|Family dinner taken October 4, 2015. Even back than mom's ability to keep up with life around her was slipping|
The weekly family dinner night became a beloved tradition in our house. It started because dementia robbed my mom of the ability to cook but it quickly became so much more than just "feeding my parents". It became valuable time spent around the table hanging on as tightly as we could to that which we had no earthly ability to keep from slipping away. It became an investment in love and grace and understanding.
It was teaching and learning, loving and laughing, sometimes crying and yelling... it was life with dementia done the best we knew how... it still is.
I wish I could remember when the dinner tradition started. I wish I had taken more pictures. I wish I had known just how precious these nights would become to me. I wish for a lot of things and many of my wishes go unanswered, at least from my human perspective. But God so often works in the unseen and the things I wish for may not be what's best. The things I maybe was not smart enough, or selfless enough to wish for, have been given because God is good.
Sometimes I wished that one of my other siblings would do dinner once in a while. Now I know that I would have missed those nights around my table that I sometimes selfishly wanted for me.
I wished that my mom wasn't going through this. Now I know I would have never seen her with the eyes of compassion and love I see her with now, even though I still wish this had not happened to her.
I wished it wasn't a burden on my children. Now I know they, and even their friends sometimes, were at the table because they wanted to be, not because they had to be. They wanted that time with their grandma because they love her.
I wished I didn't always have to be the one that did the right thing, that was gracious and kind and listened patiently as my mom told the same story 20 times. Now I know I was setting the example for my children on how to treat people with love and kindness.
I wished I had always gotten it all right, but now I know that no one is perfect and my children could see that everyone falls sometimes and it's okay, there is grace for falling.
Dementia is hard and painful and sometimes it's more than we can take and we need each other. Life is real around our table and my children have seen that... and that is a good thing. Looking back, I would not wish any of it away.
Over time, the family dinner night changed. Kids grew up and moved out and we went from sometimes having 4 generations at the table, down to usually just 2. The laughter subsided as my mom's mind faded and eventually family dinner night became my husband and I taking dinner across the street to their house because it was too hard for mom to get out.
My biological dad died when I was 12. My dad now is my step-dad. One of the greatest tragedies of my dad dying, and missed opportunities for healing, was we stopped having dinner. My mom could not stand the empty chair next to her.
On August 12th, we put my mom in a nursing home. Last night, September 21st, we had our first family dinner night without her. 3 generations at the table, and not much laughter. But in my wisdom gained over these many years of family dinner night, so many things have been born at my table as we watched my mom disappear, and healing will be one of them. May God help us all to grow in grace and compassion.