My pastor husband says often that it’s not true that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. (That’s not from the Bible, by the way.) And I agree with him. God allows us to have more struggle than we can handle all the time. He does it regularly. It’s what draws us closer to him. It’s the place where we depend on him and his spirit can work.
I send out text and email updates to a large contingent of Mom and Dad’s friends as she fights her brain cancer. One of my sweet friends expressed some appreciation for my sharing the journey and mentioned that I was handling it well. I’m not. If I were handling it on my own, I would be falling apart. But thanks to God’s precious spirit, I’m depending on him and feeling his peace and beauty throughout this process. Y’all – that is NOT me by myself. It’s just not. It’s him.
Ellie and I arrived in Dallas last Sunday. We had originally planned to come to Texas as a family, but we had this (horrible) discussion with our girls about my mom’s condition and asked them if they thought they could handle it. Ellie felt strongly that she wanted to go. Emma wisely said she didn’t think she could handle it. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so proud of her. I love that she knows her sensitive self so well. So, I booked flights for me and Ellie and left James preaching at our church planting mentor church alone with the two youngest last Sunday and alone on Father’s Day this most recent Sunday. (They did great for him – yay!)
So, we arrived early on Sunday – 6:30am flights are cheap, y’all – and were happy to connect with Mom and Dad after 6 weeks apart. It struck me when I called Dad one day in May and asked how Mom was doing. He said something like “about the same”. I started asking questions and realized she wasn’t the same at all. It’s not that Dad wasn’t being honest – she was the same to him. But when you’re the daily caregiver, you don’t realize that today is the last day they’ll sit in a wheelchair. I mentioned to Dad, “You have to remember, the last time I saw her was when you were at our house in April.” That feels so long ago now…
Mom is now fully bedridden in the hospital bed Dad had brought into their guest room. The two twin beds that were previously in that room are upstairs against the wall in the small living space up there. Remember in a previous post when I mentioned the sadness of seeing the wheelchair lines in the carpet? I noticed on this trip that I was sad that the wheelchair lines are gone. It’s constantly a new normal. And each normal is worse than the last.
On Sunday afternoon, after a bite of lunch, I found myself in the kitchen talking to Dad about the funeral. I’m glad he’s not in denial and is thinking about it. But that doesn’t make it fun. We talked through some things including that he wants James to lead it and me to do the slideshow. And of course there will be red. And Sandi Patty’s “We Shall Behold” him where I’ll try not to roll my eyes. Ha! But at the end of the conversation, I couldn’t help but get emotional and just comment that I can’t believe this is where we are. It wasn’t a year ago that we were on the RV/camping trip together and Mom was hiking with us! I know some people lose loved ones quickly – a car accident, etc. I’m grateful for the year we’ve had and the time we’ve had to say all the things – truly. But it’s still surreal that my Mom was watching my kids at our home a year ago while we went out of town, and now we’re discussing her funeral.
And let me say, we are still praying for the miracle. We won’t stop. We know God can and are honestly just not sure he will. So, we’re also planning for the reality that’s in front of us. Don’t see it as a lack of faith. Our faith is in God’s will and his sovereignty. We trust in that.
As I walked through the week with Mom, there continued to be moments of beauty and sweetness that I appreciated. Ellie read a book to Mom one or two hours a day. And it was sweet. Dad had Mom’s nail technician come to the house to do her nails. And it was sweet. Mom’s best friend Gwynel came to stay with her on Friday night to allow Dad, Ellie and I to go to Cici’s and a movie. And it was sweet. I read Mom’s entire memory book to her including each and every letter that was written to her – even mine. And it was sweet. And also hard. She laughed at all the right spots and was sad at the appropriate parts as well. Dad climbed into the bed beside Mom to watch the news. And it was sweet. I fed Mom several meals. And it was sweet. We did a video of Mom and Dad where Dad climbed into bed with Mom and told the story of how they met, their first date, their wedding, honeymoon, and marriage. And it was so sweet, and I’m so glad we have it.
But there was also so much hard. It was hard when Mom wouldn’t swallow and eating a simple small meal took an hour. It was hard when moving her right arm to change her caused her to wince from the pain of muscle atrophy. It was hard when you’d ask her a question and she sometimes would stare blankly. It was both physically and emotionally hard to change her twice a day. I realized how much work it is for my dad turn her on her side each day and get it done. And it was so incredibly hard when Ellie and I had to say goodbye on Sunday. It was hard enough for me on its own, but to have your eleven year old cry about how this could be her last time seeing Cookie just broke my heart in a new place. And it was hard when I told Dad that I really see better what he meant about praying that this part is over quickly – whether she’s healed on earth or in heaven. Mom is not living – not really. She can understand things, but she can almost not communicate at all. We get a rare head nod or eyebrow raise, but it’s minimal. And Dad. Dad can leave for very short trips to the post office or grocery store, but otherwise he has to have someone else there in order to leave. There is no Friday night date night right now. He and his friends that they hang out with on Friday nights have learned a new card game that can be played with three people since Mom can no longer play. This part stinks.
I don’t want her to go. But I don’t want to stay in this place either. I’m grateful for a God who knows my heart. I’m grateful for a God who loves my dad and mom more than I do. And I’m grateful for the small army of people praying for us as we walk this. I know we’re not the only ones – I would never mean to imply that. My reasons in writing about this process is for myself to look back upon and in hopes of encouraging others to see the beauty in the ashes when they’re struggling. I wouldn’t be able to see it without our loving precious father.