A Visit with Mother

Feature Story July 2003“A Visit with Mother”
(written by Robert H. Weber of Tusla, Ok. For the “Home Life” a family Christian Magazine)
So what if she lived in the past – those were the happiest days of her life!
It was time again for that periodic trip to the nursing home to visit my mother-in-law. I wasn’t anticipating the trip. Mom will not even know who we are. We will have to explain again and again. And I abhor the distinctive odors. Even though the home is spotlessly clean, the smell of disinfectant, cooking odors, and diapers hangs in the air. You unconsciously try to limit your air intake.

I pulled out on the freeway and headed for downtown to pick up my wife, waiting at her office. It was Friday evening. We had a fire-hour trip ahead of us, so we left directly from work.

Again on the freeway, we found the hum of the motor and the wind noise soon reached the hypnotic sound level of the speed limit.
After a trivial exchange of, “How as your day?” my thoughts again began to wonder. Am I wrong not to want to make this trip? For a moment, a wave of guilt drifted though my thoughts.

It had been some time since our last visit, but we live in a distant city. Surely the distance alone should take away any guilt feelings of neglect for the infrequent trips.

I continued to think that we might someday be in the same condition as Mom. Will our kids not want to visit us? What a depressing thought!
Martha, a saintly woman, devoted her life to making a good home environment for her husband and children. But now her failing eyesight, loss of hearing, and general deterioration leave her confused, and with no concept of time. Events that happened decades ago are more real than the present.

In the morning we went to the nursing home and discovered her lapse of awareness even more pronounced than we expected. She could talk lucidly about her youth and up to the time we were in our middle teens, but the past four decades were completely out of focus. My wife and I started dating in our middle teens and this period of time Mother still could remember clearly.

She did not recognize us, but when we told her who we were, she laughed with her usual good humor and said, “My, how you have outgrown your name!” Later, she said to my wife: “He’s changed. He’s a lot wiser!” As we talked about her family – my wife was the youngest of four daughters – we found she comprehended better when the maiden name of each daughter was added to given name. She could relate only to the time of our youth. Mother’s soft reflection was, “You’re taking me back to where I belong!”

As the visit progressed, an amazing thing happened. I found myself enjoying the visit and realized I was gaining much more than I was giving. As my wife and I each held one of Mother’s hands, my thoughts drifted toward what heaven is going to be like. A verse from 2 Peter came to mind, “But, beloved be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (3:8)
The older person’s inability to comprehend time may be a prelude to heaven, where there is no time dimension. Without the limiting dimension of time, we will be able to fellowship with the saints of old just as if we were with them on earth. Perhaps this is what heaven will be like.

The highlight of the visit came when I read twenty-third Psalm. Mother, by memory, repeated the words forcefully and with complete confidence. “Yes, the Lord is my shepherd.” In face, she said the words even ahead of my reading.

Our spirits were high as we concluded the visit and prepared to leave. We left aware of the importance of learning Scriptures while the mind is clear. Mother was able to focus on the Scriptures when all else seemed out of focus. The Scriptures are not limited by the dimension of time.
Mother smiled as we said good-bye. The parting kiss on the cheek, the slight pressure of her frail hand, and the lump in our throat – all had a special meaning. We even gave thanks for Mother’s lack of present day awareness. We realized she is reliving an era that was a happy time in her life. This mental regression to the past gives Mother a sense of well being and happiness there in the nursing home.

We gave thanks to the Good Shepherd who will someday remove the limiting dimension called time and open up a complete new vista. I believe Mother may be catching a glimpse of that day now.
We both were thankful for the visit as we walked down the hall, through the front door, and onto the parking lot. Soon the hum of the motor and the wind noise reached its familiar sound level. I looked at my wife and smiled, “Let’s not wait so long before the next visit!”

Note; Martha Klima had three daughters Bonnie Haynes, Betty Irmen, and Marjorie Weber. Martha it is said was the life of the party on her ninety-fifth birthday.