Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lifted

My mom is declining. And it's happening faster than I thought it would.

She's sleeping about 20 hours a day now. Her legs won't let her stand. She's forgotten how to write her name. She needs to be reminded to swallow.

But there's something powerful happening that I felt I needed to record tonight.

I'm being lifted.

This morning when I woke up and thought about the various challenges that are hurting my heart (my mom's situation at the forefront), I whispered, "I can't do this. It's too much. I'm not strong enough."

But a couple of hours later, during the closing hymn at church, we sang this:

Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed.
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand.
Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.

At that moment, the message was for me, and I heard this:

I'll help you, April. You don't need to be afraid. I am with you. Trust me. I have never let you down.

And those words stayed with me all afternoon...as I thought about how I will say goodbye, as I considered how to start the conversation with my dad about "final arrangements," and as I spoke with my mom briefly on the phone (I could feel what she was trying to say, but all I could hear were partial sentences and slurred words).

Then tonight I was given two tender mercies.

The first was from Grace, who could see my tears as we got Spencer's room straightened up before getting him into bed.

"It'll be okay, Mom," she said. "I mean, would you rather have grandma remember nothing and be with you physically--or remember everything and be with you spiritually?"

Her wisdom touched my heart, and I turned to her and opened my arms. We just stood together in the center of the room, hugging each other tight.

Then Alia went into the office and started printing something off the computer, and after I reminded her it was time to get to bed, she said, "One minute...you're going to like this."

The next thing I knew, she was downstairs playing a simplified version of "Blue Moon," the song my mom used to always play on the piano.

I stood at the top of the stairs--mesmerized--and watched her play--thinking about how blessed I am to have children who know exactly how to take care of me. If there was one song in the world that had the power to calm my heart tonight, that was it.

When I walked to the bottom of the stairs, she stopped and pointed to another piece of sheet music. "I printed the harder version for you."

Now, let me stop here for a moment to explain that I have heard my mom play Blue Moon for 36 years, and I have never once been able to play it myself. She didn't have the sheet music, and I never took the time when she was healthy to ask her to teach it to me. When I have tried to pick it out on the piano (watching videos of her and attempting to copy her hands), I've ended up totally frustrated.

But tonight when I sat down to play the music Alia had found, it was the exact same key and the exact same music my mom has been playing all these years.

I am not much of a pianist, but here's a little video in case you'd like to hear it:



I don't know how much longer my mom has, and I don't have a clear understanding of everything this process is supposed to teach me, but I am absolutely certain that the Lord is aware of our needs. And just as He is lifting me and my family during this time, I have zero doubts that He will do the same for you.

Much love,
April



Saturday, May 24, 2014

Top 5 Reasons We Love Grandma Peggy

Today is the birthday of my sweet mother-in-law (whom we affectionately call Grandma Peggy).

Every year as her birthday approaches, I always wonder how I can adequately express how much I admire her.

So today I thought I would gather my children and share a little bit about why we love having Grandma Peggy in our lives.

(1) When you go to Grandma Peggy's house, she rolls out the red carpet.

There are usually freshly-baked cookies, beds all made up with colorful quilts--and chocolates on the pillows, tasty snacks, toys and new pajamas for the kids, and basically anything you could possibly want or need--all prepared with love. But the most important part of that whole set-up is Grandma Peggy--there with her arms extended, ready to give each of us a hug. She has this amazing ability to make everybody feel like they're at home.

(2) With Grandma Peggy, you never get the feeling that she is too busy for you.

The fact of the matter is that Peggy is really busy--working long hours at the school for the deaf, taking care of her friends and family, serving at church and in the community, plus managing all of the "normal" stuff that needs to happen when you're running a household.

But whenever you call or visit, she sits back and somehow figures out how to make things work so you don't feel rushed. Sometimes I just talk and talk and talk--about things going on that I hadn't even intended on mentioning. But having such a sweet listening ear just brings it out of me.

(3) She has a beautiful talent for encouraging others.

I could go on forever listing the ways she cares for young children at her work and how she supports all of us in our various activities, but one of my favorite stories is about what she did for a missionary who was serving in the Philippines alongside one of her children. He wasn't receiving any letters or packages or anything from his family, and Peggy simply couldn't live with that. So she started writing to him--regularly. And she sent him special things in the mail. Someone she had never even met--and most likely would never meet. Yet she wanted to take care of him while he was serving the Lord. I love that.

(4) Grandma Peggy is funny.

With six children, who have lively personalities of their own, there's always something unique going on at the Perry house. Peggy embraces the humor. She plays games, helps with dress-up parties, and even poses for ridiculous photo ops for her daughters to post on Instagram (I won't re-post them here). Her laugh is comforting, and she's such an example to me.

(5) Grandma is the birthday/holiday QUEEN

Ever since I joined the Perry family 15 years ago, Peggy has shipped packages our way for every birthday and major holiday. She's honestly an expert when it comes to being thoughtful.

Alia gave a talk in church for Mother's Day, and this is what she said about Grandma Peggy:

My grandma loves to give gifts, and she never ever forgets a holiday! On Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween, birthdays, and many other holidays, we can expect a knock at the door from our mail carrier or a package in our mailbox.

These aren't just normal packages--they are covered in stickers, and sometimes personalized for the person or the holiday! She fills the packages with toys, books, movies, and candy. I've even been able to help her fill a few myself.

I can really see how much love and effort she puts into each one!

Because my grandma loves and never forgets her children and grandchildren, I was reminded of a scripture from Isaiah 49:16. The Lord has promised us that He will not forget us because He has "graven us upon the palms of His hands." And our promise to Him is that we will not forget Him, for we have engraven Him in our hearts.

Happy birthday, Grandma Peggy (Mom)! You have one of the sweetest hearts I have ever known, and we feel so privileged to call you ours. 


 



Sunday, May 18, 2014

My Big Leap

I posted this on my personal Facebook page Thursday night when I came home from my mom's house. And then I figured I should post it here, too, since so many of you have been asking about my mother's Alzheimer's and sincerely expressing love for our family. Thank you.

_____________________________________________________________



I feel like I made a big leap tonight. Made it to a place I didn't think I could go. Because I am way too tired to write up a whole blog post about it, I'm just going to share the story here (for those who are following this adventure with my mom and her Alzheimer's).

Because it was SO hot today (felt like 100 in Long Beach), we decided we couldn't possibly stay in my parents' house, so we walked over the bridge to the local bay. Mom, Dad and I sat at the water's edge while Alia, Grace, Ethan, and Spencer played in the water and built sand castles. I held my mom's hand the whole time, and my dad and I talked--one of those conversations where we kept remembering funny stories and laughing together (mostly about how FUNNY my mom was in her earlier years). When we returned home, we ate lasagna for dinner and helped Mom get all ready for bed. She was out like a light by 8.

It was a sweet day. Calm and precious. But the thing is, my mom really wasn't there for it. It might just have been the heat, or maybe today was just a "low" for her, but she couldn't finish even one sentence. She needed me to feed her at the dinner table. It took two (sometimes three) of us to lift her out of her wheelchair, and she needed me to brush her teeth for her. I didn't even need to ask her if she knew my name because I already knew the answer. She just calls me "Sweetheart," and I think that is great.

But here's where my "big leap" comes in. I realized as I was tucking her in bed that I've gone from caring mostly about my own needs (and my longing to have her know me and love me and stay with me here in this life) to thinking about HER needs--and finally feeling the compassion she deserves to have felt for her. For the first time, tonight I was able to look at her and think, "Wow, this whole process must be so incredibly exhausting for you."

I don't want to see her go. I hope she lives for many more years. But tonight I finally got to the point where if the Lord sees fit to take her back to Him, I will be okay with that.

I don't know if any of you have ever gone through something like this, and really, I hope you never do, but you all have been such a support to me. I thought it wouldn't hurt to share. Love to you all.


 
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