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Grace comes strangely

May 23, 2012

Many of you know that, for more than seven years, Peggy’s mom, Miss Evelyn, lived with us.  Getting her to move down from her lifetime home in New York was a struggle.  She always treasured her independence and, for her, dignity and propriety were the paramount virtues.  Taking care of herself was only one of them.  She had hundreds of unwritten rules that you followed to be dignified and proper.  One Sunday morning when it was pouring rain she got out of her car to go to church.  While everyone else was dashing to the church door she strolled in a slow and dignified manner.  One simply did not run to church, it was not dignified.  Being drenched was a small price to pay for dignity.

But, at 88, it finally became clear to her that she could no longer live alone and she moved in with us.  Advancing age made this necessary.  Nevertheless she struggled to maintain an appearance of dignity and propriety at all times.  But time is relentless and her infirmities piled up.  Severely diminished eyesight and hearing, loss of feeling in her hands and feet, increasing loss of continence, and severe shaking from ongoing Parkinson’s disease made her courageous struggle to be dignified harder and harder.

Peggy and I gradually became her co-conspirators in her struggle.  We ignored or casually responded to the various accidents, spills and misfortunes she had at home.  We did all we could to be sure that, when she left home, she was presentable and dignified in appearance.  We guarded her schedule to help her avoid potentially embarrassing incidents.  As time went by things got gradually worse but she never stopped fighting and was always mortified by every spill or accident.  Our task because as much consolation as cover-up as she struggled to maintain dignity. 

Then, last August, came the stroke that seemed to be the final victory for the ravages of time.  After a few tense days when we didn’t know if she would survive she stabilized.  But, physically she had taken a huge step back.  She was no longer able to do even the smallest task of bathing, dressing, eating, etc.  Mentally she was confused and slow.  She left the hospital for a skilled nursing facility where she resides to this day.  It would appear that dignity is gone however.  Physically, she needs care akin to that of an infant. 

Our fear was that this woman, for whom dignity was everything, would live in constant mortification.  But she does not.  While she is aware of all that is being done for her, one thing that is gone is her worry and obsession with dignity.  She simply accepts all that now needs to be done for her.  There are no comments, no expressions of mortification.

Miss Evelyn is now 95.  She has survived cancer, two strokes, several bouts of pneumonia and other illnesses.  We have no idea why God has allowed that but we have come to see the loss of her obsession with dignity as a grace from God.  It is almost as if God has said that, instead of her fighting for dignity, He will simply remove that worry from her.  Grace sometimes manifests itself in ways we would never have chosen and could not foresee.

In the meantime, we have chosen to continue to fight her war for dignity on her behalf.  She may no longer be able to do it, she may no longer even care, but we still want to honor her lifelong quest.  With each visit we tend to her grooming and appearance.  Sometimes the smallest, most unlikely thing can restore her.  Even handing her a small stuffed animal toy can, as we take her out for a spin in her wheelchair, restore the smiling dignity she always wanted. 

Grace begets grace.  We sometimes need to respond to the strange grace of God with grace of our own in the circumstances He gives us.

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From → Christianity, Grace

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