When visiting Mother at the care center where she lived for eight years, we routinely ate lunch at the facility’s Bistro downstairs. But a few weeks after she moved to skilled nursing last November, the trip to the Bistro became too much for her. So, we ate with the skilled nursing residents in their now Mother’s dining room.
The first time we lunched together there, I observed how the staff seated the residents at the dining room’s five tables. There was the “feeding table” for residents who required assistance with eating, the “sleeping table” for wheelchair-bound residents dozing over their stuffed animals, the “silent-men table”—self-explanatory—the “chatty table” for residents with ailments that did not include the inability to socialize, and the “marginal table,” for people like Mother.
That day, I had brought my flute to play Christmas carols for her. Before lunch, the activities director met me in the hall and asked me to play for all the residents in the dining room. So, after I finished eating, I set up my music stand and played a range of both popular and sacred carols. Some at the “chatty table” sang along.
In the middle of “Joy to the World,” a quarrel broke out at the now, “not-so-silent-men” table. “He looked at me funny,” said one of the men. “And he crossed over onto my side.” The man drew an invisible line on the tablecloth with his finger. When the staff tried to calm him, he shouted, “No, I won’t be quiet. I can say anything I want.”
I kept playing. As the sounds of “peace on earth” and anything but filled the room, I thought, if this isn’t the both-and of our humanity, I don’t know what is.
Glancing at Mother across the room, I saw she had fallen asleep. My heart sank. I prayed, “Lord, please let her go before she graduates to the sleeping or feeding tables.” Later, on the drive home, I realized my prayer was for me—what I wanted—not what might happen. If that isn’t the both-and of my humanity, I don’t know what is.
Thereafter, my prayer went like this: “Lord, help me abide with Mother, help me stay in her story.”
Now for the part about Mother’s love for chocolate.
When I arrived at lunchtime the following week, Mother was sitting in a wheelchair at the “feeding table.” Okay, I thought, here we go. I greeted her with a kiss, which she didn’t acknowledge. Okay, I thought, this too. Mother was fine with me sitting next to her, but I could have been anyone.
I noticed she only used her right hand when spreading out her napkin on the tablecloth. In fact, throughout the meal, she didn’t move her left arm at all. I immediately thought of my father who had lost the use of his left arm due to a stroke. Uh-oh, I thought, we’ve got trouble.
Mother ate very little, even with my assistance. Then, at the end of the meal, she reached her right hand under the table, hooked it under her left arm, and pulled her left hand into sight. In her left hand, she clutched a fun-sized bag of M&M’s and a Reese’s peanut butter cup in a death grip. Mother had played Bingo that morning, and by gum she wasn’t going to let go of her chocolate.
I laughed at myself as I wheeled her back to her room. After I promised to place the treats within reach on her end table, she relinquished the chocolate and used both hands—and my assistance—to transfer to her lift chair.
Mother settled back then looked at me and said, “Oh, when did you come in? I didn’t hear you. So good to see you.”
“Good to see you, too, Mother.” I saw love in my mother’s face and the sweet chocolate that sustained her on the end table. If that isn’t both grace and mercy, I don’t know what is.
This post on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B163yNu_WNM&feature=youtu.be
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Very Sweet Carol. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May our Lord and Savior give you comfort and peace in the days, months and years to come.
Thank you, Bethanee, for your prayers and your comment. Sharing a universal life experience through a little piece of mine. -C.D.
Oh what winsome stories. lump in throat
We all have our stories—I love reading yours. -C.D.
WOW! Carole, I can’t imagine all the stories you have!
We all have our stories, and I love reading yours! -C.D.
Carole, That is a very sweet story. My father-in-law, who passed away this past June, had Alzheimer’s, and the last year of his life was spent in a nursing home, and most of that time he didn’t know who we were. So, I totally get what you are talking about. But, our last visit with him, before he died, we had a few days with him when he was more lucid and he actually called me by name 3 times in one day, which he hadn’t done in a very long time. I am glad we had those few days with him.
Your story was very heart-touching. And, you are so good at relaying stories, too. I wished I could have been there to hear you play the flute. I bet it was beautiful! I don’t play any musical instruments except the piano, very minimally, well at least well enough to write songs as God gives them to me. But, I love to hear others play their musical instruments. So, you are blessed to have that gift. And, I identify with your mom with her love for chocolate. Chocolate does not love me, though, so I have to limit my intake. But, it is a treat! For sure!
Thank you, Sue. Shared life experiences, and the story I told at the luncheon following my mother’s burial. I recorded “When peace, like a river,” the last song I played for Mother, for the graveside ceremony. If you’re interested, you can hear a bit of that on my YouTube channel, “It is well with my soul” post.
Thanks again for abiding with me and sharing your gifts. -C.D.
Carole – I would love to hear it!! What is the link to your YouTube channel?
Here’s the link to the post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVVjRKNIgtU&t=5s
Loved it! Thank you so much for sharing it with me. Beautiful! Beautiful!
What a sweet story! Thank you for sharing this. I pray the Lord blesses you and your mother with love and grace all your days! ❤️
Oh, how I loved this, Carole. I saw myself (and my mother) in so much of your story. I think my mom and yours would be seated at the same table together, if they lived in the same abode. I know that I often find myself praying, “Lord, please take her gently Home.” While I will stay pray that for my mother, I rather like your prayer of “help me stay in her story” and shall adopt it as my personal prayer.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.
I’ve been “staying in your story” for some time now—many of us go through this life stage. My sisters and I buried Mother this past weekend. This is the story I told at the luncheon we hosted for family and friends.
My heart goes out to you in your sorrow and rejoices with you in the blessed hope of those who are in Christ. I listened to your lovely flute solo and sang along in my heart. Knowing “It is well with my soul” truly does give us peace. Thanks for generously sharing your story and for staying with me in mine as well.
Carole, thanks for sharing this tender story of your mother and her love of chocolate. It has me thinking of my grandmother and some precious moments with her when my daughters were young.
Thank you, Richard. This is the story I told at the luncheon for family and friends after we buried my mother. Good memories, precious blessings.
What a touching story. It is so hard to see those who have been our caretakers decline, but so important to love them till the end.
Thank you, and amen.
Great post! And keep playing that flute!