beautiful moment and powerful testimony! Thanks for sharing!
    Wish I was there to give you both a hug! Marcia thanks for loving the Lord and always seeking to see Him and serve Him in all things and point others to His amazing love, and grace.

  • This is a beautiful testimony of Gods sustaining grace through all seasons of life! I had the privilege of holding my Dad’s hand as God opened the door of eternity and called his name. Thank you for sharing a slice of your life with us!
    Blessings to you and yours,

  • Molly says:

    I needed to hear this. I just needed, needed, needed it. You are a blessing!

  • Stefanie Sankey says:

    Wow. What an awesome insight. Thank you so much for posting this. I’m going to send along to a friend who is struggling with an elderly, ailing grandmother. I, myself, took care of my mom for the last 3 and a half years of her life, after she was partially paralyzed by a stroke. We were blessed to be supplied by a lovely Christian aide (parttime) by our county, as well. The Lord really worked that out. Yes, it was hard, but so very worth every minute we got to spend with her, and my daughters had the amazing experience of learning love and selflessness in a way that no schoolbook could ever teach them! May God bless you and strengthen you on this Circle of Life journey with your inlaws.

    In Christ’s love, Stefanie

  • Sarah Sheets says:

    Please tell me about this photo of them. I’ve stared at it for so long…it’s precious.
    Louisville, KY

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