The appearance of the apples was misleading. Their looks, in fact, could have caused them to be ignored as they fell to the hard, West Texas ground with a thud. Beneath the mottled skin though, they were still apples, sweet and delicious, like other apples who look just fine on the outside. If only apples could talk, they would be sure we knew there was still a treasure to be found inside.
It’s been well over 2 years since Dad moved on to his heavenly home, but some days the grief is still fresh…as if it just happened. Even after all this time, on occasion, I think of something I need to call him about…but oh yeah…I can’t pick up the phone and call him anymore. On days like that, I spend a little time with a bear, remembering those bear hugs.
It was October…a little chilly with clear skies and lots of Texas sunshine. Microphones were being checked; someone was singing on the stage. We took turns pulling the children through the park in the wagon, searching for the perfect place for a family picture. Chatter and quite laughter filled the air as we watched other families taking their pictures too. We were there to take a long walk together, and memories of other walks scrolled across my mind.
Mom quickly let go of my hand as we walked through the door, delivering a warm hug and a sweet hello to each resident in the living room. I didn’t want to be there, but this was what my mother did. She loved visiting the elderly.
My Naomi was young at heart, and that youthfulness must have spilled over to her good looks. She loved to laugh….I wonder now…could this have been her secret remedy against wrinkles and frown lines? It’s possible, of course, since laughter is the best medicine after all! She was active, always busy, and took very good care of herself.
We were all amazed as we watched Dad take sweet and tender care of his bride…patiently answering the same questions over and over again, looking for her lost purse many times each day, and watching over her carefully, protecting her from harm. People who knew them said they were soulmates, and I guess they were. They had been married many years when Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s had changed their lives and ours too. Mom was lost, and Dad was exhausted. We had sleepless nights full of worry, and many tears were shed. My heart ached for both of them, and I longed for life the way it was before the invasion of Alzheimer’s. We lived across the state of Texas, many miles from them, but we traveled there often to check on them, finding the situation a little worse with each trip.
It wasn’t until later, after Mom and Dad were gone, when I started writing my book, Dancing Around the Chaos, that I realized what a rare love story we had witnessed. I was reminded of the Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 13:7, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” I had read the verse many times before, but now, I understood it. It was real to me…Dad had lived the verse, demonstrating the meaning of the words. Alzheimer’s is the long road to goodbye, no doubt, but had it not been for this journey, we would have missed witnessing this rare love story. It was a gift.
Other gifts come to mind today…Valentine’s Day….along with other Valentine memories, like the year I won the 3rd grade valentine box contest. Mom helped me wrap a Kleenex box in red felt, glue pink and white felt hearts on it, and then attach a decorated coconut to the box with pipecleaners. It was, of course, a mouse pulling a carriage…which doubled as a collection box for valentines from my classmates! I love this memory, and I’m thankful for so many gifts in years past. The Valentine gift I treasure most, however, is the gift of this amazing love story…an example set for generations to come. What an honor!
Happy Valentine’s Day, Tracie
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
About a month after Mom passed away, I was visiting Dad when I heard another resident, Emily, say to a volunteer. “I want to watch THAT TV!” She was pointing to the wall covered in crosses – all shapes, sizes and colors. It’s beautiful. I guess when she glanced up at the wall, Emily thought, at least for a few seconds, that she was looking at a TV, and she wanted to see more of that show! The volunteer leaned down, whispered something in her ear and kept pushing her wheelchair toward the dining room.
Family members who remember very little from the past, sometimes find that memories are stirred at Christmastime as they celebrate family traditions. They are often the very ones who started the traditions we celebrate today. Even though they appear to have no memories or connections to the past, we don’t know what may be stirring in their minds as they listen to Christmas music, hear the sounds of laughter as children open gifts, and get a taste of those holiday recipes.
It’s been six months today since the cancer diagnosis…hard to believe that much time has passed. Cancer brought more chaos for us to dance around.
On the very day “Dancing Around the Chaos” was officially released, May 21, 2018, I was diagnosed with cancer. A book launch celebration had been planned, readings had been organized, interviews were scheduled, but all were canceled as we grappled with this new reality. The timing was so incredible to me. God had allowed me the time to complete the book He had laid on my heart…without being distracted by the cancer already growing in my body.