It is a wonder where one’s mind can wander whilst one’s hands, feet and body continue to work on routine tasks. I often find myself contemplating all sorts of situations as I go about the job of servicing the rooms at our B&B, Blenheim Lodge. The latest came to mind after taking a telephone booking from a couple of guests who are arriving within a fortnight. Said guests were coming here for a much needed break from caring for their elderly parents, one of whom was suffering from growing dementia besides the general ill health that is often associated with very old age. Of course we got chatting, particularly since my own mother suffers from severe Alzheimer’s Disease.
A couple of verses from the Bible crossed my mind as I went back to cleaning the rooms after taking the phone call:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
And I started to muse upon them. How could Mother’s illness be a thing of good? Wherewith the comfort from it to her, us and to others? In what way could Mother possibly benefit from her illness? Wasn’t it rather rough upon Mother to be suffering thus? Where was the silver lining?
I am not Mother’s main carer. My sister is listed as her main carer and our brother also lives with her. However, Mother does also have carers who come in to look after her when they are out at work. Nonetheless, as her daughter, I do take an active interest in Mother’s health and I do try my best to help with her practical care needs when I am in situ and in ways that are not physical when I am not there. (I live three hours each way from Mother when travelling by car, so it is not easy for me to get there and stay there for extended periods because of the demands of running a B&B.)
So, I come back to the question of silver linings in this scenario. Well, I suppose, Mother’s situation or, rather, the effect of Mother’s dementia upon me, has given me a deeper understanding of what closely related carers must cope with whilst looking after their loved ones. For instance, I could immediately relate to the guests who are coming to stay with us and know instinctively how much they must surely require rest for mind and body during their hard won break. Empathy, then, is one aspect of comfort that I can share with those who care for ill relations.
Caring for someone who is seriously ill, particularly of close family members who have, it would seem, to all intents and purposes to have lost their rational minds, also causes one to consider how one would not prefer one’s latter days to resemble. We talked about wishing to go before our minds disintegrated. My life is not for me to take, but I can pray and hope that I should go and be with the Lord before that occurs. This sort of fear, particularly if dementia seems to be a familial trait in latter life, can perhaps be assuaged ever so slightly by seeing how one’s predecessor – in this case, my mother – has lived her life. She showed courage even as she realised the futility of her situation. This is perhaps the comfort that Mother gifted even as she confronted and suffered from her affliction and continues to do so.
But is all this to the good of those who love God? I cannot tell. I can only believe. The Christian believes against all reason with the hope that his God has given him. If the Christian did not thus believe, he would not believe in the resurrection – for that is against all reason. When the Christian is seriously ill, struck down by circumstances, depressed, and feels that no one cares and – dare I say it – even contemplates the possibility of a world without God, then, the only One that can bring him back from the brink and to Him Himself, is the Lord. The Christian believes against all odds. This is the miracle of faith. As the father in Mark 9:24 cries when Jesus asked him whether he believed that He could heal his son, so is the Christian’s response to what looks impossible, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’
Thus can the silver lining be discerned even in the midst of strife and trouble, unhappiness and ill health . . . and whatever else this earthly life might throw at us.
Blenheim Lodge . . . panoramic Lake views, peace and tranquillity, nestled against acres of beautiful fields and woodlands, in the heart of the English Lake District National Park.’
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