I am Here With You

My Dad is struggling and so weak and frail. He’s back in a rehab facility, after another stay in the hospital. It’s hard to know how to help him. Last night, I felt so hopeless to do anything that didn’t just seem to annoy him, though all I was doing was trying to help.

Then I read a memory from five years ago that Facebook shared with me, about how Mama had Dad with her through the hard things. It warmed my heart and made me grieve at the same time. I wish Dad had Mama to help him through this hard time….

I keep thinking about my mom’s dentist appointment the other week. As we were seated waiting for her name to be called, Dad had his arm around Mom and she had her head on his chest. She said, “I hurt. You have to help me.” (Mom has frequent stomach aches. We’ve had all I kinds of tests done and concluded it comes from irritable bowel. She’s on different meds, but nothing seems to really help.)

Dad squeezed her shoulder and said, “I am helping. I’m here.”
She clings to him more. I think she is anxious being in this building she doesn’t remember, and repeats, “You have to help me.”
“I am,” Dad patiently repeats in a calming voice. “I’m here with you.”

When her name is called Dad gets up with her and puts his hand on her shoulder (to guide him because his vision is so poor) and shuffles along behind. As they work on her teeth the dentist pulls a chair up close to Mom so Dad can hold her hand through it all. 

I wish Daddy had the comfort of Mama’s presence through all this. And yet I’m grateful she doesn’t have to go through the pain of seeing Dad so weak and frail and often confused.

Dad doesn’t have Mama. But he does have his children. We are with him daily. I hope our presence is helping.

And we all have the presence of God with us.
Seeing Dad struggle is so hard. I cry out to God, “Please help us.”

God is powerful and sovereign and He could “fix” everything if He chose to. Sometimes He does. And sometimes, for reasons I don’t understand, He doesn’t.

But He says in a still, calm voice, “I am here with you.”

This morning I woke up, and the feeling of concern for my dad instantly weighed on my heart. I thought of Elisha, in 2 Kings 6: 15 -18. Elisha’s servant saw that they were surrounded by enemies and asked what they were going to do. Elisha told him not to be afraid, because those with them outnumbered their enemies.

Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, please open his eyes and let him see.” And the Lord did! And the servant saw they were surrounded by “chariots of fire”! A whole army of angels there for them!

Abba Father, I pray you would open my eyes today. Show me Your presence with us and surrounding us, please. And especially I pray that You would reveal Yourself to Dad. I pray that he would know the comfort of being held close by you. I pray that he would hear Your whisper, “I am here with you.” 



My Daddy’s Girl

What an emotional week it’s been. The joy of a new grandchild! The blessing of seeing my son hold his first child, a beautiful daughter, and see the love he has for his little girl already so evident in his gaze.

The heartache of seeing my dad go back into the hospital in serious condition. The exhausting waves of emotions as his health goes up and down. The sweet blessings of seeing God’s tender touch in answered prayers and in love and support offered.

Yesterday I arrived at the hospital while an aide was helping Dad with his lunch and talking with him. As I approached his room I overheard the aide ask, “How many children do you have?”
Dad: Four.
Aide: Sons or daughters?
Dad: Three sons and one daughter.

I waved as I walked into the room, and caught the aide’s attention.
Aide: Cheryl is here!
Dad: He’s blind so he’s not seeing me. Cheryl? That’s my girl.

My heart was warmed. I’m my Daddy’s girl. His only daughter. Right now it seems a huge responsibility. But also a huge honor!

And then I told Dad I brought him some of his favorite chocolate cake. And the way his face lit up made this daughter’s heart cheer!

I’m on my way to bring him more of his cake now. I’m my Daddy’s girl. And that’s a precious role to have.





A Letter to Mama in Heaven

Oh Mama… are you watching from heaven? Your sweetheart, your husband of 61 years, isn’t doing very well. He got so sick. And he was refusing to go to the doctor. We were so scared. Then finally he agreed to go the emergency room. It was just in the nick of time. They said he would have died that night if he hadn’t gone to the hospital.

Yesterday he was moved to rehab. But he’s still so weak. He was strong for you, Mama. Just a few years ago he was still helping you walk down the hall. He was still cleaning you up and bringing you food and helping you eat.

He was still cuddling you and telling you how much he loved you. He was still singing “You are My Sweetheart” to the tune of “You are My Sunshine.” He was so strong, Mama.

Now he is weak. He has a hard time feeding himself. He has a hard time sitting up. He has a hard time being alive.

He told me last night he wished he had died when he got so sick. Then he could be with you again. Then he wouldn’t have to go through all this. Then he could be in Heaven with his sweetheart. He loves you so. He told me not to be selfish, wanting to keep him here.

I guess I am selfish, Mama. I’m not ready to have you both gone. His mind is still strong, even though his eyesight, and hearing and body have become so weak.

But he still knows me. And he knows the memories we’ve made over a lifetime together. The memories that melted away from you in your last years with us.

I know you will both be together someday again. I’m so thankful you both knew and trusted Jesus, so we have no doubts about this. I don’t fear Daddy passing. I’m just not ready for it yet. 

And maybe I don’t have to be. God numbers our days. He is in control. And Daddy was a strong man. If he’s willing to live he can get strong again, with God’s help.

I want more time with him, so I can make sure he knows how loved he is. For so many years we were focused on you, Mama. Daddy was too. We were all concentrating our energies on taking care of you. And I’m so glad we did. And we have many precious memories because of it.

But then you passed on and we’ve all been mourning you, Mama. And I still haven’t given Dad as much time as I’d wish, because I’ve been grieving and weak.

Now he needs me. And I want to bring him comfort and strength. And I want him to know how very loved he is. But this whole thing is so hard, Mama. It breaks my heart to see him suffering and weak and struggling.

Yet, I feel your love with us. Your sister has been calling from across the country, to check on Dad. And Uncle Walter too. And something about hearing their sweet southern accents brings you close, and it’s like a soft mama hug.

Their calls remind me of all the love you gave for years. I think of all the evenings you spent making long-distant phone calls, checking in on your people. And now they are checking in on us. And it almost feels like a call from you, Mama. The love you gave out so generously is returning to us. And it is a gentle comfort.

And so many people are praying for us, Mama. And God is sending tender mercies. He blesses us with something every day it seems… a card of encouragement, a home baked treat, a meal, flowers, some messages, help with caring for my mother-in-law, a friendly visit, kind doctors and nurses…

And God blessed me with the most amazing husband. When I was too emotionally and physically exhausted, Jeff had me stay home and spent the day at the hospital with Dad himself! He does so much to help!

I’m trying to notice the little daily mercies and thank God for them. They don’t solve the crisis, but they remind me of God’s presence and love. And since God is with us, and His grace holds us up, I know we will be okay.

Are you watching from Heaven, Mama? We are doing our best to take care of your sweetheart. Until he holds you in his arms again.



Another Mother who Doesn’t Know my Name

It’s hard rearranging my time, schedule, home and life around someone who doesn’t know who I am anymore. But it’s even harder for my husband. Because it’s his mom who doesn’t remember us.

My 95 year old mother-in-law has lived with us for almost three years now. At first she didn’t remember our names, but she knew how we were related to her. Now we are “the people who run this place”.

But she has no memory that this place is her home now. When she sits with us in the living room, and her bedroom is out of sight, she wonders how she’s going to get home and if we will drive her. We tell her she lives here and she laughs and shakes her head with disbelief.

Her short-term memory has gotten so poor that we leave her supper dishes out in front of her until she goes to bed, because several times she hasn’t believed that she had supper. Once, when my daughters were caring for her, she insisted on three full meals, in the couple hours they were with her, because she kept forgetting that she’d just eaten and didn’t believe them when they told her she had.

We can’t leave her alone anymore, so my husband and I have lost the freedom of running off spontaneously on his days off. We need to plan ahead. We’re thankful we have family close by that are willing to help, but it’s still an adjustment.

Sometimes the emotions of being forgotten gets to my husband. Sometimes seeing a new decline in his once very intelligent mother, breaks his heart a little more. But I’m impressed how strong and steady and kind and patient he is. God gave me grace for my own mama, but I was still very emotional and often came home after caring for her in tears.

I love and care about my mother-in-law. I want to do the best we can for her. But caring for her doesn’t seize me emotionally like caring for my own mama did. Maybe I’m tougher for what I’ve already been through. Or maybe the attachment level just isn’t the same. Probably both. I don’t break down crying, but I don’t have the sweet joy moments either.

Just the littlest things would give me joy with, Mama. Like when she’d want to sit by me, or put her head on my shoulder. Or when she’d give little love taps to my arm or back. Or when she remembered anything. Even just my middle name. Like this night that I journaled about, five years ago…

I was visiting with Mama, sitting next to her and holding her hand, when she abruptly asked, “What do you want me to do?”
I answered with the first thing that popped into my head, “Be happy.”
“I am,” Mom said. And then added, “I did that.” And she looked at me expectantly, like now that she’d done that I should tell her what to do next.
“I love you, Mama.”
“I know,” Mom said matter of factly.
“Do you know who I am?”
“No,” she answered, with no hesitation or remorse.
“I’m Cheryl. Or Sherry. You can call me Sherry if you want.”
Mom was leaning over in her rocking chair, her head almost resting on the arm of her chair. She looked up at me and said, “Sherry…Sherry Lynn?”
And even though in days gone by, hearing my middle name often meant I was in trouble, now it meant that some part of Mama remembered my name. And I was happy, too.

Now I know Mama is truly happy, because she believed in Jesus and is with Him. And I know I will see her again someday! And she will know me and my whole name and all the precious memories we shared!

Meanwhile, God has given me another mother to love. Another mother who doesn’t know my name. But He gives grace for this, too.


“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (KJV)




What Mama Said and I Say Too

The other day I had a mom moment. It brought me back in time. I’d asked my twenty three year old daughter, who was heading out on a date in zero degree weather, if she had gloves and a hat. She said, “It’s not that cold,” and gave me one of those “Oh, mom!” looks as she headed out the door. (With no visible gloves or hat in sight, I might add, though I took some comfort in the fact that she was wearing a scarf.)

I remember having those feelings myself. I remember how it annoyed me when my mom worried over me and cautioned me. I was fine. I knew what was best for me. Why was she so anxious about things?

I don’t remember when she stopped advising me. I don’t think I even realized how much I missed her gentle words of mama concern. Until I heard them again.

Now, years later, I still remember the day when Mama said two simple words to me, that left me choked up for hours…

I’d spent a couple hours at Mom and Dad’s that afternoon cleaning up messes, bathing Mom, and shampooing the carpet. It was tiring, but satisfying to see things get clean and to see Mama content and cuddling up next to Dad.

And then as I was getting ready to leave, Mama said two words that warmed my soul. She said something that I’d heard often when I was younger and never valued then. I thought it was just something my overly worried mother always said. Maybe something all mothers said.

But her words stood out that day, fresh and bright, because she hadn’t said them to me for years. And it felt like a moment back in time, with my mom caring and worrying over me and loving me so.

Because that day as I was going out the door, Mama said, Be careful.” And that simple message still brings tears to my eyes.

I miss the years I had that Mama love. That faithful devotion that I so easily took for granted when it was abundant. Her concern for me was overflowing. Her willingness to talk and care and listen was endless. Somehow I thought it could never run out. I wish I had cherished the Mama love more.

And I wish I had cherished Mom more when she knew me.

I wonder if this is a common wish. I wonder if my own sweet children will say the same someday…

Let me reassure them, if they ever do have such doubts. I know that you love me. I know that you’re busy and we don’t have as much time together as we’d like.

But know that my mama heart takes joy in seeing you productively working, serving in your church, growing in skills and abilities, spending time with friends, loving your wives and babies and living your lives. You are flying and I’m proudly watching from the nest.

Our time together these days is limited, but it’s always a blessing. I know you love me. And you know I love you.

And when you don’t have your mom with you anymore, remember that. And then take comfort in the truth that your Heavenly Father is the one parent you’ll always have near. He’s always there to listen and care. He’s always watching you. I hope He’s always proud.

But when you fall short, remember Jesus paid the price for our sins, and ask forgiveness. Trust Him and stay close to Him always. Then we can all know that we will be together again some day and for eternity.

Until that day, please be careful. And wear your hat and gloves. And call your mom when you can.





Christmas Echoes

I was reading this morning in one of my all-time favorite devotionals, Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman, and was so touched by the words of a song printed there. I don’t recall reading it before, but maybe it just wasn’t meaningful to me when I did.

Now it reveals heart truth to me. And I realize again how every generation struggles through these changes. Every family will at some point have a Christmas that echoes with the memory of those no longer there.  For some of us, we are missing loved ones, even while they are still with us in body.

And whether we are missing our dear ones in spirit or in actuality, all of the traditions stir memories of more joyful days.

We are not alone. Every generation has been here before us. And many are struggling alongside us now. Jesus knows. He is our comfort. He brings “holy gladness still”.

And the story has a happy ending for all who believe in Him. One day all who trust in Jesus will be singing together again, and there will be no tears to hide…

Bells Across the Snow

O Christmas, merry Christmas!
    Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
    With its joy and with its pain?
There’s a minor in the carol,
    And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
    With the holly wreath to-night.
And the hush is never broken
    By laughter light and low,
As we listen in the starlight
    To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas!
    ‘Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
    With the carol and the song!
If we could but hear them singing
    As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
    Of the crown on each dear brow;
There would be no sigh to smother,
    No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
    To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas!
    This never more can be;
We cannot bring again the days
    Of our unshadowed glee.
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
    Sweet herald of good-will,
With holy songs of glory
    Brings holy gladness still.
For peace and hope may brighten,
    And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
    To the “bells across the snow.”

by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879) Public Domain


My beautiful picture

Christmas memories


To Everything There is a Season

The Bible tells us that there is a time to be born, and a time to die. A year ago this very day, our family felt the ecstacy and grief of both.

As Mama’s youngest great-grandson was struggling to come into this world, Mama was struggling to leave it. I remember praying for my great-nephew’s birth, even as I sat vigil over Mama, holding her hand and agonizing over her labored breathing.

I told Mama the news when her great-grandson was born. She didn’t respond. I don’t think she could have. But I was relieved when she was still breathing after midnight. I didn’t want them to share the same day. I didn’t want the joy of birth shadowed by death. Somehow a few hours difference and separate numbers on the calendar made me feel better.

Mama lingered with us until seven the next morning. And then she left us quietly, with an incredibly peaceful look on her face and even a hint of a smile.

It’s strange to think it’s been a whole year since that evening of life and death. Mama’s great-grandson is toddling around on sturdy legs these days, charming everyone around him. Mama is even getting three more great-grandchildren this coming year, as her legacy grows.

And Mama’s youngest grandchild was born to my baby brother in July. James brings her to see Dad every week.

Dad can’t see little Emma’s face because of his blindness, but she holds onto his finger snuggly while he sings “Edelweiss” over and over to her. And he marvels over her soft little hand. He says it reminds him of Mama’s hands. Because they were so soft.

We all think about Mama and how much she adored babies. We wish she was here with us sharing these joys. But I don’t doubt that there are some babies in heaven who are getting some exceptional grandma loving.

And there is a peace, through the pain of all the grief, in knowing that Mama is in paradise with Jesus.

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die… A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…” Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2,4. (NKJV)

It’s surprising how these times can intertwine. The tears and heaviness of missing and mourning mama mingle and mix with the warmth and joy of grandchildren and holidays and family.

His grace covers us. He knows we may weep, but He is with us. He holds us close in His love and reminds us of eternity with Him for all who believe in Jesus. He whispers tenderly and reassures me of His presence.

And I realize more clearly than before, that there are times when you weep and laugh in the same hour. In the same moment even. There are hours when you mourn as you dance.

This is the season we are in. And I know He will give grace.