She didn’t know me anymore. To be honest, I didn’t know her anymore either. The child in this old woman’s body was like a fictional character to me. I had heard stories about her but I didn’t know how to talk to her. She was my mother, and yet she was not.
In her mind the year was 1938 and the man on the gurney wheeled past her bed in the emergency room corridor was her older brother. Her mother was dead and her father was lost in remorse and the bottle. Leo, the only one who cared for her and understood her had just been killed in a car accident.
She wailed. “Leo! Leo! Who will look after me now?”
In my reality my father, who dedicated his life to faithfully caring for Mom in her physically and mentally disabled state, had been taken to another hospital with a suspected stroke. I drove to their city as soon as I heard but I hadn’t even been to see him yet. Mom couldn’t be left alone and needed medical attention herself. So there she lay in a crowded, chaotic big city hospital emergency department – all day and all night and into the next day, waiting for a bed.
It was horrid. When she needed a catheter she acted as though she were being assaulted. She didn’t remember seeing people from so many cultures before and she thought she had been abducted to a foreign country. She was so scared.
How could I communicate with a person whose entire world was falling apart? She was frightened, disoriented and in pain. She was no longer the competent take-charge mother I had known.
“What will we do? What will we do?” she asked repeatedly.
“We will just have to take this day by day,” I said, using one of her own expressions.
Then I remembered the song we sang as a duet in church when I was a teenager. I began to sing softly:
Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.
She stopped crying, looked at me steadily and nodded her head in time to my beat.
She joined me singing in perfect harmony in a clear mezzo-soprano voice I didn’t know she still had. My mother, who couldn’t remember the names of common objects and who had trouble speaking a full sentence, knew all the words to all the verses.
Music had been vital in her life. She was the only person I knew who could play classical piano pieces without the ability to read music. She always sang in choirs. She sacrificed to make sure we could have the music lessons she always wanted. Music was her language. Those pathways in an otherwise deteriorating brain still functioned to bring her a message of peace.
We sang again. She calmed down, and smiled. She remembered the heavenly Father she learned to trust, the perfect Father who looked after her for all those years after Leo died.
“Jesus is wonderful,” she said, and finally closed her eyes to rest.
Mom passed into His presence a few weeks later. Dad, who recovered amazingly quickly from the stroke, was with her and said her face lit up like someone she knew walked into the room – and then she was gone.
I heard myself using her expression the other day when someone asked how I was doing. “It’s day by day,” I said. “It sometimes takes me a while to get to a place of peace but I am learning to trust my Father’s kindness. And that’s all I need.”
Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Power.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.
Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.
–Lina Sandell, translated from Swedish by A.L. Skoog.
I am his child and His treasure. This is a charge He has laid upon Himself.
Jesus is wonderful.