Love Bears All

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“How much do I owe you?” she said.  She kept repeating it several times.  Each time I assured her that she didn’t owe me anything.  I assured her that I had helped her because I loved her, not because I wanted anything.  I think she knew she didn’t owe me, as we have always joked in our family about “sending the bill”, but still a small part of her seemed to feel the need to offer.  I think it was because she was grateful.

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Grateful that I helped her bathe.  I don’t do it to be noble or garner praise.  I do it because somebody has too.  It’s not my natural inclination to bathe others, or help them to the bathroom or with whatever personal needs they need met.  I mistakenly entered a nursing program when I was 18.  How naive of me.  I lasted until mid-October.  When our instructor told us that the next semester we’d be giving shots that was the last straw for me.  That was my aha moment that I was not meant to be a caregiver.  I mean, the bed baths and the perverted old man had been a clue, but the shots just pushed me over the edge.  So, I’m a nursing school drop-out.

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She made me pay for that.  Not to be mean, but to teach me a lesson.  Uniforms, shoes, stethoscopes etc are expensive and I had entered into a noble profession lightly, without much thought, other than the memory of the cute lab techs I’d witnessed when my grandfather was in the hospital a few months earlier.  I mean decisions have probably been made for worse reasons, but really.  As I said, I was very naive at 18.  And such a romantic.  So, I worked at babysitting and paid back some of the money to my mom who had worked hard as a school lunch lady to help me.  Thankfully, she was able to use the uniforms and shoes as this was in the days when school lunch ladies wore white uniforms.

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This sense of making things right and being responsible still lurks around the fringes of her current state of dementia.  She needed to tell me that what I’d done was worth something to her.  She compliments me whenever I do something to help her and tells me that others would be glad to have someone do the same for them. She tells me I could probably get other’s to pay for my services.  I patiently explain to her that  I am not certified to do these things for pay.  Nor, would I want to.

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She is always grateful and even though there is a vulnerability in letting me help her, she does so because she trusts me and because she knows she needs my help.  It is hard for her to give up her independence, she who has always been the caregiver, always the one to meet the need.  It is hard for me to see her lose that independence, to realize that she doesn’t remember to bathe, or lotion her skin, or brush her teeth, all those little things that we take for granted and do habitually.  She is still particular and loves to be clean, she just doesn’t realize when she isn’t.  So, I remind her as gently as I can that it’s shampoo time.  I help her in as practical a way as I can because I know she wants to be as normal as possible. It is a humbling experience to be given that kind of trust.  Especially, from one who has always been so independent.

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So today, when she yet again asked what she owed me, I tried to make her see that she was the reason I was able to do these things for her.  Over the years I have watched her take care of others; it is her love language.  No job too dirty.  She has wiped many a dirty bottom and washed many a dirty feet.  She never sees the dirty part of the job. She just sees the need; her compassion and love for others compels her to act in loving service to them.  By watching her in action, I have seen that love bears all things.  Love takes care of the dirty. Even though it doesn’t come natural to me, I am able to act with compassion because her example taught me how.

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Love is a wonderful thing when we let it drive our actions.  It will take us out of our comfort zone into places we never thought we’d be capable of inhabiting.  When we remember the price love paid for us, it enables us to show that same kind of love to others. Especially to others.

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Loving Because of Grace,

Teresa

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18 thoughts on “Love Bears All

  1. Teresa,
    This is absolutely beautiful! I’m crying as I write this. Your words bring back so many memories.
    My Mom lost her battle with Parkinson’s and dementia four weeks ago tomorrow. We were able to keep her home until her death. I have so many great memories of helping her and just spending time with her.
    Enjoy every minute with your Mom! Love and prayers that your journey will be peaceful and blessed.

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    1. I’m so sorry for your loss. I think it’s wonderful that you were able to keep her home. I’m glad that you have the memories to help sustain you. We are hoping that we will be able to keep Mom home as well.

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  2. Teresa, Your words moved me more than any post that I have read in a really long time. Although I do not know your mother, you write with such color and vibrancy and you brought her personality to life for me. I also enjoyed today’s 31 days. It sounds like your mother has quite the personality and wit 😉

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    1. Thank you, Kelly. That means a lot to me coming from a kindred spirit. My mother does have great personality and wit. She never meets a stranger – if you showed up on her doorstep she would treat you like family and as if she had always known you.

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  3. Oh Teresa what a beautiful thing you are doing for your mom. I have been through dementia with both grandparents and have done some of the care giving and also a lot of care giving with a Grandma without dementia. I remember her telling me once – what do you want, you can have anything in this house you want. She was so grateful. Of course I reminded her once again that I wasn’t doing it to get anything. Any you know, in the end I got so much from it. More time with her, a chance to give back a little of what she gave to me over the years. My heart goes out to you and pray for God’s strength and peace for you during this time.

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    1. Thank you so much, Mindy for your encouraging words. Prayer is much appreciated. I love how it feels to know that I’ve made her day a little better. She would do the same for me. I like the idea of having a chance to give back some of what she has given to me. My grandmother also had dementia and my mom was one of her caregivers.

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  4. Beautifully written post, and such a loving tribute to your dear mother. I know it’s so hard to see them go through this. Dad had dementia years before he passed away. It was heartbreaking to see how his personality disintegrated. I just thank God he’s released from it now.

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    1. Thanks, Shawna – it is hard and I really resented it for a long time, but have realized that life is too short and I need to focus on the good times we have and stock up on memories. Some days we laugh and that is good. She is still her feisty self and on a good day has a great sense of humor. I like to think of it as her memories are still there, they just get misplaced sometimes. I know it must have been hard to watch your Dad go through this.

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  5. I remember your mothers kind smile. I saw her a few times at school and in the community and maybe once or twice when we shared a ride. She aways had a calm about her and this to me poured off unto you. Your words brought tears to my eyes as I remember bathing my own mom as hard as this is, it truely is a luxury of life. My heart is with you and your mom.
    much love,
    Gwen

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    1. Thanks, Gwen. It is so hard some days, but I know God’s grace is in this and in those moments when I have to help her there is a closeness that I wouldn’t trade for anything. She was always the one taking care of everybody.

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  6. Whenever I think of your mother, I always think of her soft and gentle smile. Not to say she couldn’t quiet us down at camp! : ) You’re a wonderful writer, capturing what many of us are seeing, feeling, and thinking as we watch our parents, the ones who have been our foundation and strength, learn to depend on us. Truly a humbling experience for us, the caregivers, as we are honored by their trust.

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    1. Thanks, Gwen. I’m sure you have many memories of her from camp. She did not let any of us get by with anything! I appreciate that much more now than I did then 🙂 . It is a humbling experience and an honor.

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