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Is this how it's going to be?
She was sitting up in the recliner next to her bed. A dear friend was with her before lunch. The professional cleaning team was there when I arrived… lots of commotion. Nina (care provider) brought her some popcorn; I brought my sandwich from home (organic whole wheat, butter, peanut buttter and hot sauce)… and coffee (Peet’s dark roast, freshly brewed with my trusty AeroPress).
After the popcorn, we put the recliner all the way back. Carol napped for a stretch. She woke with a cloudy look on her face, gazing at the ceiling. I sensed it was time to ask again: “Anything on your mind?” “Yes,” She said.
I had to lean in to catch the rest. In a voice just above a whisper she asked: “Is this how it’s going to be?” I knew what she meant: I’m not going to get better, am I? I was struck by how brave she was to ask. I think she knew the answer, but needed to hear me talk about it.
My response wasn't planned. Having to answer delicate questions spontaneously is one of my many weaknesses. So here I am trying to organize yesterday’s thoughts in a more coherent manner… for future reference… and maybe for anyone else facing a similar scenario.
I leaned in so she could see me better. Eyeball to eyeball we were, as I struggled for the appropriate tone and words. I had to remember, first of all, our mutual agreement at the outset: We would not lie to each other. We would not hide things from each other. So… yes, Carol, It looks like this is the way it's going to be until the end.
But let’s remember…
The Lord has us every moment in his embrace. It’s who he is. It’s what he promised.
We gave our hearts to him all those years ago because we knew we’d have to be ready for this someday. Well, someday is here now. But, because of his grace, we’ve been ready for quite a while.
Remember how we’ve reveled in the providential hand of God over our lives? We couldn’t have made “us” happen, even if we’d had the vaguest clue that one another existed. Well, his grip on our lives has not slipped; his hand in orchestrating our present and our future is just as loving, nuanced, and personal as it’s always been. God will give us the grace to embrace this season too.
In moments like these, Carol, I’m careful about how I try to encourage you. You see, I’ve never been where you are now— body shut down, dependent on others for everything, struggling with words—not with finding them, but with gathering the strength to get them out.
You need to know how much your testimony means to people around you—beginning with me. I learn from you. You encourage me. You are an example of how to handle such life-altering calamities. I've not had to deal with these things personally—yet. When it’s my turn, your example will be there for me.
Remember Carol, you are touching many other lives also. Everytime someone comes to see you, they are greeted with the brightest eyes and biggest smile anyone could hope for. Sometimes people ask if you remember their visit or their words. Yes, you do! If I ask if you had visitors this morning, you usually say, “I don’t remember.” If I ask if “so-and-so” came to see you this morning, I get a bright-eyed “yes” with a big smile.
The blog I posted about you 3 weeks ago (The Lingering Season) has generated double the number of hits for anything else I’ve written. You are known, admired, prayed for… beyond what we realized. God is using you—no surprise—even in this season of your life.
But, there’s still so much more to this, isn’t there? The nearly unbearable heaviness of our journey in these clay pots will one day be lifted and replaced with something “beyond all comparison.”
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, (2 Corinthians 4:16-17, ESV)
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