Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
I wanted to give an update today on what is happening with my mother. Over the past 18 months my mother has had two strokes and has fallen and broken her hip. She also has dementia. This once power house of a woman is now very frail. My mom has always loved the Lord with her whole heart, but she also has had a measure of self reliance that I believe God is stripping her of before she passes, whenever that may be. She must rely totally on her Savior and his Divine Providence to be cared for. As hard as it is to watch, I see it as purification, which highlights the beauty of God.
This purification is something the Lord is taking me through as well. My mom, in all her independence, basically had two wishes as she entered into this era of the Golden Years of life. The first was to “not be a burden to her children” and stay as independent as possible. The second was that her and my father stay together and not be separated. Dad wasn’t as worried about being a burden, but he definitely wants to stay with my mother until the good Lord takes them home. He referenced the movie, The Notebook, and said he would like to die together with mom holding her hand.
Obviously for mom, being independent has fallen by the wayside. One could view what has happened to her as her becoming a burden. The Lord tells me it is a gift.
Over the past few weeks it has become apparent that the way to honor that second request of my parents staying together is to have them move into my home. When my parents first moved here 4.5 years ago my husband and I offered for them to live with us by building onto the back of our house. Mom didn’t want to. Dad was fine either way. So over the past 4 years, as mom’s health and dad’s health has declined I actually ended up moving them 3 times, each move an effort to see they were cared for to the best of my ability. This will be the 4th move. And it will be into my home, we have come full circle.
I had a moment about a week ago where I didn’t know what to do. It was becoming obvious that mom’s care was so high level she needed more help. The financial situation was becoming strained. I was in tears. My husband just looked at me and said, “they need to come home here.” I was stunned. I didn’t expect that to come from him. I was so grateful. I don’t often talk about my husband here because he is such a private man, but he has grown into such a Godly man. I know this is because of the intercession of the Blessed Mother. When I stopped badgering him to be better and just prayed for him, the way Mary did for Joseph, the Lord and His Mother began a great work on both of us. If only I could always remember that and not badger him, even in the small things.
I paused to pray and the Lord told me that this time period would be short, like a pregnancy. I could treat it as unwanted and grow bitter and resentful which leads to the defilement of dignity, or I could treat it as a gift. If I chose to treat it as a gift I would live to see much joy and glory for my mom and dad. I told the Lord I wanted the gift.
We have had to find space in our home and we knew we had to keep them on the first floor. This meant clearing out our office and dining room to accommodate them. As I began the task old wounds came to the surface. In the middle of the mess of clearing everything out, God was showing me how messy my heart still is. How I have places he wants to heal deeply and purify from the lies of the enemy. And how moving forward I must live in the present moment with Him, allowing Him to clean out my heart.
The office was filled with things I had purchased to try to better educate my children, but failed to follow through with. The demons pummeled me with “you’re a bad mother.” I was faced with all the ways I wanted to raise intellectuals, religious intellectuals, but had let the culture infiltrate my home. My kids won’t go to Princeton, and they don’t have the catechism memorized. They’re not the geniuses I had envisioned back then, nor are they clamoring to join seminary or religious life. I had lacked discipline and follow through. The Lord had me look at it. Hand my shame to him, and told me he had great plans for my children and Princeton was never part of His plan. He told me to let go in a more deep way of the worldly intellectualism and reliance on self so that he could mold my whole family into true virtue, which can be done even without memorization of the catechism. He told me memorization doesn’t equal conversion of heart. He said what the world views as failure he turns to gift, if only I hand my shame to Him. He told me I have no idea the plans He has, and to just trust.
As I disassembled the dining room table, again, the surge of shame came over me. I have never been a good cook. The demons pummeled me, “you’re a failure as a wife, you didn’t teach your family healthy eating.” This has been a deep source of shame. To know what is good for you and feel so overwhelmed at the thought of completing the task of revamping a diet and learning to cook that you don’t even try. If our bodies are a temple, I have made the temple unclean. The Lord told me to hand him my shame. That my body is His temple and He can rebuild it on His timeline. He showed me the resurrection of the body in all it’s glory. His glory. He makes all things new.
As I continued through the house, to all of the places we had to rearrange, I was confronted with wound after wound, some sinful, some just places where judgment of myself was so harsh. And like staring at the serpent on the staff, the Lord brought healing to wound after wound. The Lord told me he was walking me through this because he cannot purify those things which we refuse to look at. He is pulling up the root of the weed that is trying to strangle the wheat. We must stare at the source of our shame, pride, despair, anxiety. If we do not He cannot heal because we have not invited Him in. The confidence in God grows deeper with each wound we hand to Him.
On Thursday morning, as I looked at the empty office and dining room turned sitting room, I had a giant surge of anxiety. I thought “I can’t do this.” I yelled at my husband to help me with my parents who aren’t even in my house yet. He put up his hand as if to say, “whatever is happening in your head, work that out with God and then come talk to me.”
I left and went to Mass. The Lord told me, you can’t do this by yourself, but you can do this because I have sent help. He told me I will be amazed at how he raises up my husband and family to help. He wants to restore the Blessings of the Father. He told me all those years I have prayed for unity in the church, both domestic and universal, that he will show me unity in my own domestic church. He asked me to step into radical trust and to stop my own self reliance.
I know there are many of you who undergoing hard personal storms, ones that are much harder than I am experiencing. The Lord is purifying and asking for trust.
While the world is set in turmoil, the Lord asks me to view it as a hard labor to birth true beauty. I believe he will illuminate our souls as part of our purification. The plan is to make us immaculate. A people with purity of heart. A people who stop judging each other and really love each other. A people who recognize sin and want no part of it. A people in whom the Immaculate Heart can triumph.
I realized as I am writing this piece that today is the day I was baptized, 49 years ago. It is my birthday into the church. This Lenten season, may God continue to purify me and you so that we become living sanctuaries of love. Pray for me as I venture out into the deep with my mom and dad, and I will pray for all of you. May the Lord Bless you and keep you.
Mom and Dad just before her fall
Prayers Promised as you care for your Parents.
Thank you for putting on paper my same thoughts as I begin my purification in my domestic church.
God Bless you.
Well, you have certainly given me a lot to think about. My mother has been in an assisted living center for the past year and a half and is very unhappy. I knew she would be, because she is “difficult” but I had hoped that somehow she would make a friend and make the best of it. We moved her there after two falls and after many problems with her medication and self care. I also have moved her two times before, trying to bring her some measure of happiness. I’ve always known that her happiness was illusive, and I have also watched the Lord strip her away from her attachment to things, as her living space became smaller and smaller. I have thought that maybe moving her in with us would be the last move and have resisted it, because it would be SO CHALLENGING. Not her care so much as her personality. Shame on me. I will try to hand it to God and think of it as a gift. I hope we meet someday, Susan. You have helped me a lot.
Louise, thank you for the comment. My mother can be difficult too. Even now, I came to her place and she is in her hospital bed, I said “I am here to help!” She retorted, “I don’t need help!”
But I asked the Lord about all the moves and I wondered – shouldn’t I have just moved them in a long time ago (even if mom fought it) and God’s response was basically, “I was waiting for you and Jason to be ready.”
Our hearts are ready now. I think if I had done it before I may have traveled the bitterness road.
I know this will be so challenging, but as my heart is purified my hope is to do this with complete charity.
Hi thanks for sharing , shame is a bully – grace is a shield. (Ann Voscamp). When it is from God there is light and love. Shame is dark and so discouraging .
Love your parents pictures! They appear full of love and fun and great appreciation.
As a mom now with young grown children there is time now- to look back . Life is busy and sometimes we just survived. Not on heavens side just yet. The food thing is a similar guilt for me, maybe just a strong hold? It somehow helps to remember some Saints lived on the Eucharist entirely. No B 13 or D 3.
God sustains us.
You are a beautiful mixture of 2 very dynamic people. You are wholeheartedly embracing this special time. I’m a caregiver for many many years of seniors. Let me assure you it’s not rocket science. I’m only saying that as we have far removed care from families. The very basic thing we did for our kids. You will rock at this! God will provide. It’s a special time.
Please take care of the caregiver too. God wants families to care again for their seniors.
Veronica, Thank you for sharing with us. (Why am I trying to stop the tears from falling?) We lived through five years of a similar heartrending experience with my parents, although they never lived with us. It was the hardest thing I ever went through. With God’s help, overall we handled it okay. I will pray for you and your family! Peace…
Thank you and God Bless you
Thank you Veronica …God bless you !
Boy this hits home at the exact right time. We too just made a big decision to move my mom in with us…and my husband, like your Jason, has been a valiant St. Joseph although quietly when push came to shove. also made conscious attempts to stopped nagging him to pray, but prayed more for him. Oh it’s not easy habit to break. Thank God for Confession! Another grace was he decided for Lent to make the Marian consecration. A big prayer answered! As this huge decision loomed, he stepped up without any hesitation
So we are going to put our early retirement plan in action since remote working is allowed. We plan to sell our house in Central Florida and build a modest home up on southern Georgia coast… .. that way my mom can have her own room with her own furniture, Our current house has tiny guest rooms and the bath not well-suited . We too are taking a leap of faith
I just got back from Adoration and asked our Lord to help decide if this was in his will…He “said” ‘give me your heart and dwell in mine’ …it recalled the many times He’s nudged me in the past …the joy and peace that comes from surrendering our whole selves. Easy to say hard to do!
I will pray for you, your family and your parents …and grateful for prayers as well ✝️💝
Peace be with you always
Wonderful! May God’s peace be with you!
Your honesty gets to the heart of family and self matters; thank you for writing.
Your sharing of personal life gets right to the heart of matters of self and of family. Thank you. Prayers for you all.
49 years to my baptism too next month :). Took it for granted for most of those 49….only in recent years has it sunk in that I am a daughter of the all -powerful God. As St. Faustina said, “God is my Father, and I His child (can) lay claim to His heart!”
Honestly, I wish I could have done this for my parents. They have passed already and all I lament is wanting to take care of them, as they had me all my life. I probably would have gotten mad, wanting my own space back, but right now all I want is them. I pray that they are in heaven, I pray for their souls every day.
Remember to forgive yourself. God sees the wound of your lament and He can heal your broken heart. May your parents rest in peace and may the Lord bring His peace to your heart and home.
Thank you Susan. I’m pretty sure that what happened is what God wanted. They both passed away while I was in another state, before I was able to retire and move back to where they lived. My sibs did a wonderful job caring for them, it’s just that me being the oldest, and single, I always thought it would be my job to care for them. God’s ways are right, I just miss them so much. Thank you for your thoughts.
Do not get mad at me, but as a guy who reads your column, I have always thought your husband was a good guy, a great guy. LOL, he puts up with you and you with him! You were meant for each other.
Somedays, Sue, I think you need to stop and look at the humor in the situation, like the late Erma Bombeck (who was a Catholic) did. Why, because all of us who share in the cross of caring for our elderly parents often find a lot of joy in it.
Your blessed marriage in many ways yet to be understood, reflects that of your parents – a romance is not some cheesy harlequin novel, but shared sacrifice in the cross.
I am pretty sure you are a good wife, daughter, and mother. It goes without saying that your parents, husband and children do, too.
The devil is a master at tempting us. I have had to do a lot more for my mom in the last two months. The devil tempts me with “[i]f your mother was not old/sick, you would not have to waste time helping her. You could spend your time doing better things than helping your mother, blah, blah, blah.” That is how the ole scratch works, working subtly to propose a good in lieu of the greater good. Just like in the Garden.
Happy baptismal day!
You and your family are in my prayers! Thank you for taking the time to write these entries, they help us, Sue.
Haha James, I am not mad. I am Irish Catholic so believe it or not I do spend a lot of time laughing. My mother is actually hilarious. You have to see the humor in situations. Sometimes I think that when people who have only known me from my blog meet me in person they are surprised by my sense of humor.
My husband is a good man. He is a very logical rational man. Part of my blogging here is because I felt like the Lord wanted me to explain what can happen on the interior of a person, especially someone who was as broken as me. How the devil tempts me, by explaining it it actually helps my husband understand why I act the way I do and has helped to make our marriage better.
Thank you for the prayers and for the reminder to keep laughing.
James Ignatius, I second your insight that marriage is “shared sacrifice in the Cross” by reference to Padre Pio, who said to his spiritual daughter, Giovanna, that “marriage is Calvary, religious life is Mount Tabor”.
Sue, prayers for you and your mother in a Rosary that I offer everyday for people who are caring for a precious soul in the winter of their life.
And James IgnatiusI think when you referred to me as Sue in your most recent comment on my blog, this was the Sue you meant.
God bless you both
Yes, Mary it is. Susan Skinner is awesome. I have learned a lot from Sue and her spiritual adventures through the years.
Now that I think about it, Mary, if you remember the Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde, I think the spiritual adventures we have with God could be described as “spiritual bundberrying.”
This post was exceptionally good.
I will keep you in my prayers as you make this change. I so enjoy your writing, and can really appreciate your articulation of handing things over to God. I sometimes wish that I could be doing just what you’re doing for your parents now. ❤️ I’m glad that you will see it as a gift. xxxooo
Thank you and May God Bless you.
Totally PROFOUND ❤️
Thank you Dear one 🔥
Sent from my iPhone
Susan, thank you for this excellent reflection; it speaks to me on many levels, and I will be rereading it an thinking about it for a good long while.
Prayers for you, your parents, and your family.
Thanks also for sharing the photos of your parents; they were and are a handsome couple. And my goodness, your mother looks like a model or a movie star in their wedding photo!
Thanks Mick. God Bless you.
Wow! Thank you for sharing. I felt I was reading my story. We are almost living mirrored lives ….with the exception of my only having my mom alive still to care for. I love how you note this time as a gift… it truly is! Thankful to a SIC who shared this blog with me tonight. I wish health and blessings to you, your family and your beautiful parents.
God Bless you and your mom!
Thank you for sharing these will be precious years. My. Mum wanted to ….go back to the Mercy mums…after dad died and her dementia increased. Her mother died when she was 12….she was youngest of 9… So she was sent to boarding school…nuns very good to her.
So she insisted on ..
Back to the nuns. Of course. The Mercy nursing home was mainly lay…but she was hAppy. I am so grateful it was it only a few KMs from my house…so nearly every day I went,took her out etc. It was a precious time of 8 years.
Got to know other dear old ones too! God bless you Susan.treaure them.