I mentioned in a previous post that I have felt directed to write a book about my mom.
When I visit each Thursday, I take the chapter I've been working on, and I read it to her aloud.
For the past three weeks, she's listened, and she seems to enjoy what I'm reading, but I could never really tell if she knew what she was hearing.
Tonight was different.
To back up a bit, it was kind of a stressful day. I received a call from my sister this morning, telling me that Mom had developed bed sores and that she needed a new mattress topper and someone to rotate her, clean her, and apply ointment every couple of hours around the clock.
This developed into a deeper conversation--one that we've known was coming but didn't quite want to face: It's time to bring in night nurses who can tend to her while our dad sleeps. Lisa started making phone calls, and tonight is the first night we have a professional nurse staying up to care for her around the clock.
I still went in for my usual Thursday night shift, taking my children with me, bringing along a cooler with our dinner ingredients, and packing my laptop, so I could read my latest chapter to Mom.
We had a wonderful night, and Mom was in good spirits, but as I rotated her, fed her, and cleaned her bed sores, I could just feel that we need to prepare ourselves for this next transition.
No one wants to lose her, and this is so incredibly hard.
After we ate dinner, Dad took his evening walk, the boys went into the front office to watch TV, and Alia and I sat at Mom's bedside. It was quiet and the sun was just barely setting--the perfect time to read. So I pulled out my laptop and shared the stories I'd drafted on Monday afternoon.
She listened carefully as I read, quiet and focused through the whole thing.
When I finished, she looked me in the eye and said, "That was very sweet."
Then as I hugged her, she said, "You have a beautiful way of...."
As she trailed off, I could tell she didn't know how to complete the sentence.
Then she paused for a moment and simply said, "Tender."
I rested my head on her chest as a few tears escaped from my eyes, and then I heard her whisper, "Thank you, Heavenly Father."
As she said those words, I remembered that distinct impression I received from the Lord a few weeks ago, instructing me to write:
April, you need to make this record. There is time for you to
write. It will be a gift for you to read it to her. And even though she
may appear not to know what you are reading, she will know. And she will
feel the love you have for her. And she will see clearly that her work
in this life has been worth it.
I hugged her even tighter, a bit of an emotional mess by that point, and then she held my face in her hands and looked at me with eyes that showed that she was really there and said, "I love you. I LOVE you."
There couldn't have been a more perfect moment. It was truly a gift.
Now if any of you happen to want to read the draft of the chapter that I shared with my mother, I've included it here.
Thank you for being with me on this journey. I'm always tired when I get home from Long Beach, and sometimes I don't feel like writing about it. But I keep getting the feeling that these experiences aren't just for me--that there are others out there (who may never comment here and who I may never meet) who need to hear these stories. So whoever you might be, God sends His love.
And now for today's chapter...
The Hole in the Nylons
Miracles will happen for you.
If there’s one thing that all of us would like to see more of in our lives, it’s miracles. Wouldn’t you agree? I yearn for miracles. I pray for them. I hope for them. And one of the reasons I know they are possible is because I’ve seen them happen over and over again in the life of my mother.
This is one of my favorite stories, simple as it may be, that reminds me to trust that miracles can happen.
One Sunday morning, many many years ago, as my mother was getting ready for church, she realized that she had a hole in her nylons, several inches above her shoe line. She searched everywhere in her dresser for another pair, but to no avail. Reaching down to her ankles, she tried to stretch the nylons every which way—hoping that perhaps she could hide the hole inside her shoe or under her skirt, but no matter how much she tried, that hole sat in the same spot.
For a proper woman like my mother, having this gaping hole was somewhat of a catastrophe, but it was time to go to church, and she couldn’t spend any more time worrying about those nylons.
Taking just a moment to herself before joining the rest of the family, she gently offered a prayer: “Father, I’m so sorry that I didn’t check my nylons yesterday, and I’m sorry I don’t have an extra pair. I want to look my very best as I go to worship Thee, but for today, this will have to do.”
She then helped get all of her children into the car, drove to church (where my dad, having early morning meetings, was already there), and sat down with the family on our regular pew.
A few minutes later, still feeling badly about her nylons, she glanced down at her leg.
The hole was gone.
She felt around the sides of her calf, up by her knees, and down by her ankles, but she couldn’t find the hole anywhere.
Completely puzzled by this point, she took off her shoe, and there—on the very bottom of her foot—was the hole.
I heard this story dozens of times while I was growing up. “April,” she told me, “There was no way that hole could have moved to the bottom of my foot. I had done everything I could to try to position it there. The Lord helped me that day. He understood what I needed, and that was a little blessing He sent just for me.”
Now I know that seems like such a simple, inconsequential thing, but the lesson it basically shouts is that miracles happen. And they’ll happen for you.
I remember one Saturday afternoon, when I needed to get five-year-old Grace to her last soccer game of the season. My husband had planned to go with me to help with our two-month-old baby and our other two children, but a last-minute urgent need from a neighbor required his assistance, and I told him I would be fine.
Once we arrived at the soccer field, I heard Grace gasp, “I forgot my socks and my soccer cleats!”
We were all devastated. There was no time to return home, this was her very last game, and there was no way they would let her play without shoes and socks.
Having learned from my mother’s example (over and over again), I gathered my children around me in the parking lot, and we offered a prayer—apologizing for forgetting the socks and cleats and asking that, if it were possible, Grace would be able to play her game.
We approached the field in faith, and moments later, we ran into a friend of ours whose son had just finished his game. As we explained our plight, our friend said, “Why doesn’t she wear Braden’s socks and cleats? He’s the same size as Grace!” We thought that was an excellent idea, so our two five-year-olds sat on the grass and made the transfer. It was perfect.
These kinds of miracles happen often. They’re always timed “just right,” and they remind me in such a powerful way that we are not alone.
One of my very favorite miracles happened on my birthday a couple of years ago—shortly after my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s—when she was in a rehabilitation center for a broken hip.
As a special treat, my husband stayed home with our four children and sent me to visit her alone for the day. During the one-hour drive, I was thinking about a list of questions I had written down that morning—things I was hoping the Lord would help me to understand about my life’s course, like how I felt I was continually stretched too thin and that my efforts simply didn’t measure up.
Though I felt a sweetness during the drive and an immense feeling of support, I didn't receive any specific answers to my questions.
When I arrived at the center, I was privileged to have a wonderful lunch with my dad, my sister Laura, and a neighbor of ours who had come to visit. I sat next to my mom and held her hand as much as I could. She was quiet, but happy. This was a blessing by itself because, up to that point, she hadn’t been doing very well. She had been crying a lot and repeatedly asking when she could go home.
The nurses had explained that she kept trying to find a way out. One day they found her way out in the corner of the facility by the vending machines. Other days, she would sit by the emergency exit. One time she made the alarm go off.
But that day, she was calm and happy--totally at ease.
Now there are two very special things about the visit that I feel I can share.
The first is that they served birthday cake that day.
Once a month, the facility celebrates all of the residents’ birthdays at the same time.
I asked the nurses if they always serve cake on the 19th, and they said no, that it changes every month.
Then it struck me that this was a tender mercy from the Lord. On my birthday, when I got to go spend the day with my mom--who I missed so much--He arranged for them to have cake.
The second special part of the day was a sweet experience I had while my mom and I were sitting alone in the lobby together. I had my arms wrapped around her, and she started speaking very quietly--almost indistinctly.
I listened closer, and I could hear that she was giving me counsel and advice.
Moving my ear as close to her lips as I could, I soon realized that in her calm, encouraging, beautiful voice, she was answering the exact questions I had written down for the Lord that morning.
I won't record the specifics because it was such a sacred moment, and the counsel was just for me, but this was one of the most precious miracles I have ever received in my entire life.
My mom has had dementia (which developed into Alzheimer’s) for pretty much the entire time I have been running Power of Moms. She doesn't know how to use the Internet, and she isn't involved in my day-to-day life. But as we sat together, and as she talked to me about my responsibilities, my choices, my struggles, my heart, my goals, and my daily work with my family and with my organization, it was as though she knew everything. I can't even think about the experience without getting choked up. No one besides the Lord could have known what to say to me, and He chose to deliver that message through the voice of the one from whom I needed to hear it the most.
I hesitated to even write anything about this experience here--because some things are just so special that you don't want to put them out in front of the world. But in this case, I feel like He wants me to share this so that if you are struggling, you will know that He is aware of you, too.
I have zero doubt in the Lord's capacity to perform miracles. I know He loves all of His children--from every religion and background. He knows we all make mistakes and that we struggle and that we need help. And when we turn to Him, He has a limitless ability to supply everything we need.
Miracles happen. They are beautiful. And they are available for all of us.