We sat outside on the front porch of the carehome, she, her Mom and I. Another lady in a wheelchair came out for a smoke. E. helped her find her lighter. We were commenting on different cars that came by, talking about nothing in particular. The lady in the wheelchair was punctuating our last words with, “Uh huh…..and Yes.”
A cement truck went by and E. told the lady next to us that she used to drive one, in her words, “When I was young and too stupid to be scared.” Her Mom, ever the harbinger of goodwill and bolsterer of egos says, “Now you’re old and stupid.” I blew out a breath……The verbal assaults and barbs she always had at the ready never failed to shock me. I guess a lifetime of negativity doesn’t die easily, even with Alzheimer’s.
It was the one thing that was most difficult when her Mom lived with us.
Ever the contradiction in terms, this was the same Mom who cried after she read the story I had written about her own daughter’s years driving a cement mixer. How she gained the trust of the men by applying herself to being the best driver there was, even so far as having contractors request her for the most difficult jobs.
I snuck the words out under my breath, “This would be almost bearable after a couple of Coronas.” She snorted a laugh.
After that, we went to see her Dad. As I witnessed her attending to him, I couldn’t help remembering the paranoia and the padlocked doors, the way he threatened his own daughter with violence. Things I won’t even talk about here.
And even though you know it’s the dementia talking, it doesn’t make it hurt any less.
That was also the same man who went with us when we put E’s 18-year-old cat down. He cried harder than any of us.
Day in and day out, for years I have watched her be a dispenser of mercy and grace to parents who were never there for her. And each day she refills her cup from a Holy fountain that never runs dry. She shoulders her grief and sadness courageously and I know she doesn’t tell me everything. Because then the dam would break and run over and she couldn’t continue to do what she does.
This is the kind of living lesson you could never get sitting in church, it’s only in the deep trenches where God meets you at the bottom, when He smiles and hands you a shovel.
One day not too long ago, her Dad said he wanted his beard shaved. (He doesn’t trust the aides to do it). I honestly don’t know if I could have put my Jesus sandals on for that one, but she did. It was as she finished that he said the five words she quite possibly had never heard before.
“You are a good daughter.”
And sometimes when you’re at your weakest, God sends His confirmation that He is paying attention. That He approves.
One day it was love letters in the parking lot of the nursing home. And yesterday it was two snow-white doves that landed on each side of her school bus.
The driver behind her was incredulous. He had never seen anything like it. He told her they landed, one on each side right before they all took off for the morning run.
And if that weren’t enough confirmation?
As she pulled in the driveway yesterday there was another one, also snow-white. We have scads of doves around here, but never have I seen one while one let alone three.
No one can convince me that the Holy Spirit wasn’t masquerading as those white doves. I know it.
Help me Lord to be more like my friend who keeps on refilling her cup and offering it back to the One who is worthy, even if it hurts. Each day looking to You for a fresh supply. Because it isn’t just a one time thing.
Along the way I discovered a facet of faith I never noticed before, the truth that forgiveness is not an action as much as a discipline. A solo acknowledgment of absolution or single act of disentanglement from the situation wasn’t enough. Margaret Feinberg.
All around us there are living lessons to be learned. But we can’t learn the lessons God has for us we are so caught up in rights and wrongs and who is deserving and who is not. We lose sight of the Grace that He continues to pour out on us every day.
Help me be a Grace dispenser Lord.