Have you ever wondered why God allows people to live on and on into their 80’s and 90’s in various states of pain and disability—severe arthritis, blindness, deafness, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other chronic, debilitating and painful conditions? If you have an elderly loved one who is suffering, then you probably have. Recently, my own 91-year-old mother relayed to me that she doesn’t understand why the Lord still has her here on this earth. Here is a glimpse into her life:
I walked into her room at the rehab center one hot summer afternoon. There she sat in her wheelchair, eyes gently closed, head tilted back ever so slightly. She didn’t move as I called out, “Hey, mama”. She is nearly deaf so she didn’t hear me as I threw open the door and trounced into the room. As I gently touched her arm letting her know of my presence, she straightened up and looked at me with sad, discouraged eyes. “They brought my breakfast again before washing my face and putting my partial denture in”, she said. Being in a nursing center for the first time had been quite an adjustment for her after living on her own all these years.
As I began to visit with mom, an old friend of hers walked in. Sadly, my mom had no idea who it was, not because her memory is going, (her mind is sharp as a tack) but because she can no longer make out facial features. She suffers from macular degeneration and is almost blind. All of her life one of mom’s favorite pastimes has been reading. Now… there is no device or pair of glasses that can help her make out the words on the page.
Because she cannot read or watch T.V., she spends most of her time at the nursing center just sitting. Sitting and thinking. Waiting for the next visit from a friend or family member. Looking out the window into the sunny courtyard.
When it comes to mobility, mom can still make her way from point to point—slowly and painstakingly—with a walker, although she has severe arthritis in every joint.
Mom is in the rehab center for physical therapy after cracking several ribs in a fall. Her recovery has been painful and slow and she has been very discouraged at times. It has been quite an adjustment for all of us as we’ve had to watch mom rely on others for even her most basic needs.
Mom is 91 years old and is a believer. She has told us she is ready to go and be with Jesus—to be free from pain.
As mom’s health has declined, the responsibility of her care and the management of her affairs has fallen largely to me as her only daughter. My brother helps when he can, especially with things like home repair and other things that are out of my wheelhouse. But I have taken on being her chauffeur, her grocery shopper, her business manager, etc. It’s sometimes tough to manage my own home and family as well as hers. As I often say, my peers and I are a part of the “sandwich generation”, taking care of our elderly parents while still parenting our own kids.
As I began doing more and more for my mom, I resented the new “duties”. I felt they were an inconvenience, a chore, an intrusion. Couldn’t someone else do it? I had a busy life of my own with 2 kids still at home. I felt trapped as I realized there was no one else. As I spent more and more time with my mom— taking her to doctor’s appointments, helping her at home, tending to her personal needs—a funny thing happened. I noticed a change in myself. I began to care for her out of love rather than obligation.
I literally felt a change occurring in my heart. That’s when I realized why God allows people like my mom to live into their 90’s in struggle and pain. It is for us—for me. Through serving my mom God has taught me about self-sacrifice. He has developed in me patience, empathy, and mercy like I’ve never known. He has taught me the true meaning of servanthood.
You see, through my relationship with my aging mama, God is making me more like Him.