My faith was bigger than my mother’s illness.
Over time, I learned the hard lesson that I could not fix my mother’s Alzheimer’s. I wanted to, and I thought that perhaps if I tried hard enough – to be the perfect daughter, the best possible caregiver – I might be able to change the course of her disease. There were days when my presence buoyed Mom, moments when she seemed almost herself. Maybe if I stayed one more hour, fed her another mouthful, found the right words, I could ease her confusion.
But I am only human.
It took me a long time to let go of the illusion that I was in control. God was gracious and patient with me, waiting until I came to the end of my own resources.
Twice during the final stage of my mother’s disease, she tipped over and fell out of her wheelchair like a rag-doll. In the hospital, as bruises bloomed across Mom’s forehead and cheek, I put my head in my hands and sobbed. This shouldn’t have happened! If only I had been there! Guilt swept through me. I raged and cried out to God.
I prayed fervently when I got home. I was stretched to my limit caring for both my young daughter and my mother, but I wanted to make things better. I wanted to save my mother from her disease.
I journaled through conflicting emotions and shed many tears until a calmness gradually came over me. I sensed that God was not angry with me. Instead, He was gently urging me to let go of the burdens I was carrying. He wanted me to trust in Him, not myself. This Bible verse gave me great comfort:
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30
During the next several months, as my mother hovered near the brink of death, something eased inside me. God literally lifted my burdens. I no longer felt the stress of being overwhelmed by so much caregiving. I had the same responsibilities, but I felt lighter.
God provided periods of rest for me, including a short getaway with my husband and daughter to the mountains. When my mother stopped eating, He opened a window of time for my siblings, who lived in different parts of North Carolina, to gather at her bedside before she died.
Through my mother’s last days, God’s presence was like a warm shawl covering our family. Despite the heartache of saying goodbye, I trusted that God was setting both Mom and me free. She would no longer be confined by her disease, and I could rest in the hope that one day we would all be united again.
This is the fifth and final entry of a 5-part series from Ann Campanella, the author of Motherhood: Lost and Found, an award-winning memoir that tells the story of her struggle to become a mother while dealing with her own mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s. For more information, visit: www.anncampanella.com