Monday, July 24, 2006

A Servant Heart

It's hot, I had too much caffeine, and I can't sleep. I decided it's a good time to catch up on my on-line reading. I have been overwhelmed with the prayer requests I have found here. What a blessing to know that so many people pray for people they don't know and will never know on this earth. But what a great reunion there will be in heaven!

I have been thinking a lot today of my mother-in-law. She is 87 and my FIL just turned 93. They recently celebrated their 65th anniversary - yes, I said 65th. They ministered together in small churches for many years. They raised 3 great kids, one of whom I was privileged to meet and marry almost 34 years ago.

When they retired, the folks moved out here and bought our first little house from us. It was great, and even better when they bought a bigger house, only 6 blocks from us. They lived there happily, raising a garden, working in their church, and loving their grandkids, for over 15 years - I can't really remember! Then they went to a nice apartment in a retirement setting and enjoyed 5 good years there. I wouldn't mind living there myself someday - fun stuff to do, an ice cream parlor, exercise room, pool, hot tub, hair salon, monthly cleaning of your apartment, and on and on.

But, the story is not as fun any more. She had to quit driving, he lost his mobility with his motorized wheel chair because he kept running into people in the halls (not a good thing to run into people in their walkers - could get a bit litigous!) He always was a maniac driver and that didn't improve with age! Finally, we had to intervene and move them into assisted living just a few months ago. She has had a hard time adjusting to the losses, especially the loss of the car and of the kitchen and cooking. I can't tell you how many thousands of sugar-free treats she has made for her diabetic sweetheart since he was diagnosed in his 60s.

Finally, about 3 weeks ago, the day came when she realized she couldn't take care of him any more as he slipped out of bed onto the floor and she couldn't get him back in bed. One problem is that she keeps forgetting to press the buzzer for help, which is the whole purpose of assisted living! She also didn't remember the next day, when he had been moved into full nursing care down the hall, that she admitted not being able to take care of him any more. Her short term memory is getting worse and worse. In the meantime, DC and his sister have had a tremendous load added to their lives with all of the caretaking that this involves - and of course, it affects me as well in a big way.

But the thing that I mainly have been thinking of is her servant heart. For so many years she has served the churches, her children, and most of all her husband. She is one of a dying breed who believe they were put on this earth to serve their husbands. She had a very low self esteem growing up (and still does for that matter, no matter how many times she is assured how wonderful she is), and didn't think any man would ever love her. Enter the love of her life and 65 years of a journey together.

Since he has been moved into the nursing home part of the facility, she can go visit him and keeps bringing him up to their little apartment in his wheelchair. Therein lies the problem - he's supposed to stay in his chair, but she keeps "forgetting" and asks him if he wouldn't like to sit in the rocking chair or on the couch. Then she has to get him back into the chair when it's time for him to go back to his dinky little room with the hard-of-hearing roommate who has his t.v. on full blast all day long. I don't blame her for wanting to get him out of there. But it takes 3 strong people to get him into that chair, and I honestly don't know how in the world she has done it without hurting him or herself. Trouble is - she's going to lose the privilege of having him up there if she doesn't quit helping him get out of his wheelchair! I told her the other night I couldn't decide if she was getting rebellious at this age, or if she was really that forgetful - I'm still not sure!

The point that I'm trying to get to in such a roundabout way is that I see her seemingly diminishing in size as she goes places without him. She has been at family functions this week-end alone and she is very sad. She seems smaller. Her entire identity is wrapped up in being his wife. I'm concerned about how she will survive when he is gone - his health is VERY precarious and it can't be much longer.


MugwumpMom said...

Your story is bittersweet. These two have had a life of love and legacy, all to God's glory. Sounds like He will tell them both "well done". These last years are the hardest. I remember this with my grandparents and it broke my heart.
And yes, will pray for your son.
I hope you have a good day

Dawn said...

Yes, bittersweet is definitely a good word for it. Thank you for your prayers.

Brenda said...

I'm still praying for Kevin, and I'll be praying for your in-laws. Bless her heart!

Dawn said...

Thanks, Brenda. I count on your prayers for sure.

Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) said...

yes - bittersweet is right.

To know such a love is so precious, but to slowly have your control and contact with it slipping away must be so painful.

Growing old can be so difficult. My Nana lived till 93 but oh I wish the Lord had spared her by taking her five years earlier. but he knows best. She had Alzheimers and watching her slip away was so painful. She too was such a servant and loved the Lord so dearly. But as her mind left her, she no longer remembered who Jesus was. She lived in fear and anxiety as felt herself slowly dying and not knowing why or what to do. I hope my mother goes earlier and with less suffering. And I hope I do as well.

Dawn said...

I read this quote in my devotions yesterday from someone named Dr. T.M. Anderson - "God one day will receive His saints. He will rub the wrinkles out of their faces, take the limp out of their legs, the dimness from their eyes and the deafness from their ears, and then He will touch them with the touch of immortality and roll back the years and make them young forever."

I know what you mean, Janice. The last time my dad saw his mom alive, we had spent the day with her, taking her to old familiar places which she remembered like yesterday. He forgot his glasses, so went back to get them from her nursing home room. She was still standing on the sidewalk where we'd left her and she looked at him and said, "Who are you?" What a sad thing that was for him. The next month he went back to Minnesota from Arkansas to officiate at her funeral. Can't wait to see her again!

Kristen said...

I don't even like to think about what it's going to be like for her and for Dad when he goes.

Sherry said...

I would have to say she is one of the sweetest people, I loved seeing her at church and at family things. They are truly a perfect couple.

C. H. Green said...

I know this is a difficult time for you. We had to put my grandfather in the nursing home last October. And we are trying to decide what to do about my father-in-law who has Alzheimers. You're in my prayers.