A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. Psalm 68:5
A few years ago I had an issue that put me in the hospital for a day of testing. I had been awakened in the night with the most terrible pain in my chest- It was so severe that I passed out and fell out of my bed. As you can imagine, this was incredibly frightening for my husband and me. A very long night of test after test, followed by a long morning with more tests. It turned out to be an easily fixed issue for me. During that long day, I shared a room with a lady I fear was not much older than myself. I was very disturbed by the way she was behaving- I had seen similar behavior and confusion in my own mom a few years before. My mother had been gone for maybe two years at this point, and watching this lady grieved me to the core. There was absolutely no one with the sweet lady for the majority of the day. She had to go through all the testing by herself. I cannot imagine how frightening that must have been. Often, the nurse would have to repeat what she wanted her to do. She did have a few lucid moments through the day and at one point shared with my husband and myself that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She still lived on her own and drove her own car. She said the reason she was in the hospital was that she had passed out. Late in the afternoon, her nephew came to visit her. He clearly cared for her and was concerned for her. He told her he understood that she passed out because she had not been eating. “I forget”, she told him. “You have to remember to eat,” he said over and over. “I know”, she would reply. He did not understand that she simply could not remember. She really was in the position where she was no longer safe to live on her own. He did not understand her need. That is the very sad thing about Alzheimer’s. Those suffering from it cannot remember what they need to do, they no longer have control. Their family members need to understand when their loved one can no longer take care of themselves but that isn’t always easy to see, especially if they do not know the symptoms. They may not be aware that their loved one cannot remember to eat or take their pills, or dress. This sweet lady was no longer able to remember the admonition from her nephew two seconds after he said it. Oh, how I wanted to make him understand his Aunt’s great need. I was discharged before this lady and never knew her fate. I have thought about her often and I’ve wondered how we can improve the ability to see other’s needs. How can we step out of our busy lives and be a part of taking care of the “widows and the fatherless”
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. Psalm 68:5. St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) wrote a poem about this very thing. Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours, yours are the eyes with which he looks. We are God’s eyes to see our loved ones need, we are God’s arms to give comfort. He is taking care of the fatherless and the widows through us. It is a blessed commission, and we become blessed as we follow through. It is a definite learning curve to know what our loved one may need. In our own case, there was so much to understand about mom and her needs. A few month’s after my dad’s death we were finally able to move with mom into the “pretty house” as dad called it. Dad had never told us about the growing difficulty mom was having with her memory after the stroke she had suffered. We were completely in the dark about what she was and was not able to do. My parents had never been good historians. We found they had not kept us informed of most of their health conditions, or even what behaviors mom had been exhibiting that dad felt uncomfortable taking care of. When mom came to live with us she came with quite a few medications. We had no idea what several of them were for, or if they were all needed. The first step for us was to get her to our doctor for a checkup. He was able to research her records and slowly weaned mom off of the pills she did not need. He was also able to find out what other specialists she needed to see. Mom was not able to tell us anything, she simply did not remember. If dad had not asked for help, we would have assumed mom was fine. It is difficult to remain aware of what your elderly parents are in need of. They hang on to that independence even when it is not the best thing for them.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. Psalm 68:5. There was a very gradual decline in mom’s abilities. At the beginning, we felt safe letting her dress and shower herself, even a bit of cooking. We wanted her to keep as much independence as possible for as long as possible. She had been a marvelous cook for all of my life but now could not remember the simple steps to make a meal. During Thanksgiving one year we had our house full of our children and grandchildren. I had prepared most of the meal, but mom really wanted to make the gravy. She knew this was a special occasion and wanted to be of help. She stood in front of the stove, a spoon in her hand and froze. She simply could not remember what to do. It was heart-wrenching to watch. She knew something was wrong, but could not pinpoint what it was. The last meal she ever cooked was for my husband while I was at work. He watched her drop a chicken breast into boiling water. When she served it to him she told him it was fish. To spare her feelings he ate the boiled chicken and from that point on she never cooked again. I never regretted telling my father as he lay dying that I would take care of mom. Through all the difficulties it was one of the best decisions I ever made. My love and my husband’s love for her grew stronger every day. Even when we were not sure about whether or not we were making good decisions for her- we knew that God was there as the defender of widows. He was the one filling in the blanks. He was the one watching over and taking care of our precious widow using our eyes and arms as his tools. I feel strongly that whatever you may be going through with the loved one you are caring for that God is right there beside you -filling in the holes you cannot fill. My prayer for you is that God will give you peace and strength as you go through these days
Please leave a comment about how I can pray for you as you take care of your loved one. Be sure to click on the link I have provided for the Alzheimers Association for information and tools you may find useful.