I think that I know what is best for myself. I think that I know how my life should unfold and I love to tell God how to accomplish my purposes. One of the greatest and best known prayers in the Christian faith says the scariest words of all- “Thy will be done”. I pray that prayer on a daily basis. It is a regular part of my morning devotional time- yet I didn’t really understand what it meant until recently.
A year ago, things in my life were about as scary as they had ever been. My Mother’s Alzheimers had progressed to the point where it was no longer safe for her to be alone in our home. Part time caregivers no longer provided enough help. Daily trips to the Senior Center no longer provided enough safety. There were large chunks of time in the mornings and afternoons that my Mother was alone, while my husband and I were at work. Then came the night wanderings and the unexplained injuries. Two trips to the ER for X-rays and my Mother could not explain how she had hurt herself. She was as dumbfounded as we were.
My husband believed that it was time to look at nursing homes but I steadfastly disagreed. The God that I believed in and followed was never going to ask me to do such a horrible and terrible thing as put my Mother in a nursing home. He would spare me of this, I was sure, by taking her to be with Him in the middle of the night. I would go into her room to wake her up and give her her morning meds and she would be dead. I was sure that this was how everything was going to play out, because I had been requesting this from God since my Mother was diagnosed five years earlier. It was going to happen any day now. I was sure of it.
I believed that death was a much better option for my Mother than going into a nursing home. She is a believer in Jesus and there was no doubt in my mind that she would be going to be with Him when she died. I am not afraid of death. I am one of those people who truly believe that there is a much better place to be than here on this earth. This is SO not all there is. If it is- I want my money back because life here on earth is hard and painful a lot of the time. I am holding out for a better place- where there is no more pain and suffering and eternal joy and comfort with God.
So that is what I was praying for for my Mother, and I was CERTAIN that God was going to answer this prayer.
Turns out- He didn’t. My Mother continued to decline and my wise husband had to convince me that we needed a plan B and that plan B was the nursing home. Man, was I mad at God. I have been really mad at Him about other things but I don’t think I have EVER been as mad at Him as I was then…….
“You are REALLY going to make me do this hard and terrible thing, aren’t you?”, I would scream and cry at Him. “How can you make me DO this?? After ALL I have given up for you?? How can you make me DO this???” (There were actually expletives in there, but I cannot bring myself to write them now.)
I did not get a direct answer. Which succeeded to piss me off even more. Nevertheless, I followed through with plan B. It took much longer than I realized, to find a place that was not terrible and also had an opening. There was lots of paperwork and collecting of documents. By the grace of God, I was led to hire a wonderful woman who works as a consultant and guides people through the difficult and very confusing process of putting a parent in a nursing home. Many days I feared for my sanity, but I was also led to an exceptional family therapist who helped (and is still helping me) to put all of this in perspective.
Finally, the dreaded day came. I cannot describe it here, because it still qualifies as the hardest day I have ever lived through in my life, but we got her there. We dropped her off and kind, caring nurses helped us to walk away. I will never forget that day. As long as I live.
So here we are, six months later. It has been an adjustment- for all of us. Sometimes it has been very, very hard. My Mother’s symptoms got much worse when she was forced to cope in a new and strange environment. Various medications have been tried. Some made things worse. Recently, one seems to be making things much better. Letting go of being the “person in charge” of my Mother’s care has been simultaneously the scariest and most liberating experience of my life.
I have learned that many who work in the nursing home field are kind, caring, committed and able to help. I have discovered that I do not have to figure everything out myself. I have learned that waiting sometimes pays off and that problems may not be solved immediately but they often do get solved. I have learned that I can do “all things through Christ who strengthens me”- things I thought I would never, ever be able to do and I have done them- often with a lot of help from my friends. I have learned to trust (FINALLY), that God’s ways and ideas are often much better than my own.
Best of all, I have experienced a new and much healed relationship with my Mother. Now that I have had some time and freedom to begin to live my own life, I am so much less angry at her. The resentment that I felt towards her for expecting me to care for her when I could not do so anymore is totally gone. She is happy to see me when I visit and, surprisingly, I am happy to go there. We laugh together, for the first time in years…….
If God had taken her in the middle of the night, like I wanted Him to, I would have missed all of these opportunities to grow. I would have missed a healed relationship with my Mother. I would have missed the great feeling of getting through something really hard and coming out on the other side, stronger, braver, wiser and more whole. I would have missed all of this. Go figure.
God really did have a better plan. Let’s hope I can remember this lesson the next time around……