Hello everyone and welcome to today’s episode where today, as always, we're here together to consider how we can experience more joy in our relationships.
I had another episode all ready to go for today, but I’ll save it for next week because something came up the other night that I want to share with you because of it’s timeliness, and because it illustrates an important relationship principle. It’s about finding joy in a relationship in the most unlikely of places.
So stick around and listen, especially near the end where I describe a connection between 4 different relationships, 98 years apart, a connection that is bringing me joy during a difficult time I’m in right now. I share it because this same joy is available to you during the difficult times you are going through, or will go through.
Here’s the story. This episode is airing Wednesday, April 8, 2020 in the middle of Holy Week. But I’m putting it together on Palm Sunday, the beginning of the week. It’s a particularly meaningful Palm Sunday for my wife Janet and me, because it’s the first Palm Sunday Janet’s mother is spending in heaven with Jesus.
Elda died last Saturday night at the age of 96.
In the midst of this most significant loss for us, we couldn’t be happier for her.
Decades ago she surrendered her life to Jesus, and as people of faith know, when we make this decision, our ultimate destiny is a heavenly home with God and his son for all of eternity. The contrast between that reality and Elda’s life for the past 12 years with Alzheimer's disease couldn’t be more stark.
We first noticed it when she got lost taking grandson Nathan for a walk when we was a toddler. It gradually got worse and worse. Before Janet’s dad died 11 years ago, they were sometimes taking each other’s medications until Janet discovered it.
After her dad died, we moved her mom to an assisted living facility. Then she started to wander, and they kicked her out and we had to find another place for her.
Elda was the subject of episode 2 of this podcast, back in November 2018. Click here if you want to hear more about what I appreciated in my relationship with my mother-in-law.
There were so many issues with her care over the last 12 years that weighed both Janet and me down. Here are a few of them:
Feeling guilt at times for not having her live with us like some families do.
Poor care at her assisted living facility because of constant turnover in staff.
Time consuming reporting requirements for Medicaid
A tussle with the VA over her veterans benefits that still haven’t been settled.
Several trips to the ER in the middle of night for one thing or another, and then worrying would the assisted living facility let her return or not.
Janet coming home on occasion and crying after being with her mom, and seeing the decline and deaths of other residents of the facility, not to mention the decline of her own mother.
On two separate occasions another resident in the facility hitting Elda across the face.
A roommate that made living conditions very uncomfortable for Elda, and visiting times for Janet most unpleasant.
Her mother begging Janet not to leave her when it was time for Janet to head for home.
Taking Elda to the Eye doctor for a hour appointment that took ⅔ of the day because of the logistics of getting her in and out of the car, and back and forth to the doctors office.
And through everything Elda was as pleasant as good can be. Because of her dementia, she had almost no awareness of the drama going on around her, or the strain on Janet. She would be appalled if she knew the toll this was taking on Janet.
Many of you with elderly parents have similar stories. Ours is not unique. It comes with the territory. We could all have a reality show together. Maybe get a bus and go on tour together.
But then there were many good things, too. The sparks of joy when her mother would smile at Janet and say she loved her.
When she and Janet would do a duet of “You Are My Sunshine.”
And then there was the last two days just recently before Elda “transitioned,” as they call it.
The facility was admitting no one, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but they called Janet and strongly encouraged her to come visit her mother. They allowed her to stay in Elda’s room, and stay overnight on Friday. They were so kind and compassionate with Janet.
During this time there was some agitation in Elda, and her calling out for her mother.
Seeing her breathing slowing down. Several injections of morphine.
Then there was the beautiful moment of Janet FaceTiming with her sister Jeanne in North Carolina so she could say her good byes to her mom from a distance. And then Janet and Jeanne chatting away like they did when they were kids, with their mom lying in her bed taking it all in. And not taking it all in.
Throughout the day on Saturday, a steady decline and the hospice nurse saying death was imminent. Restless legs. One eye opens, the other shut.
And then, then, there was the peace that came over Elda and the smile across her face. A smile Janet said was her mother’s signature smile, a smile she will never forget.
And the calm that came over Janet’s heart as she watched her mother slowly leave her body, her home for the past 96 years, to move on to her new heavenly home for the rest of eternity.
I came to pick Janet up from the facility that Saturday night, a little before midnight after Elda had passed on to the next life. On the way home Janet talked several time of the peace she had, and how her mother’s end could not have gone any better. We spoke of the joy of holy moments like this, even in the midst of sadness and loss. Janet said it felt like 16 tons had been lifted from her shoulders.
When we got home, I shared the joy I felt. “Janet, do you remember what day it is.”
“Yes, it’s April 4th.” Then pausing. “The same day we found Jesus so many years ago.”
I told her I was thinking about the April 4th connection all day. [Read from page 81 of my book]
My birthfather, Jack E. Byrd, born on April 4th, 1922
Janet and becoming Christ followers – April 4, 1968
Martin Luther King, Jr. – Losses his life – April 4, 1968
Elda Millane – inherits her new life for the rest of eternity – April 4, 2020
Of all the 366 days in 2020, for God to call Elda home to him on April 4th, is for me a picture of God, with a great big smile on his face, pouring a big tall glass of joy, sliding it down the counter to me, and saying,
“Here son, drink up. I got this. Your Elda is getting fitted right now with a new body that includes a heart that works perfectly, and a new brain that remembers EVERYTHING. I know you’re sad. I know you’ll miss her. And I also know you want the best for her.
But this is her day, her moment in the sun. On April 4th, just like it was your day and Janet’s day, on your April 4th 52 years ago. So drink up, and enjoy the joy! And happy April 4th to everyone of us.”
You wouldn’t think you’d find joy on a death bed. But if you’re a person of faith, and so is your loved one, it’s there if you just focus and look for it.
If you forget everything else from today’s episode, here’s the one thing I hope you remember. Our show in a sentence
When we know Jesus well, even in the midst of grief or unspeakable sorrow, Joy can be found in one of the most difficult relationships of all, our relationship with death of a loved one who knows Jesus, too.
Here’s what you can do in response to today’s show.
How are you living today that is preparing you for your last days on earth? What can you do now, while there is still time, to foster your relationship with God that will give confidence to those you leave behind that your final destination will be with Jesus in heaven?
I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.
Now for Our Relationship Quote of the Week
~ From C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, “The Last Battle.”
“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
That’s all for today. See you next week. Good Bye for now.