A Song for Michael

September 20, 2014 | My Jottings

This song by Ellie Holcomb has been playing on repeat in my house lately. It makes me think of my dear husband and all he’s going through right now.

I’m asking that these words would be true for him….

Have a peaceful weekend, friends,

There will be suffering…

September 17, 2014 | My Jottings

Does it seem to you like people everywhere are going through harder things than you’ve ever remembered? It seems like that to me. Maybe it’s just my age, and I’m more aware. After all, things have been pretty horrible in the world before the calendar flipped the page on the twenty-first century.

I started my seventeenth year in Community Bible Study yesterday and for the next thirty weeks we’re going to study 1 and 2 Corinthians. Already I’ve learned just how unbelievably depraved things were back in the days of Paul the apostle, somewhere around 50 A.D. There were things going on in Corinth that almost made my jaw drop to hear about them, and some of these things were happening in the Church. So maybe things today are just the same old, same old, and there really isn’t anything new under the sun, as Solomon said. I don’t know though.

I have friends who have sorrows that burden my heart so heavily I hardly know what to say to them. Christian parents estranged from their Christian adult children. Parents who have been prevented from seeing their only grandchildren because the family withholding visitation is erring on what they think is the side of truth rather than on the very needed side of mercy. At least that is my perspective.

I’ve written about some of this before and it’s still baffling to me.

I know a Christian family torn apart by the Christian father’s lies and bizarre behavior, and he still doesn’t have a clue that he is the problem. He turns on a dime to attack and betray those he says he loves, then gushes words of devotion to them the next day. He talks incessantly about Jesus and forgiveness and doesn’t understand why he doesn’t have the trust of his wife and respect of his grown children when he still has a pathological lying problem.

I know a man who studies the Bible for hours a day (no exaggeration) and teaches the Bible, yet screams and swears at his sweet family and calls them hateful names for ridiculous infractions you’d think I was totally making up, they’re so inconsequential. When he gives his testimony in public settings, he tells mind-boggling lies about his life to make his “conversion” seem more dramatic. His family has pleaded with him to allow his faith to spill over into his real life, but he just gets more demonic as the days go by.

I know of a man with an exquisitely lovely young wife, and his secret back alley and bathroom stall life was recently exposed, and their romantic little cottage with the chickens and the dogs is no longer home to a newly married couple. She moved away to start anew and he never once apologized for his deviant, destructive choices.

I know believing people whose spouses have been the source of such pain in their lives, they think death seems easier. One dear mother of five I know learned a while back that her Christian husband has been a serial adulterer, says he doesn’t love her anymore, and seems very matter-of-fact about divorcing, and not very broken hearted about what this has done to his children.

And I know a family who seems to be haunted by a spirit of depression. Prayers are prayed, help is sought, Bibles are read and verses memorized, praise music is played, dark spirits are rebuked, and still those family members struggle deeply to stay alive and put one foot in front of the other.

Shall I go on? I think not. But I could. And I’ll bet some of you could list some tragedies of your own, things so deep and painful you don’t really want to talk about it. And maybe you don’t even pray about it much anymore.

And now here comes my latest tale of woe. Yesterday after CBS I drove up to spend the afternoon with Michael in the veterans home where he receives nursing care. I was so excited to see him. One of his favorite meals was served for lunch: hearty helpings of meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh buttered carrots, a wheat roll with butter, and a lemony cheesecake dessert. He and I sat outside on the patio in the beautiful autumn sunshine and I helped him eat his meal. It was peaceful. He wanted to go lay down for a nap after that and we squeezed together in his twin bed, comfy and happy to be together. I thought. Michael then told me he was despairing of life and couldn’t take another day. I burst into tears at this declaration and instead of trying to comfort him and pray for him, I boo-hooed that I couldn’t believe he was adding this burden to my heart since he knows how difficult things are to begin with.

Right around this point Michael’s social worker, a very kind and competent woman, knocked on the door softly, and came in to speak to me about how things have been going with Michael these past couple of weeks. Apparently my patient and gentle husband has been yelling, striking out, running back and forth for hours until sweat drips off his face, and looking for ways to get out of the large bay windows in the dining room of his residence. This is the face of Lewy Body Dementia. This is what happens in the evenings when he goes through an episode, and when it’s all over and the staff can finally help him to lay down and go to sleep for the night, he wakes the next morning quite cheerful, not remembering any of it. In fact, when Michael’s social worker was describing to us what was happening with more frequency, Michael looked shocked and said he would never hit anyone. I completely believed him. I suppose it’s a mercy that when the Lewy Body rears its ugly and grotesque head, Michael isn’t fully conscious of what he’s doing. There are days when his Parkinson’s-afflicted brain won’t let him walk even three steps or speak above a whisper. Then there are times when the Lewy Body disease kicks in and he can run, jump and shout. It almost seems surreal to type all of this, to say that this is what our lives are now.

The staff began documenting when these LBD episodes were happening, to see if they could discern if something was triggering them, to better help Michael. At a meeting yesterday, I was told that they believed they had figured out what was triggering most of his distress, which would then set off terrible hours-long episodes.

Guess what the trigger is?

It’s me.


I felt yet another wave of grief wash over me when they gently told me that right after my visits with Michael, these episodes come on. He does better on the days when I’m not there.

He does better on the days I’m not there.  DSCN0882

And they also noted that he becomes upset after I call him on the phone. I’ve been driving up three days a week (and sometimes four) to be with Michael and we usually have a nice, pleasant time together (considering the circumstances), trying to make the best of this. And I’ve been calling him twice a day, once in the morning after his breakfast and once in the evening after his dinner, to be a comfort to him and to tell him how much I love him. They told me my evening call was a trigger for him, since he exhibits some of the “sundowning” behavior that many dementia patients do.

So they compassionately asked me if I would not come up to see Michael so often. They thought two days a week would be good to start, to see if he would do better and have less distress. And they asked if I would only call in the mornings from now on.

It took me some time to process this and to understand that it’s not my presence that’s upsetting to Michael. It’s my departures. He is relatively calm and happy when I’m there. And apparently when I leave to drive home in the afternoons, he just can’t take it. His social worker and one of the head nurses even told me they think that somewhere deep inside Michael thinks that each time I come to see him, I might be there to bring him home.

Lord Jesus, please help us…

I didn’t drive up to see him today. And I won’t go up to see him tomorrow, or the next day.

Today I grocery shopped, and cried. Then I went to Great Harvest to buy French baguettes, and I wiped tears when I got back to the car. I drove to the post office and to the drive-through pharmacy, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much anguish and pain my decision to place Michael in a skilled nursing care facility has brought to him. When I got home I carried in the groceries, put them away, and sat in my bedroom chair and knitted for a while, tears welling. I did laundry, made a pot of soup and let it simmer all day, and thought about how much my husband would love a steaming bowl of beef vegetable soup at our table with chunks of bread to dip in the broth.

There isn’t one person who has advised that I should bring my husband home, knowing what his prognosis is and how quickly the Parkinson’s with Lewy Body Dementia seems to be advancing. Well, there is one person who thinks it’s a sin that I am not still trying to care for Michael at home. He has no idea what it’s like to care for a person who can hardly do one thing for himself, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week….but he told me recently in so many words that 1 Timothy 5:8 is my clear mandate. Are you familiar with that verse in the Bible? Here it is:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

I guess I don’t need to say that the words he offered me did not bring comfort.

Soooo, on that note I think I’ll stop rambling for now. It seems to me like life is getting tough for so many people. I want to walk closely with the Lord and I want Him to comfort me. I want Him to comfort Michael. I want to be a comfort to my friends and family, and I certainly want to be a comfort to my husband. Sometimes I’m not sure how to do that anymore, so I pray. And cry. And pray some more.

Here’s something from the Bible (Amplified Version) that does bring me comfort, the very words of my Savior:

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”

God’s peace to us all,

Heaps of Hydrangeas

September 13, 2014 | My Jottings

I’ve had a busy, blessed week. I will post some pictures and details soon, but today is a catch-up day so this will be a short post. My dear sister-in-law Christy flew in to spend a week with me and she and I had the most wonderful time together. She is winging her way home right now.

We have a hydrangea bush in our front yard that has never been so full and beautiful. I’m not a gardener but I think the plentiful snow and rain we’ve had these past months might be one reason why it’s showing off so much.

Sara has used some of these huge blooms for some floral work she’s been doing, so keep in mind when you see the photos, about 25% of the blooms have been cut. I think if you click on the photos twice, they’ll enlarge quite a bit.



I’m off to do some laundry, paperwork, bill-paying, vacuuming, and knitting. Christy is an expert knitter and helped me get started on a winter hat for Michael. It will be full of mistakes, but full of love too.

Do you have hydrangeas? If so, how are yours doing? What other kinds of flowers grow in your yard/containers/imagination?  :)

My Birthday Gift

September 4, 2014 | My Jottings

I am fifty-seven years old today. When you get to be at this stage of life, birthdays don’t mean what they used to. I’m usually tickled to get a few cards from those I love, and that’s about all I want or need.

Well, this morning at the crack of dawn God gave me a beautiful birthday gift, and He wrapped it all in red.

I had gotten up early when it was still almost dark, made breakfast and set out meds for our Fosters, let the dogs out after they ate, and turned on some soft music. There was a yellowish cast to the light outside, distant rumbling thunder, and black clouds in the sky ready to unleash a torrent of rain. After a few minutes I walked down the hallway toward our bedroom, and just as I was passing my office I saw it through the sliding glass door — a little red cardinal sitting atop a fence post in our back yard! I haven’t seen a cardinal in years. I know others in our area see them, but they are still extremely rare this far north in Minnesota.

I watched him sit there for over a minute, whispering thank you Lord, praise you Jesus! again and again, then quickly went to get my camera, but by that time he’d flown off to another part of the fence and I couldn’t get a good shot.

Here’s the view of the fence I saw when I was walking by. I wish I had been quick enough to photograph the cardinal. The fence post in the right window pane, right above my office chair, was where Mr. Cardinal was perched. It’s not the greatest picture, but you can click twice to enlarge if you like.


When I came back with my camera and he had moved out of range, he was sitting on another fence post looking at his wife, just like in the picture below, but of course the picture below isn’t my picture. Durn.


I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Cardinals are common in many states in our country, but rare in our state. As a matter of fact, The Bird Powers that Be estimate that there are .05 – 1 cardinals per square mile in our northern part of the state. (Does that mean that some square miles have a half a cardinal in them?) And if you look at Minnesota on the cardinal territory map below, you’ll see there are areas of the state with no cardinals at all.


So for a beautiful and very rare little cardinal pair to show up on my fencepost, at the very moment I was walking by as the dawn broke, on my birthday, well….I’m thinking that was God reminding me how much He loves me and is watching over our family. That’s a very welcome reminder during this part of our lives, and I am so touched at how personal He is.

If you don’t know the cardinal story and why I’m talking about this, you can click here. It’s a short children’s story I wrote. The names and places have been changed, but all details are true for our family.

Thank you all for your kind and uplifting comments on my last post. What a difference you all made for me.

I’m headed north today, to spend my 57th with someone I love who’s 65.

Nor pain anymore

September 1, 2014 | My Jottings

I remember when my parents divorced when I was fourteen years old, and the way it felt like the earth was splitting open and swallowing our family. I thought it was the most terrible thing someone could experience. Such pain.

Then I recall thinking that the greatest anguish I’d ever felt was when my husband Glenn decided he wanted Karla, the bespectacled and sailor-mouthed wife of another man, more than he wanted me and our two little baby girls. Now there was some pain.

Then came the years of ineptly raising my three daughters, and all the ways I blew it as a mother, and the agony of seeing their pain as they made their way in life with the residue of my fierce love and glaring mistakes in their hearts. There’s no pain like the pain of watching your children’s pain, that I can tell you. But many of you probably already know what that pain feels like, don’t you?

I welcome you here, you dear, brave friends.  photo

Then there came a day when I thought I had fallen into the very bowels of hell, the pain was so unbearable. It was the day one of my sweet, little grandchildren went missing, and search parties and police were dispatched and prayer chains were activated, and she wasn’t found for hours. The cold dark was falling and she was gone, and I will never forget the horror that swallowed me, the prayers I screamed as I thrashed and rolled around on my bedroom floor almost out of my mind with fear and pain. And I will never forget how it felt to get the call that she had been found and was safe and fine. The words relief and joy and thankfulness don’t even touch what the lifting of that terror felt like. But that pain shook me and changed me forever. I will write more in detail about that another day.

Tonight there’s a deep torturous pain in my heart, my mind, my soul, my body. This pain makes most of the other pains I thought were so great seem like blips on the screen of life. I just got off the phone with my dear husband Michael and am so paralyzed by the grief and uncertainty I feel I don’t know what to do. So sometimes when I don’t know what to do, I write.

Lewy Body Dementia is one of the devil’s diseases. I can imagine that satan enjoys all disease, but I think there might just be a few illnesses that particularly delight him and I think LBD is one of them. I think ALS is another. Lewy Body Dementia causes episodes of intense agitation, confusion and delusion. Michael can be relatively calm for a few hours, and then change in just a few minutes into someone I don’t recognize. This afflicted man I don’t know paces, bangs on doors and walls, calls my name loudly and doesn’t understand or believe when the nursing staff tells him I’m not there, because his diseased brain is hearing my voice call to him so clearly, over and over. He thinks he’s being lied to and imprisoned. The staff he normally smiles at and trusts becomes the enemy during one of his episodes, and he shouts and rails against them and recoils from them when they try to calm and help him.

I tried to comfort him on the phone for over a half an hour. I talked to him of our thirty-three years together, of some of our best memories, how thankful I am that he and I fell in love and he brought me to the beautiful state of Minnesota. I talked about how our Jesus is powerful and present, how His name is the name above all names, and how He is right there with Michael. I said how this time of suffering won’t be too long, and before we know it we’ll all be with the Lord in Heaven, and we’ll finally be the real us, and there will be no Parkinson’s or Lewy Body Dementia or selfishness or pain. I asked him to say this simple prayer with me: “Jesus help me…Jesus please help me” and he repeated after me in desperation and rapid, breathless, almost unintelligible speech.

I told him many times how much I love him. I just kept saying, “I love you Michael” while trying not to let him hear me sob. At one point I could make out his response to me: “That’s what you keep telling me,” and in that voice I’ve always loved, I heard derision and unbelief.

And this, my friends, is pain. It is a hellish torture I don’t know how to endure.

And my blog is no fun to read. I know that. I’m sorry. I’m so blah blah blah Lewy Body Dementia blah blah blah Bible verse blah blah life is so hard blah blah blah times one thousand.

I wish I could go back to sharing recipes and writing about freeing muskrats from fences, about how Audrey loves Grandma’s bottom and the good books I’ve read with Mr. McBoy, about my beautiful daughters and my bad little dogs, about my dear friends and the love story God has given Michael and me.

They say everyone has a story to tell. I’ve been telling bits of our story here on my little blog for a few years now.

This part of our story is painful. I don’t know any other way to put it. Do we have blessings and provision and books and vision and food and air and sleep and friends and family and the hope of Heaven? Yes, oh yes. Thank You Lord, I say again and again. So many others suffer so much more.

But I’m going to tell the truth. I also whisper, Lord please. Please. Please have mercy. My husband is one of the most merciful people I’ve ever known. Lord, please have mercy on him tonight. And tomorrow. And forever.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  

Revelation 21:4

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All my days are in Your hands

August 28, 2014 | My Jottings

My dear friend Sue asked me recently what I do to pass the time in the car on my hour-long drives to be with Michael. I pray and I take in the beautiful scenery of the north shore of Lake Superior, but I don’t pray the whole time. I’ve always listened to music in the car since I was a little girl, and that’s mostly what I do the three days a week I make the trip. When I think about it, that’s a minimum of six hours a week for an opportunity to fill my mind with things that will possibly make a lasting difference in my life, or not.

There are times when I’ve forgotten to bring a different CD along and I’ll listen to satellite radio. I still sing along to “Bad Moon Rising” by CCR, “Moon River” by Andy Williams, and “Tupelo Honey” by Van Morrison, but those songs just throw me back on memory’s lane and feel a bit like eating a rice cake.

Then there are times when I bring a CD or two from home, and as I listen to the whole album on the drive north, one or two songs will begin to stand out as what I desperately need to be feeding my soul these days. Then I listen to that one song, or two songs, over and over again for sometimes days at a time. I can’t explain what it feels like; it’s as if my languishing, ailing spirit gets a drink of fresh and pure, healing water, and sits up and throws off its bed clothes and begins to pour the whole bucketful down its throat.

This is the song that’s refreshing and strengthening me of late. It’s by Irishman Robin Mark, whose music I’ve long loved. It’s on his CD entitled “Robin Mark-Ultimate Collection,” and you can listen to it below. I’ve also included the lyrics.

Holy Is Our God — words and music by Robin Mark

Lift up His name
Within the sanctuary
Lift up His name
Among the people who are gathered here to sing His praise
Who are gathered here to sing His praise

Holy is our God
Holy is Your name
Mighty are Your works and deeds and
Wondrous are Your ways
All that You have made
Shall return and give You glory Lord

The earth the sky the sea and all within them
This universe beyond the sight of mortal men
All subject to His reign
All creation subject to His reign

The great I AM no end and no beginning
You were and are and evermore You shall be
All my days are in Your hands
All my days are in Your hands

Two phrases especially keep calling out to me as I drive north and listen: All creation subject to His reign, and All my days are in Your hands.

It’s profound to me how all of creation is subject to God’s reign. I see the towering pines in the Superior National Forest pointing to the sky, the white capping waves of massive Lake Superior coming only so far on the shore, the blinding rays of the sun coming up without fail as I drive along its shore, and every one of them are subject to God’s reign. They do what the King of the Universe says. Every part of creation, in its own way, points to its Maker and gives Him glory — makes Him look powerful and beautiful and detailed and awesome and trustworthy, because He is.

Except me.

Except humankind.

He gives me free will. He has set up His world so that His most precious creations (you and me and every other person) can choose to love and represent Him as they go about their days, or choose not to. I can point to my Maker and make Him look powerful and beautiful and detailed and awesome and trustworthy by the way I love and obey Him, or I can do my own raggedy thing and not make Him known at all. As I listen to this song repeatedly each week, I cry out to God and ask Him to help me love Him with my whole heart, obey Him and bring Him glory like the rest of His creation does. I truly need His help in this.

And then when I sing along with Robin Mark “all my days are in Your hands!” I remind myself of what this means for Michael and me. I so want to comfort Michael with the fact that he and I are both in our Father’s capable, loving hands, and we can trust Him even though this season in our lives feels lonely and dark. Michael’s mental capacities are dimming, but his spirit is not. The outward is fading away, as an old oak sheds its leaves and ceases to flourish, but the inner man, the spirit of my husband, is that same bright flame that has been there since he gave his life to Jesus when he was thirty years old. I know that somewhere deep inside, his spirit responds readily to God. I see evidence of that when we’re together and I can’t begin to say how priceless it is to me.

Friends, thank you for stopping by today. I’m grateful for those of you who comment and speak of your prayers for us.

May God bless you and yours, and may He help us all to love Him more with each passing day,

“So we do not lose heart…”

August 25, 2014 | My Jottings

Michael has been in the veterans home for fifty-three days now and I’m wondering when and if this is ever going to feel less heartwrenching. I realize that this is not all about me, and that he is the one who has had to make the bigger adjustment and be away from his home, and he probably feels more pain and grief than I do. But there are days when I feel utterly bereft. Just typing that last sentence has brought tears.

I’m very grateful for things that distract me from focusing constantly on us being apart. On Saturday I hosted a baby shower for our daughter Carolyn and about twenty-six people attended. I worked on things slowly and over the course of three days — I premade as much of the food as possible, cleaned the house a bit, washed rugs, set up chairs, and on the day of the shower I actually made my bed and put all its decorative pillows in their places (which almost requires a detailed schematic).

Doing the shower was a blessing. So many beautiful women attended; friends of Carolyn’s, friends of mine, all gathering together in such generosity to help her prepare for this new little girl we’re so excited to meet in October. Two of the recipes I liked the most are from Shauna Niequist’s book called Bread and Wine, which I highly recommend. Her bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and pecans were sublime. I also made her watermelon and feta salad. I marinated chunks of watermelon in fresh-squeezed lime juice for a few hours, and made a vinaigrette with white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper, and tossed it all together with arugula, crumbled feta, chopped mint, red onion and lime zest. It was so unique and delicious!

And Carolyn and Jeremy’s baby will be the most adorably dressed little girl east of the Rockies, I predict.

I was bone tired when I went to bed the night of the shower, and left some of the bigger dishes like the punch bowl and serving platters unwashed until last night. I laid my head on my pillow and thought of Michael, how much he would have ooohed and aaahed over the good food, how he would have been one of the few men to enjoy seeing all the baby finery, and how much I miss him. All. The. Time. Is this our life, Lord? Is this how things are going to go? I find myself asking senseless questions like this, still in what feels like a stunned state of limbo. But this is not limbo. It is life. And we have got to learn to live it in the peace and grace promised to those who trust the Lord.

But then I ask myself, is this really trusting the Lord? And as ridiculous as this answer sounds, it’s honest: I’m not sure yet.

I met a wonderful woman of God named Nancy whose husband spent three years in this same veterans home, and he finally died there this year, from Parkinson’s Disease with Dementia. Nancy radiates God’s joy and peace, and she speaks to me of how she believes this place was a gift from the Lord to both Marshal and to her. She was so blessed that the Lord wanted her to have a life too, as she puts it, and that He provided this fantastic facility where the men are honored and served so respectfully. She drove up twice a week for years to spend time with her husband, and when he finally didn’t know her anymore she made the hour long drive only once a week. She said it was hard, but that she was so grateful God provided this placement so she could sleep at night, not completely wear herself out trying to care for a husband with overwhelming physical and mental needs, spend time with her grandchildren, go to a concert once in a while, and so on. She told me that they do so much more for the men at this veterans home than she could have ever done for her husband.

When Nancy shared this so lovingly and graciously with me, it made perfect sense and I felt in awe at God’s goodness to her and Marshal. I am in the same situation. Yet I struggle to see it the same way she does. Nancy calls to check on me and I sometimes sob when we talk — she understands. She gently tries to get me to see how necessary this is and what a lavish provision it is. And with my head I do see it that way. My heart is still aching, though. Maybe my heart is blind.

Nancy sends me notes in the mail filled with wisdom and scripture. I read them again and again and try to soak in what it is she feels the Lord laid on her heart. I pray that peace and assurance about all of this eventually comes, especially for Michael.


Yesterday morning I drove north to spend the day with Michael and I took along a couple of treats from the baby shower. He and I made our usual rounds, going to sit in front of the aviary to marvel at the birds who sing and trill so confidently. We wheeled outside to sit in the gazebo, and he agreed with me that one of the most lovely, soothing things ever is the sound of a soft wind blowing through a thousand birch trees. We went back inside and I helped him eat his delicious lunch, a very Michael meal consisting of a hearty, boneless pork chop, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh mixed vegetables, a buttered whole wheat roll, and some soft-serve ice cream with chocolate syrup drizzled over it. Then he and I scrunched together in his twin bed and napped for a while, or at least he did. I took him to the Physical Therapy gym where he did twenty minutes on the recumbent bike. At 3:00 he and I went to the Sunday chapel service in The Great Room; we sang several old hymns and listened to a man from the local Vineyard congregation share.

I always get ready to return home around 4:00 p.m. I hate having to tell Michael because he seems surprised and crestfallen each time. He asked me yesterday when I could move in to the veterans home with him, and seemed a bit taken aback when I told him we still had a house and Foster residents I needed to care for, and that I couldn’t move in right away. :(  Before I leave I help him get out of his wheelchair and into a recliner, which sometimes takes two people so an aide will assist us, cover him with a quilt, reassure him that I’ll return to him soon, and then I get very close and whisper the most fervent prayers to the Lord in his ear.

Michael closes his eyes with me and I thank the Lord that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39), and ask for His help so that we don’t lose heart, and to keep our hearts and minds set on Him even though our bodies are wasting away, remembering that we’re being renewed inwardly (2 Corinthians 4:16-18), and then I thank God over and over for such a husband as Michael, and ask Him to send ministering angels to help him, send the Holy Spirit to comfort Him, and to bless Him with joy and the peace that passes all understanding. Even though it’s almost impossible to understand Michael’s speech anymore, I can hear his quiet yes, Lord and his amens as I pray.

And then I kiss and hug him goodbye, walk through the locked doors of his residence, down the halls of this veterans home, through the impressive front room with the fireplace and the giant moose head hanging over the mantel, out into the parking lot, and to our car.

Before I fasten my seatbelt and start the engine, I reach for a Kleenex.

Falling from the sky

August 21, 2014 | My Jottings

Our youngest daughter Sara takes after her dad in many ways. She has a little bit (well, actually maybe a large chunk) of the impulsive adventure seeker in her, as he always has, and recently she checked something off of her bucket list by jumping out of a plane from 10,000 feet in the air. That’s almost two miles up.

Sara has a friend who works for a local skydiving company, and she called her up recently and said, “We’re going up this evening, want to come along?” So Sara gave me a long hug, told me she loved me, and dashed off to go up in a small plane and tandem jump. The only way you can skydive on your own is to take many hours of training. However, you can tandem jump with about an hour of training (yikes, don’t get me started), and she was paired with a young man who had done this many times.

Here are some photos from Sara’s first time falling from the sky. Yes, that would be the plane they were in.


I think this photo means she was liking it so far:


This shot shows the St. Louis River below them:


And this picture caused me to ponder, If her young skin looked like this, I wonder what mine would look like if I decided to jump?


In this photo below the parachute had opened and Sara said they floated down slower than she expected:


How about you? Have you ever gone skydiving? Would you? Why or why not?

For hurting hearts

August 20, 2014 | My Jottings


“But what if the great secret insider-trading truth is that you don’t ever get over the biggest losses in your life? Is that good news, bad news, or both?

The good news is that if you don’t seal up your heart with caulking compound, and instead stay permeable, people stay alive inside you, and maybe outside you, too, forever.

This is also the bad news, not because your heart will continue to hurt forever, but because grief is so frowned upon, so hard for even intimate bystanders to witness, that you will think you must be crazy for not getting over it. You think it’s best to keep this a secret, even if it cuts you off from certain aspects of life, like, say, the truth of your heart, and all that is real.

The pain does grow less acute, but the insidious palace lie that we will ever get over crushing losses means that our emotional GPS can never find true north, as it is based on maps that no longer mention the most important places we have been to.

Pretending that things are nicely boxed up and put away robs us of great riches.”

~~Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair.

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I found wisdom and comfort in this excerpt today.

The Road Unwanted

August 16, 2014 | My Jottings

I keep wondering how I’m going to write about this, and I still don’t know. I’m not certain how to put in black and white what seems like the most life-altering thing that I’ve ever experienced, apart from my decision to ask Jesus to take over my life when I was a little girl…except that event opened up my world and put a compass in my hand, and this event feels like it has nearly ended my world and set me adrift in a deep, dark, and uncharted ocean. It seems like there are no words in the English language that I can access in my numb mind to share the depth of sorrow and lostness I sometimes feel now that Michael is no longer in our home. Six weeks ago, after months of considering, praying, agonizing, researching, seeking counsel, second-guessing myself, and weeping, I drove Michael to a small state veterans home one hour north of us, and admitted him there. These very words I just typed stab my heart with a pain that has made me feel like life is over for the both of us, except for the part where I put one foot in front of the other and function like a person not quite fully alive.

The place Michael lives now is one of the most highly regarded care facilities in our area. It is not like a regular nursing home and the pictures we might have in our minds of those. Unbidden and unrelated, many people over the past few months mentioned to me this particular facility up the shore of Lake Superior in glowing terms. Wives of husbands who live there, social workers who drive up to attend their cases there, a local surgeon who has patients there, and even an actual resident himself, all spoke reassuring and recommending words they had no idea were directing me north as I neared the frayed end of my abilities to care for my beloved husband at home.

Parkinson’s Disease coupled with advancing Lewy Body Dementia has whittled cruelly and relentlessly away at Michael’s handsome, strong, capable body for over a decade. In these past few months he’s had days when he couldn’t walk. His visual/spatial perception is grossly impaired. His speech is at times almost unintelligible. And sometimes simple words spoken to him don’t seem to get through.

Mornings are usually his best time. He can walk with a tiny bit of assistance and a gait belt, has a stronger voice then, and flashes of his wonderful personality are evident; I cling to those times. As the day wears on, everything fades. His walking, his voice, and his personality all shut down, and he becomes so very dependent and so terribly vulnerable that to speak of it seems almost too flippant. But it’s not. It’s precious and sacred to me, so I want to speak of it. I just don’t really know how, even with my efforts here. Michael’s life is condensing right before my very eyes, and the beautiful essence of that reduction is priceless to me.

The nursing staff at this small facility are truly loving, competent, patient and respectful. Most of the people I’ve met have worked there for between twelve and twenty-two years. Many of them shook Michael’s hand on the day he moved in, saying things like, “It will be an honor to care for you, sir. I thank you for your service to our country.” On the third day when I spoke to Michael on the phone and asked him how he was being treated he said, “They treat us like kings.” They take the men fishing, they help them garden, they have weekly outings to local restaurants, they have many thoughtfully planned activities, and their dignity is guarded and prized. There are two resident dogs there, one of whom has taken a liking to Michael, and he to her. Her name is Bella. There are also two resident cats, and over a dozen colorful songbirds that flit about in a large aviary in the sunroom, where Michael and I love to sit quietly and hold hands. There are two worship services a week on Tuesdays and Sundays, and Michael always looks forward to attending.

Of course no place is perfect. A couple of the residents in the mild memory care unit he’s in are much more ill than he is, and the noises they make and the behavior of one person is a little troubling to me, even though it happens infrequently. I realize they can’t help themselves, but it’s hard to accept that where he is now isn’t exactly like the quiet and soothing environment of our home.

I drive up to see Michael on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and spend the whole day with him. I am an adult foster care provider to two sweet women who have lived with us for many years, and after I prepare their breakfasts and see them off to their respective jobs in the mornings, I put our Schnauzers Edith and Millie in their kennels and head north. On the days I don’t drive up, I do all the things anyone else would do — I tend to the paperwork, errands and appointments involved in my job, make sure meals, laundry, and housecleaning get done, take my Fosters out to dinner and the movies, and I try to rest now and then.

Lewy Body Dementia is marked by extreme fluctuations in cognition (Michael can be pretty fine for a few hours, then not at all fine and almost semi-conscious within minutes), detailed and often frightening hallucinations, delusions, REM sleep disturbances, and loss of autonomic functions. The hallucinations and delusions Michael has are the hardest thing for him to deal with, and they are heartbreaking for me. I don’t know what to do when he’s in the throes of an episode and he’s agitated, and what he sees is as real to him as reality is to you and me. I pray for him, comfort him, sometimes read scripture to him, try to distract him, and many times I turn my head and try not to let him see that I’m sobbing.

My sister-in-law has tried to help me understand that the care Michael is getting is better care than I was able to give him at home. I had come to the end of every reserve I had, but even knowing that, each morning I still wonder if I can stand having him gone for another day. My sister-in-law asked me how many people care for Michael in one day at this small veterans home. I started counting as I answered her: a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse, and an aide (minimum) for each eight hour shift (that’s nine people to begin with), a cook, a physical therapist (they work with Michael every single day), an activities director, a housekeeper, a laundry worker and a chaplain. Then there is his social worker, his site physician, and the many people who volunteer and help make all the daily activities possible. Thinking about all of this very specialized care helps for about an hour. Then I walk through our home where he lives no longer, and I cry and pray and wonder how I could possibly work things out to bring him home.

I will be honest. As much as I know how blessed we are in so many ways, at times this has felt like hell to me.

Here’s how our Schnauzer Millie feels about Michael being gone:


That’s his pillow she’s sleeping on. The dogs feel their Daddy’s absence deeply.

And here’s my beloved husband of thirty-three years, the former mighty Marine, whose service to our country brought on the Agent Orange-induced affliction that has poisoned his body and put us on the road unwanted.


Aside from spending as much time as possible with Michael, I call him at least twice a day. He can’t speak on the phone easily, but he can listen. Last night when I called, I asked him if he wanted me to read the Bible to him and he answered yes. I slowly read a few verses to him. I ended with part of the 42nd Psalm, and when I read this verse aloud, Michael whispered fervently, “That’s a good one!”

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Psalm 42:11  (ESV)

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I will share more another time. I thank you all so much for praying for us….

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