We had quite a celebration this past Friday night. Mom turned 84.
Annie was out of town, but the rest of us made big plans to take the birthday girl to Culvers where she enjoys Root beer and cheeseburgers. I knew the frigid temperature and biting wind could be a factor in our scheme, but I guess I didn’t realize how much. In the end, we actually made three attempts to get her from the warmth of the Christian Homestead into my waiting car, but she howled in protest each time we ventured outdoors. We compromised by bringing A & W to her.
Josh, a CNA who has actually worked a few shifts at the Homestead, noted like a sage that you often don’t know what a person with Alzheimer’s actually wants and needs – but when you do know, well, of course, you try to meet those desires. And we knew. She wanted to stay inside…where it’s warm.
She’s always been a smart lady.
And that never really stops, even though nowadays she can’t have a conversation with me about the latest book she’s read (she used to devour novels) or pontificate about what’s going on in the Nation’s Capital (she was once the definition of a political junkie).
Anyway, as I think about her 84 years on planet earth, and my years with her, one lesson in particular stands out:
It was late 1982 or 1983 – I was a new Christian, home from recently resigning at West Point and growing in my newfound faith at the Antioch Evangelical Free Church. The following year I would head to the U of I to pursue a business degree, but for now I was working days at a factory in Addison, Illinois and spending much of the evenings at a Bible study or hanging out with other single adults from our church.
One night I came home at about 10 p.m., relatively late in light of the fact that I would be getting up around 4:30 or 5 the next morning for work. Dad had gone to sleep, but she was up, surely waiting for me, and when I walked in, she asked me how my day had been.
“Fine,” I said curtly, “but I can’t talk now – I haven’t read my Bible yet, and I’m committed to the daily quiet time.” And I was off to my room…to do the most important thing.
I thought no more of it, that is, until the next day, when I came home from work and found a note on the desk in my bedroom. Though I don’t have the letter she wrote today, the thought behind it is as fresh as the day she wrote it.
“Rog, I appreciate your desire to read the Bible. It seems like that is something a good Christian should do. But in the future, you might want to also consider something the Bible itself teaches, words of one of my favorite passages of Scripture…”
You know what she wrote out, right?
That afternoon on the desk in my bedroom in our duplex at 650 North Avenue, I found the immortal words from Paul the Apostle to the church at Corinth. She wrote out the whole of 1 Corinthians 13. I’ll just give you the first part:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”
1 Corinthians 13:1 – 4 (NIV)
And after reading her note that day, I like to think that maybe, just maybe…I’ve never been the same.
Anyway, Happy Birthday Mom. Thanks for everything. Let’s keep warm, huh?