Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Assisted Living

My Grandma moved into assisted living today. The gradual withering and slipping away – hazards of a beautifully long life – finally making it unsafe, finally forcing the decision. The nine hundred miles that separate me from the situation do not ease the wrenching, even if they spare me the task of helping put her belongings in the suitcases which have been hidden the last year or so. The suitcases have been hidden because the confusion that has been closing in has had my grandma packing up and looking for home – one time making it a mile and a half before a friend brought her back. The suitcases were put away, so she has made due, putting haphazard piles of things (crackers, a brush, four pair of socks) in laundry baskets or cardboard boxes. Asking for rides. Waiting by the door with her head in her hands. Sometimes home was Iowa. Sometimes it was heaven. Sometimes she couldn’t even say. Her mind has been set on leaving.

But that doesn’t make it easier.

My parents have cared for my grandma in their home for some sixteen years, and really, for most of those years it was a mutual caring. They made the meals. She did the dishes. But after awhile she stopped using dish soap, and left the knives pointing up, mixed in with the soup ladles - sharp and shiny warnings of what was coming. So there were years of half-clean dishes, and missing measuring spoons, and dinner around the table.

They had hoped that it would be her last address. They had hoped for a quiet slipping away in a familiar bed. A dignified exit. But my grandma’s care is no longer a one or two person job. Everyone agrees. Everyone knows deep down there is not another way.

But that doesn’t make it easier.

So, my mom, aunt and sister went with Grandma on the tour. Looked around. Said the people were nice. Left Grandma to play cards while they came home to pull the suitcases from the rafters. I couldn’t be there, so I went for a run and committed the efforts of my body to prayer. I ran, with my soul knotted, asking for grace for my mom, asking for grace for my grandma. I worried over the details as I tried to loosen them from my mind and hand them over to God Almighty.

And at the bottom of the first hill, at the intersection where lines of cars turn onto campus, a little promise came, sweet and sure: my grandma is a child of God.

His own child.
And known.

And my heart could finally speak the thorny worry tangled up before me. I could finally see that they followed similar lines as the worries I have had sending babies off, alone, into new situations.

What if she is scared?
What if no one notices her?
What if she doesn’t know the rules?
What if she is confused?
What if she is hurt?
What if something happens, and they call me to come, and I am not by the phone?
What if I chose the wrong place?
What if I trusted the wrong people?
Who will comfort her if she cries?
Will they try to make her laugh?
Will they see that she is beautiful?
Will they know that she is treasured?

And to each worry, the answer was the same:

I am God the Father, grieved that my child will have a hard day.
I woke up early to stand guard over her life.
I already asked the questions that parents ask.
I have already covered their answering with grace.
I will make her bed familiar with my presence.
Even in confusion, I will clothe her in dignity.
She is my child.

And so I read Psalm 121 again:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

No slumber, Lord. No sleep tonight. Stand guard. Hold her hand. You said you would.

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