Saturday, July 19, 2008

Leaving Pieces

The day he first told me he was starting to disappear I didn't believe him & so he stopped & held his hand up to the sun & it was like thin paper in the light & finally I said you seem very calm for a man who is disappearing & he said it was a relief after all those years of trying to keep the pieces of his life in one place. Later on, I went to see him again & as I was leaving, he put a package in my hand. This is the last piece of my life, he said, take good care of it & then he smiled & was gone & the room filled with the sound of the wind & when I opened the package there was nothing there & I thought there must be some mistake or maybe I dropped it & I got down on my hands & knees & looked until the light began to fade & then slowly I felt the pieces of my life fall away gently & suddenly I understood what he meant & I lay there for a long time crying & laughing at the same time.
-Brian Andreas, Story People

I have several people in my life who are deep in the trenches of caring for elderly parents. I listen to the stories filled with sadness about the pieces of each life slipping away. I watch and see real love in action. I see their daily sacrifice caring for a person who is no longer really there. In many ways they are just caring for the body because their loved one's mind and spirit have already gone.

One of my favorite movies is The Notebook. It is a beautiful love story about a man who refuses to let his wife who suffers from Alzheimers (and does not even remember he is her husband) be alone. Everyday he reads to her the story of her life from her old journals. He stays by her side into death. I have always wondered how it feels at the beginning--to know you are starting to "disappear" and the helplessness of not being able to stop it. I can only imagine the confusion and sadness as your memories slowly evaporate one by one. And then comes the day when you just don't want to try to keep all the pieces together anymore because you are just too tired and you give up for good.

What questions would we ask one another if we knew it was the last meaningful conversation we would have? What stories would we share? How many more times would we say "I'm sorry" and "I love you"? One of the reasons I write is to leave parts of me for my children and grandchildren. My husband, Dan, lost his mother when he was 13 and really feels likes he lost her years before that while she fought breast cancer. Over and over I hear him wish he had something tangible helping him know her and helping him know how she felt about him. He keeps a journal to our daughters so they will never have to wonder. I think about my own parents and living grandparents, all still with sharp minds. It makes me want to spend more time with them. It makes me want to gather the pieces of these special people so they won't disappear from my life even when God takes their minds or calls them home.

Thank you for my mind and ability to remember Your goodness to me through recalling my own life story. Keep me faithful in recording the pieces of my life so future generations will know YOU!

1 comment:

Rochelle said...

Thank you for listening to me when I am feeling frustrated and helpless with Doug's mom, even when you have your own stresses to deal with! I know you are praying for wisdom for us as we seek to care for her. I hope we can make the last memories she has sweet ones. Love you as always, Rochelle