I awoke this morning with my “breast sore troubled within me”. There is a lot of pressure in our home these days. While we have survived the steep increase in work that caring for my declining loved one requires, there is still pressure on all sides in this dark season running up to the “happy holidays.”
I was thinking of just how unhappy things are here at times as my mother-in-law is slipping more and more quickly now. She is often choking on food and frequently pulls out of her mouth anything that requires chewing. She really should only be having soft pureed foods although she still eats sweet potato fries and a soft grilled cheese sandwich. I have been gratefully out of the home this week while my bevy of ladies in waiting take turns solicitously caring for her, getting food and smoothies into her, even managing a bath once in a while. But today after our PSW left and I came home to grab a bite, I saw how much further she has slid over the last week. What a feeling of hopelessness as I see her struggling through her Alzheimer’s with every aspect of eating and eventually not able at all. For lunch today I only managed to her to drink a mere three sips of her smoothie.
The contrast between holiday preparations and the darkness of my expectations is quite striking. This 2,500 year old song started going through my mind. Just like the psalmist, who as a captive of violent foreigners finds it hard to sing joyful songs of his God, I find it hard to be joyful in this strange dark land of irresistible dementia and the stranglehold it has on her declining life force.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
On one level I know that everything will be okay and I implicitly trust my family and myself to God’s hands, but it is hard to stand by and watch her slipping away so quickly. I awoke this morning with my “breast sore troubled within me” thinking of how my wife is struggling these days, how I am struggling, how my best friend Claire is struggling. It is all too much. Jonathon, our new priest at St. Paul’s Almonte, asked me how my Mom was doing. When I realized he was talking about my Mom and not my mother-in-law, I answered that she was fine – as in recovering from cracked bones and bruises, but she is okay munching and sleeping her way slowly through the days with her advanced Alzheimer’s. His comment as I talked about how I visited her on Tuesdays, was that we had an awful lot going on in our lives these days and all I could do was agree. We do…
So as we prepare for the “happy holidays” and we have quite a list of celebrations we are attending and/or hosting, this relentless pressure continues to grow. As I surrender my expectations and desires to God trusting that in the end all will be well, I find some relief, but only for a short time until someone’s unhappiness stirs up my anxiety again. Perhaps the next time I will remember to say to myself “that’s okay Danny, poor Danny, but everything is going to be okay” just as I imagine my Abba is also saying the same thing.
This walking in love, open to the depths of your heart in a season of building anxiety and grief sure has its challenges.