Even after my mom was getting more advanced with her memory loss, at Christmas, she would light-up like the brightest Christmas candle when she got her present. It is curious what remains accessible in memory and what doesn't with the encroachment of Alzheimer's Diseaseand it can affect different parts of the brain for different people. Fortunately, my mom's dementia did not create agitation or aggression. She just got sweeter and sweeter. Toward the end of her life, she did not always remember my name, even though she seemed to know me at some level, but she did seem to remember about getting toys at Christmas. What I found important to me and to her was to just be with her as much as I could. Sometimes she would simply say, "Could you stay a while?" I was still working full-time during those last years of her life, but I would go and “stay a while” as often as I could. In the last couple of weeks of her life, mom was mostly sleeping and fairly unresponsive. Her congestive heart failure was advancing and she seemed to be dancing between two worlds. She had not called me by name for several months. When I would go to sit with her in those last few days, I got very little response. The Hospice nurse said, "Just keep talking to her and caressing her because she may not remember much or respond much, but she will always need and feel your love." So, I just “stayed a while” each day.
On the evening before she died, after a couple of weeks of being nearly comatose, she raised herself up on her elbows and looked at me with the most incredible smile and said, "Hi Nita, I love you." A few hours later she passed on.
In the Gospel of John (15:7-11) there is a lot said about abiding. It is about “staying a while” and following God's best hopes for us. If we follow those calls upon our lives, we are promised that our joy and love will bemore complete and abundant. We are not promised a life of ease and no pain, but we are promised a Presence of abiding love. Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
What does it mean to abide? Biblically it means to await, remain, lodge, sojourn, dwell, continue or endure. I reckon that is what I did for both of my parents as they made their way to the next adventure. Fortunately, we did a lot of abiding with and for each other our entire lives. Now, I realize more than ever what a gift and honor that was. Maybe we were a little unconventional. Maybe a present given at Christmas to a mom who was having trouble remembering my name would not fill the bill for some. But it did for me and it did for her.
So, this Christmas, I am grateful for all the people who “stay a while” with me and allow me to do the same for them. When we abide in God's love, God's love most certainly abides in us. God never tires of staying a while. Christmas is all about Emmanuel--God with us!
Prayer: Thank you, Lord of love, for ALWAYS staying a while with me. Help me to do the same with you and all the people who grace my life. May my joy be full and my love be large. Amen.