I spent the morning with my elderly mother-in-law today. She has dementia and lives in a care home, but we visit at least once a week and I was determined to take her out this week while I have no studying. The past couple of times M has seemed more confused, more clumsy, more tired. From what I have read about dementia this is just the gradual, if not unexpected, decline with the passage of time. Today she asked me the whereabouts of her husband, so I had to gently tell her of his death. We have had to do this several times, though not as many as you would think. She began to cry as the news hit her afresh.

“I forgot, you know.” She said, at once both pained and vulnerable. She blew her nose, “I didn’t mean to.”

“I know.” I replied, taking her hand.

With a ragged breath she smiled and said, “Time goes on.”

“It does. And we hold on to the things that matter most.”

“You’ve a nice way of putting things,” she said, calmer now. “Thank you.”

I lifted the teapot and poured, thinking: if my life is destined to be small, and not grand, if my remaining years are to be spent giving smiles to folk who need to see a friendly face, or a gentle word to someone in distress, I will praise God and thank Him for the privilege.

10 thoughts on “Small

  1. Beautiful.

    My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s, though she is still physically able to care for herself. The last time we saw her (they live 8 hours away), she was repeating the same questions over and over. “Do you still play soccer?” she asked my 11 year old. My daughter said yes. “You’re such a good soccer player,” she responded each time. “We enjoyed seeing you play.” (And I thanked God that neither daughter ever said, “Grandma, you just asked me that five minutes ago!”)

    Ever since I met her, now 15 years ago, she’s been worried about Alzheimer’s; her mother and her sister had it prior to their deaths. It weighed her down, I think, all that worry. Now that her memory’s gone this far, she seems happier than I remember seeing her before. Things will get worse, I know; the issue of who will care for her after my father-in-law passes away and how much money there will be loom large for all the grown children. But as my sister-in-law tearfully told me that her mother said, “You know, I’ve really had a wonderful life.” So far, her memory has held on to the things that matter most, as you put it.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s really encouraging. 🙂

      It must be difficult with your in-laws so far away. We too have lots of repeating conversations, with both my mother-in-law and my son, who has autism! Patience is definitely a virtue.

      • Patience, a virtue I am sorely lacking. I’m afraid that I was rather impatient (internally) with my mother-in-law, though I hope I didn’t show it.

        I didn’t realize your son has autism. You really do have lots of repeating conversations in your house, I guess. Hugs, and a prayer for extra patience and love from God today. 🙂

      • Now that Tim’s mentioned the teapot as a symbol of grace . . . I thought of how beautiful that you were drinking (and possibly eating?) together as you have this conversation, which reminded me of communion, when we are reminded (through the partaking of bread and wine) of Christ’s death and resurrection, when we do it together as a community. And like a person with dementia needs repeated reminders of certain things, we need that repeated reminder of Christ’s grace because we, too, are prone to forget.

        (Yes, I was an English major, the irritating one who liked to explicate and dissect every sentence in every text!)

  2. Pingback: Reblog – Before All Else: Being | multicolouredsmartypants

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