Love Bears All




“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.



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.

mom, teresa, beth

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.



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.



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.



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.


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.


Loving Because of Grace,



Anywhere But Here

Only by the Grace of God that this is not my mother or your mother. Please check out what Overwhelmed by Joy has to say and then come back here to finish reading. This is a topic I have purposely not written about on my blog before.  Today seemed like the right time to share.

the foundation of joy makes the hurt bearable
the foundation of joy makes the hurt bearable

Dementia is a disease that affects everyone close to the person and just when you think you have it figured out the game changes.  There are no rules and nobody wins. You learn to take it one day at a time, except for the times you don’t.  You learn to find humor so that you won’t cry, except for the times you do.

You spend your time waffling back and forth between feelings of guilt, inadequacy, frustration, fatigue, anger, worry.  All of these emotions are rooted in the fact that  you want to be anywhere but here, yet you can’t imagine not being here. You want to do what’s right, but sometimes you just want to walk away.  Then you attack yourself for being selfish.  Because you have your mind.  You’ve only lost your life as you knew it and grieving what you have given up seems so small in comparison to watching your loved one give up so much more.

On a good day things seem almost normal and you can laugh and share memories, but in an instant that can change and you’re left wondering what you said wrong.  You watch as your loved one walks away from you feeling like somehow you have let them down, even though you know you didn’t mean to.  Then there are the times you engage and say things you later regret because you know they don’t really mean to shut you out.

You find yourself trying to figure out patterns and anticipate moods, only to realize that you are just twirling in circles and there are no answers. Only questions.  Then you remember.  He knows your pain.  He suffered too.  And He will be with you.  You are reminded once again that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  And you know that it is only by the mercies of God that the journey can be traveled with Grace.

Finding mercy in His Grace,