“He hath made everything beautiful in His time…”

It’s raining. Buckets. Raining. I am so ready for the slush and mush of what seems like break-up to be over – bring on the snow! The irony? As I am typing this, the rain is becoming a mix of snow and rain – more of that graupel stuff again! LOL!

And once again, I am moved by the rhythm of the seasons. When we lived in Southern California, we barely noticed. When we were searching for a home before we got married, some friends’ parents owned a rental. They offered it to us for very little money, to help us get started. We went to see it and were so impressed by the view of the local mountains, feeling like we were living closer to nature. Well, it was in November. The smog had backed off due to rain and things were gloriously green. Little did we know we would not see those mountains again until the following November! Why?? Smog. And the heat of Southern California. We had some feeling of season, but not like what I have come to experience as I have grown older, and moved further north.

One of the amazing things about living in a state where you truly experience the movement of the seasons, is the slowing down of the world as winter approaches. We first experienced a true fall in the glorious northwest of Washington state. It was the first time in my life I had to pull over in order to disengage my windshield wipers from the myriad-colored fall leaves that had clogged them up! I could not see where I was going because the leaves were falling as fast as the rain drops. Wow. And the colors!! I fell in love with Autumn in Washington state. I had never understood fall in SoCal, but in the Pacific Northwest, it all made sense.

And since moving to Alaska, I can share that fall here is amazing. Short. But amazing. The colors astound me. The drop in temperature is so wonderful. Truly. When I go to this particular store up here, I always end up taking off as many layers as I can (coats, sweaters, scarfs, gloves) because it gets so warm inside. And when I step outside into the cool air, I take a deep breath and I just relax. It is amazing!!! And the skies here are glorious. My mom loves to tell us (over and over again) how her grandfather and she would lay on the grass and look at the clouds, labeling this or that. And she is constantly pointing to the sky, calling out shapes to us. It is wonderful to share it with her.

And now is the time we await the stillness, the peace, of winter. So many people I know fear the cold. They say they would not be able to live where it snows. It makes me sad for them, denying themselves the experience of a deep winter. I look forward to it every year. We hunker down; we stay together as families; we venture out into the fun of playing in the snow; we see vistas that remind us of our God. The stillness and quiet of a snowy day is something that has been proven by science. But for me, it is a moment where my heart, mind, and soul become still. Where I gather myself and repair myself in the stillness of the snow season. We enjoy all the many activities of winter. Christmas is glorious amongst all the snow. Decorations look that much more amazing. We don’t hang plastic, fake icicles…we have the real ones hanging off our roof. We don’t need to spray on “flocking” because all the trees are white with snow. The love of winter is something I wish I could truly share with those who fear it, or who fear the cold. One year, some friends had a New Year’s Eve party. It was one of the best New Year’s of my life. We enjoyed great food and good company. And then we trudged through the snow to a local peak, where they shot off fireworks in the cold, snowy evening. Yes, I was cold because I did not know fireworks were a part of the celebration – my feet were wet and the shoes I wore permanently squeaked from that night until they fell apart. But I trudged through and I watched those snowy fireworks and enjoyed every moment of it. I wish I could post my little video of it for you!!

And now we wait. The rain turned back into that slushy mess again. My grandson is down with the flu. It’s birthday weekend, but it’s on hold for sickness. The hubby is getting ready for a marathon travel of almost 3 weeks, starting on Monday. And the seasons are moving forward. I got these amazing Weather Tech liners for my car, preparing for winter. (So excited to not have wet carpet in the car any more!! It’s the little things). And I look at my gel clings of Autumn and cannot wait to change them out for winter decor.

Our lives move like this. Spring is when life is celebrated. New life; regenerated life (Easter). We then go to those long, hot days of summer and enjoy the sunshine and water and being outdoors (sound like your teenagers??). And we slow down as school goes back in session, the leaves start falling and we calm down (I think of it as middle age). And as we prepare for winter, I am reminded we all head into our own personal winter. We slow way down and we spend more time thinking about life and preparing ourselves for our winter, our slow down, our ending. But it can be beautiful. It can be peaceful and quiet, and so lovely. I am prayerful I will gleefully walk towards my own winter, my own ending, knowing that Our Lord awaits me. And as I type now, little white flakes are falling again. Winter is trying to be here. I am ready; I think. Are each of us prepared for our own, personal winter? Do not be afraid of the seasons of life, including the cold and snow of winter.

For some reason, a little Douay Rheims’ version of Ecclesiastes (V3) just fits. I hope you agree.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.  He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.  I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.  That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.  And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.  I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.  I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.  For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?”

Winter and snow – bring it on! It is time.

 

Advertisements

Frozen hair, graupel, howling winds, and aching bones….

We had snow. It is gone, now. In its place we have howling winds and icy rain that is pelting our windows. For whatever reason I am the sole occupant who was woken by the sounds. And at 5:30 am, I am up and awake. My bones ache, in a deep sort of way. I swear I can feel every one of the many bones in my feet and ankles. I did water aerobics for the first time in weeks on Tuesday night. And so now I ache…it is always 2 days later. In time to be expected to return to a cold pool and do it all over again; in time to ache for my busy Saturday schedule. I am not sure why I do this. Except I know that for my psyche, it is a good thing. I wish they would warm the pool temps just a tad, though!

We do have fun while trying to move our bodies in a healthy way. We cackle. The jokes fly. The youngest is about 32 and the oldest is late 60s. So there is a range. And occasionally, a husband will join us. Which makes it even better. Poor guy! LOL! We are normally surrounded by literally dozens upon dozens of little kids taking swimming lessons. We joke that the pool is much warmer when the kids are there because they all pee in it. LOL. The locker room is crazy hysteria…moms running around trying to shower off their little ones; us older ladies waddling (so we don’t slip on the wet floors) to the showers and then to the lockers. Some kids are running around naked. Others are hiding behind moms and their towels. Some of the older ladies bare it all for us to see, others of us are just like the hiding kiddos, trying to make towels stretch to cover it all. We joked that instead of loosing weight so the towels cover us, we have to buy bigger towels! A discussion was had over where to find them for the best prices. In the meantime, we are dripping water everywhere and are still laughing at jokes from pool time…and over new ones. This past session was pretty funny. Even more was the locker time afterwards. There are some things you cannot unsee. I will leave it there. LOL.

One of the weirdest things to experience, especially for someone who grew up in SoCal, is frozen hair. As we left the HS gym on Tuesday night, it was about 30 degrees outside. No new snow had fallen, but we did get some graupel, which is like frozen rain pellets. (Picture to follow). Anyway, out I stepped and bam! Frozen hair! It is so weird. Your head gets all stiff and it is hard to turn your head to the side. LOL. The second you get into your car, it starts to drip. LOL. And yes, I had towel dried it before I stepped outside. Duh. Funniest thing is looking at, and not touching it, because it will seriously break off!!

Graupel is technically when water droplets come into contact with snow flakes. It all has to do with temperature fluctuations, causing conflict between icy rain and snowfall. They sort of intertwine and you get graupel. It is chunkier than hail and harder, too. And you can see these perfect little balls everywhere. It is kind of cool looking. And weirdly enough, graupel is very dry. So we had graupel all over the ground and on our car. It looks like candy or something, and is so perfectly round. This was my public service part of my post. LOL. If you have ever gone to a state fair and had dipping’ dots, that is pretty much what graupel looks like, only white and not sugary! LOL!

So I am psyching up to go to water aerobics tonight. I have been awake since 5 am due to the crazy winds and blowing, icy rain – along with my aching bones – and then I recalled my gym bag, with my wet suit and towel, are in the trunk of my car. Yeah. That will be fun. I am sure they are frozen solid. I will get them clean and dry in time to get them all wet again. But I am getting out. And I am mixing with people. And I am enjoying the camaraderie of some crazy, and fun, and wonderful ladies. And by Saturday, I will be aching all over again. But I think it is worth it. Frozen hair and achey bones, and all.

 

 

“Let’s just have a PB and J…”

Despondency does no one any good. Depression doesn’t help. However, sometimes things get hairy and you just need a time out. Unfortunately, when you are a caregiver, there are very few ways to get a time out for yourself. All the literature tells us we need to make sure we take care of ourselves. And then there are the books that people recommend we read. Who has time to read books? Ha-Ha-Ha.

One of the hardest things they talk about when caregiving is the loss of your own life. Friends try, but fade away. It’s hard to always have to share your friend with their loved one…we understand. It’s like group dating! Activities wan, because there is no time, or someone to help watch your loved one, while you participate. Family members start having things to do, that do not include you or the loved one you are caring for. And I can say, from where I sit, until you are living with this 24/7, you truly do not understand what this is. To top it off, when the person you are caring for has Alzheimer’s, it is only going to get worse as the disease progresses.

They call us the “sandwiched generation.” We have children at home (although my baby is 18) that we are responsible for, and now we have an elderly parent we are caring for, who is also living with us. Sandwiched between the needs of a teenager (or younger child) and an elderly person. Sandwiched between the couple that you are, and the needs of those you are caring for. And it is hard to find common ground. Tensions run high and if your loved one cannot communicate well, or is easily confused, they can still decipher those tense moments and know something is not quite right. And then they react however they need to (or are able to) and it can help spiral things out of control. Tempers flare and the day seems ruined. I have never had months like this, where each day is a roller coaster and you have no idea what you will awaken to, nor how it will progress from there. And it can wear on your own psyche, and sense of well-being. Always on edge wears on you. It is like we adopted a stubborn 3-year-old with an 87-year-old’s sense of self, coupled with changing roles in life of mother/daughter to caregiver/mother. Stir in outside pressures and you have a cauldron of emotions. Today, tonight, I am drained. Empty. And so tired.

Up here, in the far north, our daylight hours are shrinking. Sundowner’s syndrome becomes a real thing. We go to bed in the dark and we wake up in the dark. It can be disorienting for us “normal” people, but for Alzheimer’s patients, it presents an additional issue we get to deal with. In order to take a break from it all, I decided we would go shopping, and we got my mom a hair cut. Trust me, that exhausted us both. But there were smiles and laughter and lots of girl time, and there were 7 pairs of jeans, in all different colors! Jeans! For my British, proper mom!! Miracle! We bought light green, raspberry, pale blue, tan, brown, and brown/black combo in pants, alone. And we found 8 sweaters in varying degrees of color combinations. We spent 5 hours, between the hair cut and shopping, bringing home a veritable bounty, and a big smile on mom’s face. Years ago, my mom worked at a local Thrift Shop and she loved it. So when I suggested we shop at one, she was all for it. The coup was finding a gorgeous dusty rose, ankle length, down coat for just $20. Her 5 year-old, great-grandson, two days later as she wore it, said to her, “Great grandma, you look like a princess in that coat.” It made her day! He got lots of hugs, too!

In amongst that two day synopsis are the parts of Alzheimer’s that are rough. After being out and shopping for more than 5 hours, my mom did not recall that we had done any of it, after walking inside. She did not remember we had arms and bags full of clothing to bring into the house. She went to put her purse away and when she walked back out to the living room, she asked where I got all the clothes I had laid out on the kitchen table. I told her they were hers. She was shocked. I showed her each piece and it was like she discovered it again, for the first time. At least I know she really liked each piece, because she liked each one all over again. I reminded her of her hair cut and she felt her head and looked so confused, so I showed her, in a mirror, how lovely she looked. Then she tried on her “princess” coat and was smiling because she loved it, all over again. The next morning, I had her go through each piece again, as we removed the tags, so I could wash it all. As the day progressed, it was me, reminding her over and over again of all her new clothes, and her haircut. That is Alzheimer’s.

We got our first snow. My mom has lived in snow states before, but they were typically desert states – Utah and Arizona. Their snow came and went. Here, it stays for 6 months or more. Only one person asked me what her reaction was. Only one. She saw the snow and looked at it, and suddenly she was shivering and her teeth were chattering. Literally. As she stood in the warm house, in her flannel PJ’s, robe, socks, and slippers. But she saw snow, and it made her cold, in her mind. She is acclimatizing slowly, even though as the sun rose in the sky, she did not understand why it was inappropriate to wear peep-toed, sling back shoes with socks in 2″ of snow and 23-degree temperatures. I need to hide those shoes until spring. LOL. She is learning that sunlight does not equate to warmth, it is just light. And for someone her age, in her condition, it is hard to learn anything new.

When we chat about what we are going to eat, regardless of which meal, mom always suggests, “Let’s just have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” It can be any meal; simple is easier for her. Meals with Alzheimer’s patients are interesting. Mom can no longer cut her own meats or other foods, and so she won’t eat what she cannot cut. Now, when I serve something that requires a knife, I present it to her already cut. We tell her it is because we know how her arthritis in her thumb hurts her, and it is that. It is. But it is also her confusion on how to hold them both, and then use them they way they were intended. So many things have gone that way. I am hoping we can phase out make-up soon. LOL.

Each week brings it own surprises and disappointments, and each day is something new. Some days are stellar, like our day of shopping. Other days completely do me in, when she refuses to participate in this life, insisting on living like she is on a South Pacific Island somewhere. I am prayerful that the future will be easier and easier, as we all settle into our new lives together; as her medications are evened out and she becomes accustomed to their affects. Every morning, I try to wake with anticipatory joy, rather than dread. I push the negative away, applying hope to my moments in the early, dark mornings. Each day is a gift; each moment I get with my mom is precious. And I endeavor to appreciate each of them. Some days I am a rock star; some days I fail miserably and it undoes me.

Today we get to venture out and run some errands. We get to see her doctor, among other things! Even though there is snow on the ground and it is all cloudy, mom is okay because she thinks it will get warmer as the day progresses. Still working on the concept of sun as light, and not warmth. I am hopeful she will learn that up here, snow hangs out for months, which means it is cold for months. She threatens going back to CA, but she knows on some level she is staying here. She gives me the most amazing hugs every night. Even if the day has totally sucked, we get hugs at night. I live for those moments. And today, I think we’ll do PB & J for breakfast…on toast.

“…It’s not time to cry, yet.”

It’s been an amazing week. We took my mom to a new doctor – her first since she moved in with me, on Monday. And it is so weird to say, but I fell in love with her. This is the first time in my life that a doctor took over 2 hours – yes – 2 hours – for our initial visit. She wanted to get to know my mom and me. She told me there were two patients in the room and that she was there for both of us. Wow. I finally feel like there is a team to take care of my mom and not just me. Thank you, Lord, for bringing her into our lives. We are so very blessed. Truly.

This doctor also stressed that she was now our primary advocate, to ensure my mom gets everything she needs to be safe, secure, loved, and cared for. She also said she will advocate for all our wishes in regards to her “end-of-lfe” treatments and desires. As she continued to speak to our concerns and issues, I felt this huge weight just lift from my shoulders. She looked at me, as I teared up, and said, “We are a team now. I am here for you. My nurse is here for you. We have this – together.” As she handed me a tissue, she assured me, “It’s not time to cry, yet. It is coming and I will let you know when.” And then she grabbed me into a huge hug, reassuring me as she did so that she “has my back.” Wow. I have never, ever, been treated this way by a doctor.

This doctor is a geriatric specialist who also focuses on Alzheimer’s patients. She totally had my mom pegged in just moments. I was thrilled. You see, my mom is very verbal. No one can believe she is 87, let alone that she has Alzheimer’s. She wears full make up and matching jewelry, even when we stay home all day. She is gregarious and loves children. She loves to gab. She has fooled people for years. But not this doctor. Wow. It was awesome how she saw through my mom. It sort of made mom mad and she became snotty and gave the doctor her best, terse answers. The doctor laughed, looked at me, and said, “She’s quite something else, isn’t she?” Laughing at my mom’s anger! I loved it. She was asking her simple things, like the day, time, place, age, president’s name, etc. My mom had no idea. She did not even know if it was morning or night, where she was, or the season. When asked, she would respond with, “I don’t know and I don’t care. I can always ask if I need to know.” The doctor laughed at that, but also suggested my mom is depressed. She is depressed because she is realizing she is forgetting and she knows it. Some days, she charges through her days, trying to fake it and cover up how she is forgetting. Yesterday, I realized that the doctor was right when she told me I was being “generous” when I had estimated my mom’s stage of Alzheimer’s. This disease is insidious and it sneaks into your world, stealing lives as it goes. Every day, a little more of my mom is taken from me. Every day, I see how much more she has become dependent on me and my family. Yesterday was truly a day of “forgetting,” and it made me sad. I wept as I talked to a friend, who is also caring for her Alzheimer’s parent. She could relate.

The reality of Alzheimer’s is that something as innocuous as French Toast can be daunting. My mom forgot how to eat it. She forgot to cut it, thinking she could eat it with her fingers. It is common for Alzheimer’s patients to charge ahead, trying what works. Well, now I know I need to cut all my mom’s food into bite-sized pieces. Partially from Alzheimer’s and partially because she has severe osteo-arthritis and her thumbs hurt, making cutting things up difficult. She can barely sign her name. And I realized, as she lashed out at me in anger at breakfast yesterday, as I commented that she needed to use a fork, that she had forgotten how to eat her food. After watching me for a little bit, she picked up her fork (we were both eating French Toast) and continued to eat, using it. Yesterday was a rough day.

This morning, as I was preparing her meds for her, I noticed my mom skipped the entire day yesterday. That explains a lot of the forgetting yesterday. But it also showed me how very important it is to ensure our loved ones get all the healthcare assistance they can. And that I need to double-up on my supervision of her daily activities. We were so busy yesterday, running to the dog groomer’s and getting the oil changed in my car. In between, we had breakfast with my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. We were on the run, starting early, getting dressed. And Alzheimer’s patients don’t “rush” well. They need time to wrap their heads around the process of getting moving, and getting out of the house. And so, I need to adapt to that, giving us all time to get out the door, prepared well and intact.

My next big step will be preparing my mom for winter. Having been born in New Zealand, and spending most of her adult life in Southern California, this will be challenging. But as I have learned over the past couple of months, I feel more prepared to take it on. The best advice I can offer a person who is facing caring for an Alzheimer’s family member is to educate yourself. Take all the free courses the Alzheimer’s Association and their affiliates offer. Read short stuff…books are hard unless you read ahead of taking a parent/ family member into your home. The Alzheimer’s Reading Room online is an amazing source, too. Prepare your mind and intellect, and shore up your heart. Repeat often – seriously – “It is not me; it is the disease.” And rely on prayer and family and friends. And if you can, find a doctor who has your back and understands Alzheimer’s and the elderly. Bring it on, winter!

 

 

“…whoever loses his life for My sake…”

Melancholy is beyond sad: as a noun or an adjective, it’s a word for the gloomiest of spirits.

And that was our day yesterday. It did not help that it was raining all day long. But depression in Alzheimer’s is a real thing. We, as caregivers, need to stay on top of it. Being faced with an incurable disease is so difficult. And in moments of lucidity, it becomes so apparent and there is a tendency to despair. And in those lucid moments, an Alzheimer’s patient can overly focus on their losses. Yesterday was a day when my mom could not stop thinking about my stepdad, and she said, “Some days the loss of Frank is overwhelming. And today is that day.” And so, we looked at photo albums and we spoke of old times and how much joy he brought to our family, and to my mom.

I changed out photos in frames so she could look at the photos of her and Frank. She opted to remove a photo of her mother, sitting on a porch at her grandmother’s house, taken in the late 1890s, for this photo of her and Frank. One of her comments struck me, “I have little to no memory of this photo of my mother as a little girl, but I love looking at photos of Frank.” And so we changed things up. She doesn’t want to see photos of other family members too much. She just wants to relive those moments with him. And I wept a little, for so many reasons.

My mom was married to my dad for 27 years. But now that it is 35+ years after their divorce, I could not imagine them married. My mom bloomed when she met Frank. She fell in love – deeply in love. And he transformed her. She smiled more often, she was kinder, and she let down some walls she had erected around her heart. She became her best self. And I could never thank him enough for loving her like that. It changed our entire family.

I wept because I got to see a deep love that transcends time and place. Frank died over four years ago. But his love is still with my mom. She has told me she is looking forward to resting, eternally, by his side. How can you not admire a love like that? I wept because that love transcends pretty much all the other loves in her life. Even me. But that has its place. I cried because my mom loved someone more than me, her daughter. I felt sorry for myself. But then I sort of rallied myself, because I love my husband like that. Without him, my life is pretty meaningless. I have sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. But my love for my husband is what brought all that to me, and it transcends even motherhood. Without my husband, I would not have a family; I would not be family. And so I get it. I do. And I think I was jealous of that love and all the memories I was not a part of, for her. I have been with my husband as long (now longer) than my mom was with Frank, as we met our spouses within a month of each other. Pretty cool. And then I thought of this:

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Mark 8:34-38

 

 

“…our next breath…”

Every day is a new day. It’s another day we are “on the right side of the dirt.” That’s a phrase I just learned and it makes me laugh. But it is true…”we are not guaranteed our next breath,” as Fr. Justin Rose would often remind us. This week, violence erupted in Las Vegas, taking everyone by surprise. My god daughter was there and two of her friends were shot. They escaped the scene via taxi and were grateful to be taken swiftly to emergency medical care. My son is a 9-1-1 dispatcher and shared the news with me via text, as it was happening. He was asking us to pray for Las Vegas. When he first called, I panicked over my god daughter, because I knew she was there. Thank goodness for cell phones and texting! I cannot imagine the fear the families of the many victims were feeling, until they had definitive proof their loved ones were safe, or at least they knew where they were. The brutality and callous disregard for human life was so apparent, and my stomach roiled all night long, as I worried about the death and injured. I had no idea the toll would be so high.

We don’t wake up in the morning, thinking as we prepare for the day, that it will be our last. The last time we hug our spouse, pet our cat, use our favorite coffee mug, or drive our car. We don’t think, as we leave for the day, we will never return. The people killed this week in Las Vegas did not know they were not going home again. They had no idea that their entire life, and all its dreams and goals, would be fulfilled that night. That they would be leaving this life, and heading to eternity.

Matthew 6:34 tells us: “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And if we spent our moments today in panic over tomorrow, we would not be able to function. So we go about our lives, living them – enjoying them – celebrating them. Because it could very well be our last day.

I was able, during a very lucid afternoon, have a great conversation about dying with my mom. She is 87 and says she’s not too concerned about it. Some days, she says she’s tired and done and just wants to die. Suffering from Alzheimer’s is tough. And she truly misses my stepdad. Since he died 4 years ago, she has not really lived. But as we chatted, she spoke about how dying is not the end, just the end of “this.” She isn’t sure what is next, but she said she is ready for it. We chatted about how she wants to be cared for in her last days, what sort of burial arrangements she wants, and how, exactly, she wants to die. It was cogent and simple and real. One of the best conversations we have ever had.

 

I think more of us should have these sorts of conversations. I think we all need to think about dying. We need to know that today, yes, today, I am ready to stand before the Throne of God, accountable for this life, and ready to be accepted by God into His Eternal Light and Praise. My mom’s brain is all churned up by this crazy disease that eats more brain cells every day. Her synapses have to find a way around another dead end, to enable her to function in this crazy life. But she inherently knows some things. She knows she is dying and it will be sooner rather than later. She told me it isn’t one of her favorite things to think or talk about, but it doesn’t scare her any longer, either. I think we all need to get to that point, living moment to moment, where we are not afraid to pass into this next existence – an existence with God in a pure spiritual life, surrounded by a Holy Light and the choirs of angels. Mom and I laughed about having nose bleed seats, because we will be so grateful to be in heaven, we won’t care about the seating arrangements.

With all the ugliness this week, and how even uglier we are treating each other, it is almost cathartic to be around someone with Alzheimer’s, where every five minutes, you have a chance to get it right. And you don’t recall the past five minutes, where you may have screwed it up. It’s all forgiven and forgotten, and there is joy in that next moment.

My thoughts tonight are filled with sadness over the grieving families, for those still suffering and in danger, and for this world. We seem to be losing our sense of the preciousness and sanctity of all human life. Take this moment, forgetting about all the past moments, and make it your best moment, yet. Forgive, love, repent, prepare. We are not guaranteed our next breath. Thank you, Fr. Justin, for ingraining that into my heart.

 

“….a single hour to your lifespan…”

One thing that is so frustrating for so many caregivers is the endless red tape that is we have to untangle to get loved ones the care they need and require. Did you know that even with supplemental or “gap” insurance, benefits that cover prescriptions run out before the end of the year? Why is that, do you ask? Because the drug companies charge so very much for their drugs. And some of them do not come in “generic” so you have to pay the extra for that name-brand prescription. And it is medicine that keeps the disease at bay – it slows its progress – it makes the day smoother for everyone. And the cost? More than $300 per MONTH. For just that one medication.

And you know what is sad? There are literally millions of people with Alzheimer’s who use this medication. Millions. And is there a cure? No; there is not. The medication just helps to slow the progress. But know this – it is a fatal disease and it always progresses. The medication just eases us all into it, until it no longer matters if they take the medicine or not. And even if you have savings or good retirement programs, if you run into a disease like Alzheimer’s, all that planning may come to naught. My mom lived in a beautiful retirement home. She had assets. But she outlived it all. She is vigorously healthy – other than this stupid disease. And now, she has literally nothing. Trying to find a doctor that takes Medicare is (a) hard and (b) finding one that deals in Alzheimer’s? Double whammy. Then add in all the expenses of these medications, and the fact that they have pretty much run out for the year (it usually runs out in October every year) and you have disaster. Because as I struggle to find a funding source, I am taking a person off her usual round of medication and only administering it every-other-day, to make it last until January. Why? It’s when the funding re-applies to her medication portion of Medicare. Our days are now back to what they were when she first came to live with us – precarious at best.

So now I get to delve back into the miasma known as Medicaid. If you have never tackled trying to get covered by a federal aid program, you have missed nothing exciting. I used to manage a welfare office, and I was in charge of 28 clerks. All they did, all day long, was process welfare applications. I used to review them for errors. And I had to go into the system and make adjustments. I had to attend meetings where new systems were taught to all of us at the supervisory level, to instruct our clerical unit. So it is not as though I am unfamiliar with governmental online programs, nor how they work. But this is day #2 that I have attacked Medicaid. Is it 5 o-clock somewhere?

And another part of being an in-home caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s – you cannot leave them alone for too long. It makes doing this a stop-and-start process. So yeah, another facet to caregiving that people do not think about.

In the book of Luke, chapter 24, verses 22-24, the Lord tells us not to worry overmuch about these things in life.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifespan?

And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans pursue all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”

And frankly, my faith is what spurs me onward. So today I will put into perspective these nasty, little, pains-in-neck that are part and parcel of caregiving. As I head back to that fun website of horror, Medicaid, I will think about the leaves changing color and time passing, and God at the helm of it all. God can overcome Medicaid applications. And I am hitting up the angels on my shoulder for some help, as well as asking for the intervention from some pretty amazing Saints who have gone before me, too! We all got this!!!