My Grandmother is 91. When I was little, she was old. She's always been old. I remember when she would go out on my great-uncle's fishing boat for the day with my Grandpa. I remember thinking, "Someone needs to tell her she's too old to do that. That's not safe." She was in her 60's... I guess that seemed old when I was 8.
She has always had gray hair that my mom would put in rollers for her. Little pokey black rollers with metal brush-hairs to keep her short little hair nicely fluffy. She was super cute. My mom would stand behind her, and Grandma, seated and holding the bag of rollers in her lap, would pass them over her shoulder, one at a time, to my mom.
Grandma loved going shopping with my Grandpa. They would just spend the day tooling around and eating at Bob's Fish and Chips on Hamilton Road. Some days they'd pick up Mary Brown's Chicken to eat at home on TV trays, watching a Blue Jays game.
When my Grandpa was dying of cancer, she cared for him at home, administering many, many pills and cooking several meals a day trying to find something, anything that would taste good to my Grandpa. And when he would fall asleep in his hospital cot they had set up in the guest room, Grandma would sleep on the single guest bed, holding his hand through the hospital bed bars. Then in the morning, Grandpa would say "Mary, I think there's room up here for you if I squeeze over a bit." And so, they'd have a little snuggle before starting another day of pills and no appetite.
When my Grandpa died of his cancer, my Grandma said, "I'll never be as happy again as I was with Ed, but I'll be as happy as I can."
Somewhere during these last 15 years since Grandpa died, Grandma forgot that optimistic outlook. Grandma has forgotten quite a bit, actually.
And so, as she is forgetting where she put her keys ("There, on your wrist on the elastic, Grandma, like they always are."), or when she moved into this new apartment ("19 months ago, Grandma"), or why she can't go home ("Well, you sold the house a decade ago, Grandma"), or even if she ate breakfast, lunch, and supper today, my Mom and Dad, and my aunt and uncle are caring for her and honouring her in the most tireless, loving, compassionate way.
My pastor recently looked at the fifth commandment, as we have been studying the Ten Commandments, in which we are called to Honour our fathers and mothers. My Mom is doing a brilliant job of honouring her mom in these, potentially, last days for my Grandma. She visits almost everyday (except for the days my uncle visits), does her laundry (even though the staff at Grandma's home would do it...Grandma just feels strange letting strangers touch her laundry), answers dozens of phone calls a day some days, and takes homemade cookies and fresh fruit for her to nibble on when she can't remember that she's eaten today. She even still does my Grandma's hair up in rollers, even though now, for the first time in decades, my Grandma is too tired to pass the rollers over her shoulder. She often falls asleep in the chair while my Mom puts her hair up.
What is remarkable to me in all this is not that my Mom is loving her mom so beautifully. That's not surprising. What is surprising is how she is able to consistently serve her with patience and love even when my Grandma gets tired and cranky and ungrateful. And even when my Grandma forgets who my Mom is. Somehow, my Grandma remembers that she has a daughter named Linda. She just can't connect the fact that this lady who comes every day, is her daughter Linda. My Mom just puts on a brave face and reminds her. "I am your Linda, Mom. I am your Linda." And even when Grandma forgets and calls her by another name, or asks my Mom, "When will Linda come and see me?" for the hundredth time, my Mom still honours her, and loves her, and serves her.
When I ask her why she keeps going and how she keeps going, my Mom just smiles and says, "My Mom has taken such good care of me for so long, and put up with me when I was sick, and cranky, and grumpy, and ungrateful, and undeserving of being loved. She is a woman who deserves to be honoured. She's my Mom."
Lord, make me a woman who is humble enough and others-centered enough to honour other women in my life. And make me a mother who is easy for her kids to honour as I age because of how I cared for them in their early years. I pray my daughters and my sons would honour me because I have earned and kept their genuine love and admiration, not merely their biblical duty. And bless my Mom and Dad today in a special way, giving them endurance and longsuffering as they sacrificially care for my Grandma. And for the other women I know who are caring for their eldery parents, Lord I pray for them too, that you would give them an extra measure of mercy and patience as they love those you've entrusted to them.