Today

5 03 2012

Alzheimer’s is not a party. It’s no fun to watch someone you love slowly disappear, their reality altering before your very eyes. Every day you look for that familiar flicker in eyes that once held your whole history, and when you see it, you rejoice. One more day. You’ve been given the gift of one more day.

But what about tomorrow?

Fear loves people with vivid imaginations. When I was pregnant with Grace, and Jacob was not yet two, George took him to a planetarium on the university campus. I knew the program ended at eight pm, and around eight thirty I started watching for their return. I was still watching at nine. Nine thirty. Ten.

If Jacob hadn’t been with him, I would have assumed George bumped into a friend, or something else had delayed him, and I might have been annoyed that he didn’t call to let me know, but not overly concerned. But who keeps a toddler out hours after his bedtime and forgets to call said toddler’s pregnant (read hormonal) mother?

This was long before cell phones. No way to contact George, so I called the university police and was told the planetarium indeed closed at eight, and no, there was no pale blue VW bug in the parking lot. I hung up the phone and stood face to face with an all-too familiar companion.

I should have cast myself on God’s faithfulness, but instead Fear and I, we sat down in the living room and had a nice long chat. We planned their funeral, attended the service, and wept pathetically (it really was a beautiful funeral), and when the car finally pulled into the drive around 11:00, well, let’s just say my husband was dead.

Of course, he knew he should have called, and he was genuinely sorry, especially after he saw my puffy, post-funeral eyes. He’d stopped by the biology office, got caught up in conversation with some fellow grad students, and lost track of time. But the point here is not George’s thoughtlessness. It’s my complete waste of time imagining a tragedy that never happened.

Worry is worse than a waste of time, because it ushers us into a dark valley of agony and torment without any grace to lift us above it. Grace is a gift from God — a by-product of His divine presence and purpose — and He gives it when we actually need it. He goes before us into life’s real battles and losses, and His grace and peace meet us there.

If you’ve ever tasted grace, you know it’s not something you can conjure up. You can only receive it. Grace defies imagination. It’s the “immeasurably more” of God, the peace that passes understanding. When fear projects us or our loved ones into hypothetical disaster, we face the horror alone. There’s no such thing as hypothetical grace.

God offers daily bread. He says, “Come to Me, and I will give you rest. Take no thought (no worry, no fear) for your life, your future, these things over which you have no control. The birds, the lilies, they understand that I give what is best, even in cold, storm, drought, or flood. Be like them. No, really. I mean it. Be like them.”

So I walk into the kitchen and greet my mother, and she turns her head slowly, and she smiles. The flicker is there, and she speaks my name. My father prepares her lunch, and she thanks him, and it’s a simple life with a slow pace. Everything slow. A part of me wants to speed things up, and a part of me wants to freeze time forever, but the moments come one breath at a time, and I can choose to enter them and find the grace waiting there.

Alzheimer’s isn’t a party. But even Alzheimer’s can be a gift.

She never played piano before. Never took a single lesson. But she plays it now. It happened by chance at Christmas time, a child’s toy keyboard left on the ottoman, and Mom leaning over and plucking out Joy to the World, all of us stunned to silence. Stunned to joy.

The next day my brother went to a music store and bought a real keyboard. It lives in their dining room, and we often play it. She picks out familiar tunes by ear, and I play an accompaniment, and we sing.

Her filters are gone, and that means she sometimes says cruel or careless things. But she’s also free like a child is free — unselfconscious, willing to try and fail. She plucks out the notes, correcting the wrong ones while still keeping rhythm, because this music has always been inside her, and now there’s nothing left to keep it caged. It blossoms like the lilies of the field. Takes flight like the birds of the heavens. It fills the room and fills our hearts, and we drink it in like water from the brook Cherith. Like Elijah’s miracle. Like God’s gift.

Tomorrow the brook may dry up, but the God who gives us Cherith today will give us exactly what we need then. And when fear sidles up and invites me to chat about the future, I won’t have to invent excuses. I’ll tell the truth.

I don’t have time to entertain fear. All I have is today, and today is filled with grace.

* * *

(I learned this song when I was seven years old and remember singing it with my family in several-part harmony on long car trips. Yesterday Mom and I played it while Dad recorded on my phone — a sweet memory to stash away and to share here with you. Today.)

Giving thanks in community for (#398 – 410)

warm sunshine and lunch outside on the deck
bolts of fabric, a party for the eyes
sweet potato chips
conversation with old friends
angels
happy news
waking to pray in the night
snippets from the Philippines
God’s Word taught with power
a slow pace that reveals grace everywhere
Alzheimer’s, RA, brain injury, gifts to my family
(because brokenness is the path to redemption)
today


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29 responses

5 03 2012
Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

Oh, how I know this!!!! Every single word. The only time I remember my daddy ever telling me he loved me was when he had Alzheimers. I, too, was “stunned with joy”…it makes me weep at that gift, even today. And what a gift you are to your family – always, but especially in these string of “todays”. And to know Grace and the gift of being in need is worth every hard place. Thank you for this reminder, beautiful Jeanne. Love you much!

5 03 2012
Sandra Heska King

Oh, Jeanne. This has just done me in. The gifts in the hard things. Hearing and seeing the two of you. Her smile.

And remembering those last days with my mom–grace in the hard of an aggressive brain tumor. Her wheeling out of her room to pick out Amazing Grace on the piano. Me playing keys for her (in my simple way) and plucking it on the harp.

His grace shines bright in you.

5 03 2012
Nancy

I would have had the funeral planned, too.

This: ” . . . the moments come one breath at a time, and I can choose to enter them and find the grace waiting there.” One breath at a time. So true.

5 03 2012
roseann elliott

oh..words fail to here…just so beautiful…oh this story of your mom playing the piano…brings tears…so sweet…so innocent…and this…
“Tomorrow the brook may dry up, but the God who gives us Cherith today will give us exactly what we need then. And when fear sidles up and invites me to chat about the future, I won’t have to invent excuses. I’ll tell the truth.

I don’t have time to entertain fear. All I have is today, and today is filled with grace.”
Amen…thanks for this post…blessings to you and may we drink in all the grace moments today…

5 03 2012
Pam

What a precious post! How unselfish of you to share your journey : ) I’m so glad I stopped by from Ann’s . . .

5 03 2012
Redemption's Beauty

Just beautiful and moved to tears over the surprise gift of music in her illness. And I go down these trails of worry too. Thankful for the gift of today, oh yes!

5 03 2012
simplystriving

stopping by via Ann’s today and am so glad I linked up after you.
beautiful. just beautiful.
“A part of me wants to speed things up, and a part of me wants to freeze time forever, but the moments come one breath at a time, and I can choose to enter them and find the grace waiting there.”
yes. this. thank you for this.
And thank you, Lord, for today….

All for Him,
Nikki

5 03 2012
robin lagrow

Beautiful post! Grabbed my heart…

5 03 2012
Sheila Seiler Lagrand

I LOVE that your brother went out the next day and bought a keyboard. Just love that.

And your sweet song, the smiles and hand-clapping at the end….I’m undone.

5 03 2012
Tatia

Thank you for sharing that tender moment with your mom – her smile is just beautiful!! It was also fun to hear you sing and laugh again…just like I remember, Jeanne.

I’ve been intrigued by your ‘giving thanks in community”…just figured out what it is 🙂 I’m very drawn to the idea, especially the recording of it. What a great way to remember. I’m finding that I need help with the remembering as I get older!

5 03 2012
Simply Darlene

Miss Jeanne,
Thank you for sharing this tender love. And I am amazed at your mom’s ability to play the piano without a lesson.

(I’m sorta glad I’m not the only one with those fear stories. I’m also glad that I can kick ’em to the curb with God’s grace.)

Blessings.

5 03 2012
Laura Boggess

Oh, my. The ways of God are such a mystery. But Love will have her way…

5 03 2012
Laura Boggess

Yay! My comment went through! Happy dance ;).

5 03 2012
kingfisher

How precious that you can see Alzheimer’s as a gift. And what a wonderful gift of joy that your mother can now play a keyboard. At such moments you truly know she is “Here” and “Present” rather than having drifted off. Thanks for sharing. God comfort and uphold you today. May you see his blessings in EVERYTHING.

5 03 2012
Diana Trautwein

Oh my. Every piece of this lovely – most especially that sweet video. I had forgotten this song and it was nice to be reminded of it. What struck me was the fact that your mom was not only picking out the melody, she was adding flourishes here and there. AMAZING. The brain is a strange and wonderful thing, a gift of God. My mom is on a similar road – not Alzheimer’s but increasing confusion and anxiety – and I, too, have gone down that fear road, that road that feel suffocating and uncertain. But God gave me a visual image that has helped so much – an image of the heart of Jesus being as big as the universe and inside that heart, my mom is kept and safe and loved. And so am I. And so are you.

5 03 2012
Beth

It seems to me that God uses these painful and uncertain moments in our lives to teach us soooo much more than He ever does when all is well. I will pray for you and your journey with your mom. And thanks for sharing your sweet story, your struggles, and your thankful list, Jeanne. 🙂

5 03 2012
Elisabeth

I love that song! My husband and I used to sing that together when we were dating. It brought back good memories!

5 03 2012
Dolly

Oh, this was so beautiful hearing and seeing you play with your mom…what a surprising gift of beauty …thank you for this reminder that I don’t have time for fear because all I have is today (filled with grace)…nice to meet you, Jeanne, and thank you so much for sharing 🙂

5 03 2012
Robin Lawrimore

“But she’s also free like a child is free — unselfconscious, willing to try and fail. She plucks out the notes, correcting the wrong ones while still keeping rhythm, because this music has always been inside her, and now there’s nothing left to keep it caged. It blossoms like the lilies of the field. Takes flight like the birds of the heavens. It fills the room and fills our hearts, and we drink it in like water from the brook Cherith. Like Elijah’s miracle. Like God’s gift.”

This is water for me. Her reality is, in a way, my goal. I want to be that unselfconscious, willing to try and fail woman who plays music and blossoms into the deeply rooted oak. Thank you.

5 03 2012
Shelbydee

The video of you all playing is simply precious! Thanks for the reminder to embrace grace.

5 03 2012
Linda

I needed every word of this today – a precious gift. Thank you Jeanne.

5 03 2012
all shall be well

Wish I knew a deeper work than thank you, but…….. thank you.
karen

5 03 2012
all shall be well

oops, I meant word, even though I do tend to always try to work to make everything okay………… 🙂

7 03 2012
Joanna

I really needed to read that today. Thank you. A gift.

7 03 2012
Lisa McLean

Laughed a lot in the funeral paragraph, cried at the end. I’m enriched … thank you. *sniff*

9 03 2012
Deborah Carr

This is one of those sacred, aching moments that slides open like a glimpse into heaven’s love…I see in my mind the music just falling upon the two of you in ribbons of light, the gentle caress of God’s gaze.

A forever moment for you; and for the rest of us, Jeanne, your heart, your words, your voice to carry forward. Such a gift to all of us.

10 03 2012
Megan Willome

I’ve planned many an unnecessary funeral myself!

So precious, about the piano. I have not dealt with Alzheimer’s, but when my mom was dying from liver failure, she lost who I was all in one day–boom! who are you? She died two days later, overcome by the poisons her liver could no longer filter. It doesn’t hurt as much as it did, but it will always be tender.

10 03 2012
wendy slayter

Fear and I have even decorated many coffins! I think mine would have some chips and queso, haha. A celebration! Cant you just see my friends at visitation having a snack? What would you like on yours? Strange question…but believe it or not Ive had this conversation many times in my business. One friend said helium balloons, great idea. Thanks again for touching my heart. I often think of yall as I
pass by your old hood. Prayers for your family as always

15 03 2012
Sr. Dorcee

This is absolutely beautiful, and I am going to reblog it on my own blog to encourage even more folks. Thank you, Jeanne, for your honest and beautiful sharing.

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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