Alzheimer's, Family

When the Thing You Ran from Becomes Your Refuge

For the last week it seems Mom has been doing pretty well. And that makes me so happy. It almost makes me not worry. Not sure that will every go away completely. I want to talk to her everyday but there are days it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes she just doesn’t answer her phone or I call at the wrong time. Or, and this is the best thing, she is out with one of my sibs at IHOP or some BBQ joint.

Last week my brother send me a video of mom positively beaming over her scrambled eggs. I hadn’t seen her that happy in a while. He got her at a good time. Mid-morning. She’s isn’t groggy from just being awakened and hasn’t faded in heat-of-the-sun afternoon nap time.

Last week around 8:30pm her time – 9:30 mine – but still on the late side for her, I got a call. My phone lights up with this awesome picture of her that I love. It’s a true miracle of photography because Mom hates pictures. And you have to trick her into smiling. But that day we were at Galveston beach, she had her hood up, wind blowing, feet in the sand, smoking her cigarette; her all time happy place. And she looked up and smiled. Snap. Got it.

Well that’s the picture that pops up on my phone when she calls – which isn’t so often anymore.

This time she was different. She was calm. Quiet. Almost reflective. Contemplative. This was a Mom I hadn’t heard from since the move and perhaps long before that. After some chit-chat about the weather, my asking some yes/no questions. She said,

“Well, are you going to read to me?”

“Sure. Do you want to read to me from the prayer book?”

“No. You read…”

Ok hold here for a second – you need some back story as to why I would say the next thing I said. Mom, an ex-Catholic, (raised in Catholic schools by a mother who was raised as an orphan in a convent and Catholic schools), spent my entire childhood actively walking me as far away from any sort of formal religion or thinking of that kind.

But time changes things.

God, in His hilarity and wisdom, brought me full circle. A story I will tell another time. But suffice to say it wasn’t what my mother planned or even what I ever suspected.

Before Mom entered the Home and as she began to show signs of dementia I gave her my prayer book. And she would occasionally read it to me over the phone. (Ok, it was my little trick to get her to play… “Mom please pick a prayer for me. You always find the good ones.” Which was no lie. She always does.) Then since she’s moved it’s been harder to keep this embryonic tradition in tact but I have tried to some success.

So when she asked me to read to her I naturally assumed she meant the prayer book.

“No. You read.”

I had my Bible in my lap as I had already settled in and was doing a bit of studying myself. So, it was there… sooo… I said,

“Ok…from…(huge risk here) the… Bible?”


[Stop time. Who IS this woman?]

I have spent some time in talks with spiritual mentors in this season of accompanying Mom into this new and uncharted land of dementia for all of us. And I was advised and reassured that in old age many people surprise us by turning to God or opening up spiritually in ways they never did before. I hoped. I prayed for it. I did. But honestly. This woman? I wasn’t gonna roll the dice. I had hope but not a lot of faith.

And then here it was …happening… about a year later…

My brain went into overdrive realizing how vastly UNEQUIPPED I was to be the leader of my Mother’s first toe dip into waters she had not trod for years. Waters I barely tread myself! The tread leading the trod.

I’m thinking ok ok proverbs no no I don’t know proverbs well enough uh use PSALMS yes POETRY. My actor background safety space kicking in. But which ones?!… No thwarting of enemies please.  I flipped.

I scanned quickly while keeping up the conversation about my nieces dogs and porch sitting…

Then. Psalm 142.

With my voice I cry out to the Lord:
With my voice I plead for mercy
   to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I tell my trouble before Him.

When my spirit faints within me,
   you know the way!
In the path where I walk
They have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see:
There is none who takes notice of me;
No refugee remains to me;
No one cares for my soul.

I cry to you, oh Lord;
I say “you are my refuge,
   my portion in the land of the living.”
Attend to my cry,
For I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors,
For they are too strong for me!

Bring me out of prison,
   that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me,
   for you will deal bountifully
     with me.

Psalm 142, You Are My Refuge

There was a deep silence. I couldn’t believe the perfection of it all. And I could.

She had felt imprisoned in this new place, and no doubt her mind as well. She had been brought very low as she reminded me in her unsubtle and growling ways. She had complaints. Many.

She needed to cry out to the Lord. She needed that. But did she know she could do that? I believe this Psalm 142 said yes, you can.

Just like Shakespeare’s Sonnet 147 allowed me to scream my ex-boyfriends were “black as hell and dark as night.” Oh, weren’t those the days.



“You know,” she said, “I believe that….about life.”

“You do?”


She thanked me. I thanked God. I didn’t ask her a lot of questions and didn’t ruin the moment with words that were becoming to hard for her now. God had done the talking.

I had not heard Mom speak with such a serenity for … possibly ever?

She wanted more. I frantically flipped again. And, of course. Boom. There it was.

“Love never ends.”

Who was God talking to now?

There is a gift in memory loss. A great gift. A suffering gift. A sacrifice. But the true sacrifice isn’t the pain of the confusion, anxiety, worry, and frustration of not knowing…anything… anymore. The sacrifice is in losing your life… to save it.

I think it well worth it.

Love never ends. (Corinthians 13:8)

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