on caring for the dying

Our own household is back to ‘normal’ now, as normal as can be in our current circumstances. Life is about change, so normal is always in a state of flux in any home.

My wife returned to us this week after six weeks assisting in the care of her dying mother. My blogging has been light because I have been pulling double duty (well… maybe only one-and-a-half duty) at home while she has been gone. Precious little time is left for reading, thinking, writing and especially blogging when I am left on my own for an extended period of time! But that is another post.

The whole episode of the last six weeks heightened my regard for my dear wife. She selflessly committed herself to the needs of her mother during this time. Our two youngest and I went to visit with her and grandma for one week at the end of October. I was able to observe my wife’s efforts first hand. Her mother is extremely uncomfortable as she grows steadily weaker. She often wakes disoriented and confused. My wife would get up with her mother, assist her to get to the bathroom, sit with her and comfort her fears, pointing her always to her faith in Christ. On many occasions my wife would be up repeatedly through the night as her mom’s discomfort would not allow her to get long or restful sleep.

Some days are better than other days in situations like this. Dying seems to come on in waves. Some days those waves are an ebb tide, and the ‘old mom’ emerges. But, alas, her strength is diminished and those episodes shorten as time goes on.

Caring for the dying exacts a toll on any family. It is the bone-weariness produced by the needs of an increasingly helpless loved one. It is the wearing emotional distress of loss as one sees the life ebbing away. It is the inevitable tension between self and one’s own needs (needs?) and the needs of another, one who cannot any longer fully function as they once did.

For now, others in the family are shouldering the responsibility of care. The bone-weariness rests now almost completely on them. Our hearts and minds are still occupied with mom, preoccupied with concern for her comfort and care, but we are many miles away and must commit her to the Lord and the rest of the family for now.

We are not the only ones who have ever experienced this, of course. The loss of one much loved is the normal course of life. It befalls us all. I hope that our experience makes us more like Christ, who is all compassion. I hope that these days increase the ‘pure religion quotient’ in our lives. May God grant grace to our mom, and may God make us more like His Son.

James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3