Sometimes Gifts Come Wrapped Up in Pain
“'But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord…”
Even though my mother has Alzheimer’s, no longer drives, and no longer lives independently, she is happy, appreciates life, and is a pleasure to be with.
This is in sharp contrast to the way things were just five years ago…in fact, compared to the way things were for much of my life.
Mom did not have an easy childhood. By her own account, her mother was mentally ill—angry, verbally and emotionally abusive, out of control. My grandmother would say hateful things to my mother, then in a moment of remorse and regret, tell her to pretend she was saying, “I love you.”
As a result, my mother was not an easy mom. For as long as I can remember, mom was quick to anger, critical, and bordering on hysterical much of the time. An avid reader of Psychology Today at the tender age of about 10, I was sitting at the kitchen table one day. I had just read an article about therapy and medications that could be taken for depression and anxiety. Mom was flying around the kitchen freaking out about the mess. I was used to this, but I had just had a light bulb moment.
“Mom, did you know there is medicine you can take to feel better?” I asked in innocence and hope.
“What are you talking about?” She actually seemed to soften, open up for a moment.
“I just read about it. You can take medicine to make you feel calmer, happier.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” she snapped. The moment was gone…
My grandmother’s life did not end well. She lived out her final days basically in a straightjacket on the psychiatric ward, spending her days mostly screaming through a black hole of mental illness.
We were afraid in my mother’s later years, she too would go further into anxiety and depression. And, five years ago, it looked like our fears might be realized.
Mom was losing her memory.
The signs were like a whisper at first, almost imperceptible. But soon the fact that Mom needed assistance was like a blaring neon sign. Car accidents she couldn’t detail, getting lost on familiar routes, stories that didn’t make sense.
Suffice it to say, the process was fraught with sadness, confusion, fury, resistance, guilt…In the span of about five months, we sold Mom’s condo, packed her up and moved her twice--once into an independent apartment in a progressive care community, then into an assisted living studio apartment in the same community because she wasn’t independent.
We prayed a lot and relied on constant encouragement, assurance, and support from family members and friends. We partially believed my mother when she told us we were destroying her life. Her rage was rampant.
We could never have pictured where we are today. Truly God has blessed us with more than we could’ve asked or imagined.
This once cantankerous, angry, critical woman has become a delight. She’s settled in. She’s been taking meds to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s and to allay her anxiety and depression. Yes, she is very confused. Not quite sure which daughter out of four is which…or why we’re all gathered together (Christmas…Thanksgiving…her grandchild’s birthday). But this doesn’t seem to bother her at all.
A short time ago, we felt like we were living a nightmare. Now we’re living a dream come true. Instead of dreading being with mom, we can thoroughly enjoy her sweet spirit, wonderful sense of humor, and sometimes astounding joy and appreciation for a dazzling fall day, a rack of colorful clothes, a lovely meal.
Happy 82nd Birthday Mom!
Have you ever gotten a gift that was wrapped in pain? Ever imagined the worst, but instead experienced the best?