Earlier today I went to visit my mom. She has lived in a nursing home for more than a year. She was recently admitted to the “regular” hospital for a severe infection in her legs. The skin is red, and swollen, and hard from just below the knee. It is “cellulitis.” She has had battled this unsuccessfully for years. The medications fight off the infection, but it always returns with fire. This time it was bad. The doctor said if it wasn’t treated she could end up loosing her legs. At the hospital, the lab tests revealed it was a drug resistant strain- MRSA.
After several days she was able to return to the nursing home. She will be confined to an isolation room for a while. But she still has her legs, thank God. Though they still look red and swollen.
After wiggling my large frame into the required yellow gown, and putting on the gloves, I entered her room. My dad was there visiting her, as he does every day. He is there every day his own health allows him to come. While I was there a couple of things occurred to me.
First, I am aware of my father’s love for her. Today she was doing so-so. Not the best, not the worst. But her mind wasn’t clear. Whether it was the medications or the infection, she was drifting off to sleep. When she spoke, it made some sense, but something wasn’t right. She reminded me of the aged Bilbo in the last Lord of the Rings movie. She would fall asleep while sitting in her wheel chair and the sudden bob of her head would startle her awake. Then she would look around embarrassed a little and laugh. We both encouraged her to lay down. She took a long time to make this short journey. She kept getting distracted and falling back asleep. She rearranged the dishes on her tray. She rechecked the locks on the wheel chair. She switched some of the pillows. It was frustrating because we were standing there waiting to help her and it was almost like she didn’t realize this.
And my dad was there. I made eye contact with him, both of us realizing that something wasn’t right. That her behavior was awkward. I smiled to him, trying to indicate that it was OK and there was no need for excuses or embarrassment. He smiled back. He is 78, and his own health is not great. He has battled through cancer, a heart attack, and several vascular surguries. But he is a faithful man in the real sense of that word. And he has kept his vows to love my mother through the long years of sickness. To love her when love isn’t easy. To love her when the doctors don’t have any answers and there isn’t much hope. I was there with them today and this is what stood out to me. His love. A bright light in a dark cave. No doubt this is a gift of God’s grace. I am thankful for a dad like this. I want to be like him.
Second, I thought about my own future. This could be me some day. If I have the privilege of growing old, one day my body will give up. I may end up in a nursing home. What would that be like? I know my mom hates it here. When we talk about this, I usually remind her that this is the best we can do under the circumstances. The nursing home is actually a pretty good one. But still no one wants this. But all things considered, this is where she can get the care she needs. And even with all this, she is still pretty sick. Maybe some day, this will be me. How would I feel about it?
Or maybe I will be the one visiting. Maybe my wife will be the one that is sick and stuck in a tough spot. Today as I visited my mom, I was aware of the possible future that I would rather not consider. But, I want to at least think about this. And I want to take it seriously. And I want to behave differently because I thought about it. I don’t want to arrive here at some point in the future and hate myself because I was too proud or too rushed to make such deliberations.