They say when a person has dementia, it’s a slow series of losses, of the mind and the body. Many may say the person affected loses who they were completely. That may be true for some but I thank God that Mom did not entirely lose who she really was. Because of what she had instilled within her heart and soul for her entire life, what really matters in life was not completely lost, and in that fact, I find the great Mercy and Grace of God present. In her newest album, singer/songwriter Amy Grant addresses this issue in the song, “How Mercy Looks from Here.”
So come with me and see; this is how mercy looks from here.Written during a time of loss, having both parents with dementia, a series of deaths in the family and the extreme flooding in her town that spring, Amy’s words sum up what the human response might be. “Some would have given up, Drowning in their tears, But on her wrinkled face, A smile appears”. It reminds me of how often Mom kept a smile on her face despite the difficulties of life. In fact, after she passed away, the overwhelming majority of workers at Durgin Pines, in expressing their condolences, all commented on what a beautiful smile Gwen had. I had often tried to encourage mom in her moments of sorrow, and yes, she cried many tears, to be a light and a blessing to those around her. Apparently, she was.
So come and see; this is how mercy looks from here.I look back at the time of my dad’s disablement and the beginnings of my mom’s dementia. Some might say, How could God do this to people who did nothing but serve Him all their lives. That is an age old question and one I don’t have a pat answer to. But I do know, my mom cherished those days, months, years together. For one thing, it finally got my dad to slow down. I remember calling them on the phone one morning about 10:30a.m. I asked what they were doing. Mom said, Oh we’re just lying in bed reminiscing about the good ol’ days. What a treasure, to just be with the one you love, uninterrupted and talking about what a great life it had been. And how they loved sitting on their deck, watching the momma robin take care of her babies in the nest under the eaves of their deck roof, visiting with the Meals on Wheels volunteers, enjoying the blessings God had given them after a life well-lived.
So come, see; this is how mercy looks from here.When Mom entered Durgin Pines, it was the hardest thing she had ever had to face, I think. Giving up the home she loved so much, and I think, realizing deep down, that her mind was beginning to go, but not wanting to accept it. There were some bad moments, very bad moments, but this is where Mercy and Grace took over. Amy Grant’s song continues, “When you face your greatest fear, Losing all that you hold near, Open up your eyes my dear, my dear. That’s When Boundless grace appears, Unseen angels hover near, Saints are singing loud and clear, Oh how Mercy looks from here.” I witnessed this so many times. Within weeks of her entering the facility, I noticed one special CNA, who loved on my mom as a daughter would. Her name is Bonnie and although she couldn’t be here today, she was the angel that God sent to make mom’s days much brighter. Best of all, Bonnie is a follower of Jesus Christ. Bonnie could relate to my mom in spirit because they were united in spirit through Christ. Bonnie kept a journal for 2 years following my dad’s death and gave it to me when she left D.P. It is a precious gift. Recorded moments of laughter and tears. At times, I wondered where my mom’s faith had gone, when she seemed so “out of it”. But this journal let me know, mom’s faith was intact and Bonnie helped her maintain it. There were many other Christians in her life at D.P. Such a huge blessing.
Come, see; how mercy looks from here.I have to tell you about one other event that truly shows how God cares about us in the detail and minutia of our lives. The first Christmas at D.P., I was able to bring her to the ladies Christmas tea at church. There was a Yankee Swap gift exchange and mom ended up with a flashlight from Caroley Matthews. The first words out of her mouth, “I’ve been wanting one for my bedside for the middle of the night”. Mom had never expressed this to me and afterwards I remembered how she always kept one within hand’s reach when she was at home and alone. God knew and provided.
See; how Mercy looks from here.Gwen had spent many years, cultivating the life within. One of my childhood memories is of her sitting in her chair reading and studying her Bible. She loved helping others learn the truths of God’s word, whether you were 6 or 60. Probably many here had Mom as a teacher in some compacity. She longed for everyone to know God as she daily grew in her experience of God. Another line from Amy Grant’s song states, “I would have given up, Drowning in my tears, If it wasn’t for your voice, all these years.” Mom knew the voice of God speaking to her and I believe, sustaining her in her final years. Just weeks before she died, when intelligible speech was next to nothing, she looked at me intently, the clearness of her eyes and soul more real than they had been in months, and said out of the blue, “I Love the Lord”. My heart rejoiced to hear those words. “I do too, mom,” I replied. We smiled at each other. God’s mercy and boundless grace flowing freely.
This IS how Mercy looks from Here.
Written for mom's memorial service, June 2013. A life well-lived. I love and miss you, Gwenie!