Monday, August 13, 2018

Reflections on "Happy" Days

Writing from Bakersfield, CA, where I am joining in the festivities of the annual International Christian Ministries (ICM) banquet as well as the International Council meetings with the ICM Country Directors.

This past week has been a week of reflection for me.

Bob as a little boy
Bob's date of birth is August 9.  He would have turned 64.  As someone (barely) clinging yet to my forties, I wonder how this age difference would have impacted us today.  It has been eight years since his death and so much has happened.  I have spent a little more time in the last few weeks with Bob's mother, who was moved into assisted living last December.  I had the privilege of making what may well be her last homemade pies with her.  She will turn 90 in September and is having some memory issues, as well as other health issues.  Bob's brother Don (and wife Carolyn) and sister Sandy have been working so hard at getting her house ready for sale, which means going through decades of memories that have been collected.  The items relating to Bob have been passed on to me and my children, for which I am grateful: letters that Bob wrote to his mom, the Bibles that he gave both to his mom and his step-father shortly after he became a Christian, pictures, more books on John F. Kennedy then we will ever probably read, and other memorabilia.

It is great to "hear" his voice again, in ways not heard before, after all of these years.  It's a surprise to learn things about him that I didn't know.  Noah is amazed by what a writer his father was!

Mom and Dad in the 1980s
Additionally, my parents anniversary is August 10.  They have been married for 61 years.  But for my dad, his understanding and participation in the marriage ended more than eight years ago.  He has frontal lobe dementia (they now do not think it is Alzheimer's) and has been on a locked floor in Holland Christian Homes in Brampton for these past eight years.  He cannot walk. He cannot talk (except for a few words now and then).  He sometimes will show some recognition of my mother yet but recognizes almost no-one else.  For the most part, he spends his time in a wheelchair, looking at nothing.  Day in and day out.  His body remains surprisingly strong.  It still takes several nurses to bathe him as he still fights that invasion (in his mind) of privacy and decency.

But for my mom, this marriage continues.  She has loved my dad and given her best to my dad from the age of 21 until today, at the age of 82.  She continues to fulfill her marriage vows of "in sickness and in health" as well as "til death do us part."

It's difficult on a deceased loved one's birthday to know what to do or say.  Is it a "happy" birthday when the person left so soon?  It's difficult on an anniversary where one member is languishing and the other continues to care for this loved one to know what to do or say.  Is it a "happy anniversary" when the conditions seem so sad?  I realized as I reflected this past week, with some regret, that we should have made a bigger deal out of their 60th anniversary last year and celebrated my mom, even without my dad.  She is an amazing wife and has loved my dad through good and bad times throughout her life.

Taking time for reflection is important.  I've appreciated my drives alone up to Bob's mom in Lake City for that reflection time.  Looking back in order to move forward has its place.  We miss how things they could be...and yet we can continue to glean from those relationships years later.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1:  There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.