Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart
The house is quiet yet this morning and I thought I might have a moment to share about the last few weeks. It is about 6:50 Sunday morning and I am sitting in with Papa and Gigi. It is warm and peaceful in here but the wind is howling outside. Tennessee Ernie Ford, with his beautiful voice, is singing “The Old Rugged Cross” in the background. Papa awoke around 4:30 this morning, feeling “funny” and a little confused. Chad and I were able to reposition him in bed and sat holding hands with him for quite a while, listening to the hymns softly playing and just being with him. Papa has had episodes like this before and thankfully he eventually relaxes and like now, is now sleeping peacefully.
So much can happen in just a few weeks. I feel almost as if immediately after my last update on Gigi and sharing the excitement of the reprieve we had experienced with her combative behaviors, she started to struggle once again. This time the progression was swift and what seemed to take months before only took weeks this time. In short order her combativeness was extreme again and it truly took 2 of us to dress and care for her, with her episodes lasting hours at a time again. The aggression was not our only concern as she was so unsteady on her feet, falling often, and becoming a danger to herself in these times. Out of desperation one Sunday evening we called Hospice for help and they were able to help us get her agression under control with different medication. Even though we had been trying to manage her behaviors with constant care and limited medicine, it was not enough. Thankfully her excellent physician and Hospice worked with us and were able to help her regain peace through the medication she needed. As these few weeks have passed she has significantly declined, she seems to have slipped into the beginning of the last stage of Alzheimer’s. Her aggression is all but gone, even though now, she is not on any routine medication, but only as needed for pain and anxiety. She is bed ridden and sleeps most of the day and through the night. We are feeding her now, as she cannot feed herself. She sits in her wheelchair every few days for about 45 minutes but that is about all she can handle, she gets too worn out. She has small windows of clear lucidity but for the greater percentage of time either speaks in random sentences or jumbled words. Her appetite is greatly diminished, but we try to get as many small portions in her throughout the day as she will eat. She is frail and tiny, probably only 95 lbs or so. We know our time is short, weeks or months, only the Lord knows. With the help of Hospice, our goal and desire is that she is comfortable; not in pain, but peaceful. Most days the lights are off with just natural light coming in, Tennessee Ernie Ford sings hymns quietly from a CD or Gaither Gospel hour “entertains” on the television. The girls often go in and read Bible stories to her or just sit and hold her hand. My mom was here for a week and spent a lot of time helping and just sitting with them, and now my Uncle Ken is here and doing that same. It is good to just be in the room with them. Papa also sleeps most of the day, literally. Right along with Gigi, we have seen a significant decline in him over the last few weeks. As our Hospice nurse gently says…”he is winding down”. He gave us quite a scare a couple weeks ago, but thankfully the antibiotics worked and the Lord healed his pneumonia. His appetite is also scarce. We try our hardest to get a good breakfast in him as that is his best meal of the day. As many days as he will let us, we cook up 2 eggs, 2 pieces of bacon and an English muffin. Some days he will finish it, but many others much is still left on the plate. We wake him throughout the day to try to coax food in him, but he mostly refuses our offerings, and dinner time only brings about a few meager bites. Some mealtimes we need to feed him as he simply falls asleep while eating and is quickly resting again as soon as the plate is removed from him. In reality, outside of the time it takes to get him up in the morning and ready for bed at night, his awake time is in small snippets, equaling probably an hour a day at best. The sweetest blessing is that he is still himself. Even those outside of our home…friends, caregivers, nurses, social workers… who come in and interact with him for many different reasons say often…. “how sweet a man he is”, “what a blessing it is to have met him”, how they too “have fallen in love with this man and his kind and gentle spirit”. He is still the most patient, loving, gracious and tender man I know. Almost as many times as he is awake he will say “I love you”, constantly says “thank you” with heartfelt gratitude, and still tells each one of us how precious we are to him.
Without a doubt, it is difficult for me to write what I know to be true in my heart. As we have been told, we do recognize that we are caring for two dying loved ones. The Lord is graciously giving us this time to prepare our hearts for the truth of what will inevitably come to pass. We are very aware that our moments with them are treasures and with gratitude we praise our Heavenly Father for His sovereign hand on their lives and on ours.
For God alone my soul waits in silence;
From him comes my salvation,
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken
"Happy is he when others are despairing! Happiest shall he be in that very hour when others are discovering the depths of agony. We have here a statement which we have personally tried and proved: resting in the Lord, we know a happiness which is beyond description, beyond comparison, beyond conception. O how blessed a thing it is to know that God is our present help, and our eternal hope." Charles Haddon Spurgeon