Recently I spent a week with my parents. As I’ve written before, my mom has Alzheimer’s and my dad has terminal cancer. Spending time with them is sad as I watch them suffer and decline, knowing all I can do is love them but can’t make them better.
For over a week prior to leaving, I had an irregular heartbeat. That heartbeat comes from extreme stress or emotions. I was so reluctant to face the emotions once again that it caused enough adrenaline to spike that heartbeat again.
My dad’s cancer has returned for the seventh time. He has had 60 doses of chemo, a new procedure with radiation, and was heading back to the hospital for a more radical chemotherapy. He is 85 years old, as is my mom. I admire my dad’s will to live and fight this cancer that should have ended his life years ago. He fights to stay for my mom who desperately depends on him now that her world has changed so much with her Alzheimer’s.
I learned something very precious during this week with my parents that helped me calm down enough for my irregular heartbeat to stabilize. I learned to SAVOR THE SWEET.
While my dad was in the hospital, I stayed with Mom and slept with her. She gets anxious at night and sometimes wanders because of it. We knew someone would need to be with her constantly. The first night, I didn’t sleep much worrying that I would miss her getting up and leaving their apartment to find my dad. The second night, neither of us slept much. Mom was worried about dad. I was worried about Mom.
During that long night though, my first “savor the sweet” moments happened. My mom reached over and covered me up during the night. Awwww. Mom is still taking care of me. Later, she put her arm around me. I know she needed comfort and was blessed that she felt I could give her the comfort she needed. Earlier she had woken up very agitated and shaking as she sometimes does. I was able to hold her hand in both of mine and speak love to her and calm her down. I laid in bed savoring those sweet moments.
I took Mom to see Dad at the hospital. When we got there, he was reclining in his chair next to his bed and a couch. There was no room to push Mom’s wheelchair up to him. Mom insisted she had to be right beside him. So she stood up on her shaky legs, walked over cords while we helped her, and gave Dad a kiss. Sweet moment. When my dad walked into the apartment a few days later, after leaving the hospital, the first thing he did on his weak and shaky legs was to walk over and kiss my mom.
Mom had worried that she wouldn’t be able to take care of Dad when he got home. I reassured her she didn’t have to take care of him, that we would. She asked what she had to do. I replied, just encourage and love him because he won’t be feeling good.
The day after he got home, Dad was sitting in a chair at the table with his back to my Mom. Mom reached up and started stroking his back. Just stroking and stroking. I have never seen her do that before. So sweet. Then my dad looked over his shoulder and said, “Hi Sweetheart.” Wow, savoring for sure.
I had worried that I wouldn’t know what to do if Mom had one of her hallucinations. And she had a couple of episodes while I was helping her. I went along with them as best I could, keeping her safe. She will often make comments that are so off the wall, we shake our heads because we don’t know where they are coming from. One of her many symptoms. Sometimes, though those comments are hilarious because they are so unexpected.
She made a comment like that the night my dad came home when my sister asked if she was glad she would be able to sleep with Dad again. My sister laughed so hard at her response that her face turned red and she had tears. I laughed watching her. Then Mom said something else that had us laughing. As we laughed, Mom turned to me and winked. I’m sure my eyes got really wide. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen her do that either. I was so surprised though because that wink told me she had known what she was going to say would make my sister laugh. And my sister, who carries the heaviest burden in their care, needed that laugh. What a sweet moment.
I had to take my dad to get blood tests twice while I was there. That was time where it was just him and I. We had some sweet talks on those drives.
Overall, a week I dreaded was a week I was blessed to have. Laughter, affection, support, love, camaraderie, and sweetness were all there overshadowing the pain of watching my dad go through yet another chemo treatment, this one the worst by far.
I learned this past week how important it is in the hard times to look for the sweet and just savor it, hold it close, think about it, let it give joy. My parents are in the process of dying from terrible diseases. That’s hard. Those sweet moments make it bearable. Bringing out the memories of those sweet moments, that’s going to give us strength and I think some courage to continue this journey with them. Those savored sweet moments will be the joy we bring out to feel again when the sorrow feels overwhelming. The key will be look for them now, savor them now, so we can bring them out later.
What are you going through? Hard times? Challenging times? What are the sweet moments you can savor? Life can feel so overwhelming at times and have such heaviness that it feels impossible to rise above it. If we look hard enough, I believe there will always be sweet moments to savor given to us by a great God who loves us enough to give us hope in the seemingly hopeless times. Savor the sounds of a baby’s laughter, the sight of deer in the field, a beautiful sunset, the green of the summer leaves, love of a family, the smile on the face of your loved one. There is always something sweet to savor. Keep your eyes and heart open and savor the sweet.