Friday, August 19, 2016

Words of Faith: Bonnie's story about her mom, hope and gratitude

A Living Treasure
A Words of Faith story by Bonnie Leon

My mother has always seen the world through eyes of hope and gratitude. When I was young, she was a hands-on type of mother who played and worked alongside her family. I have precious memories of her rounding the bases during one of our family baseball games, picking huckleberries with us in the High Cascades, and swing dancing at her eightieth birthday party.

Mom is ninety-one now. She no longer plays ball or picks berries or dances. She spends most of her time indoors at an assisted living center.

Four years ago Mom’s life took an unexpected turn. As a child she survived rheumatic fever, but was left with a damaged heart valve. Somehow or other, that valve held up through the years, until at age eighty-seven, she was told it needed to be replaced or she would die. Mom was pragmatic about the diagnosis and decided to do all she could to live. She’d get the valve replaced, and either she would die or be returned to good health. What she hadn’t counted on was the in-between place.

The surgery was a success, but shortly afterward she contracted a staph infection in the incision. It nearly killed her. For more than five months she lived in a nursing home, on IV antibiotics and a wound vac. She became a shadow of the woman who had gone into surgery months before. But finally, she fought off the infection. Things were looking up.

Tragically, the day before she was to be released, her husband died. In the middle of the night, my husband and I raced up the freeway. Mom needed us. We found her in the hallway, hunched over in a wheelchair, a frail vapid remnant of the woman I’d known.

The days to follow were not typical for our family. We were familiar with death and funerals, but we didn’t know what to do with Mom. Her four children lived far from her home and she needed help. In the end, it was decided that the best place for her was here in Oregon, close to me. So we sold many of her things, packed up the rest, and moved Mom an assisted living center in Roseburg, Oregon. It was a painful transition, but Mom rallied and was her old self—hopeful and full of thankfulness.

My life changed. I oversaw Mom’s finances, housing, medical care, and many of her emotional needs. I’d become the mother. Though the circumstances were difficult, life shared with Mom was also full of blessings. I became acquainted with my mother in ways I never had before. Each day, my admiration for her grew. She was and is a woman of grace and gratitude. Every time I saw her she made sure to tell me how much she loved me. She’d take my face in her hands, smile up at me, tell me how much she loves me and thank me for taking such good care of her. It’s an amazing gift to be deeply loved.

Four years have passed and Mom’s health is failing. She’s extremely frail, can’t walk, and has dementia, which makes it difficult for her to hang onto who she is, who her family is. I’m waiting for the day when I walk in and she doesn’t recognize me. It will happen, just not yet.

Sometimes Mom asks me why I think she’s still living. She can’t see any good reason to be hanging around. She’s lost sight of her own value. She doesn’t realize that the love she extends to those around her is priceless. Even in her present condition she is always kind. She lives with a good deal of pain and is completely dependent on others, but is still grateful for her life and appreciates the smallest pleasures. And still, on most visits, she gives me a bright smile and tells me how much she loves me. 

Mom’s life is still precious and is as valuable as it ever was. Until the Lord takes her home she will serve Him simply by the way she lives. Getting old is really hard, but it doesn’t devalue who we are. We shall remain treasures even to the end. 
May we never forget that about ourselves and those who watch over us.

~*~
Author bio:  

Bonnie Leon is the author of twenty-one novels, including the recently released To Dance With Dolphins, the popular Alaskan Skies and bestselling The Journey of Eleven Moons.

Bonnie’s books are being read internationally and she hears from readers in Australia, Europe, and even Africa.

She enjoys speaking to women’s groups and teaching at writing seminars and conventions. She especially delights in mentoring young authors. These days, her time is filled with writing, being a grandmother and relishing precious time with her aged mother.

Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and seven grandchildren.

~*~

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