Love is where the other person’s happiness is more important than your own. H Jackson Brown Jr.
Thank you For Loving Me
The question of how to approach her was profound and daunting. In the twilight of her life, the thought of someone helping her with bathing ripped away at her dignity and devoured her soul. Though someone had in the past helped, it wasn’t highly successful. With all the right intentions, her previous caregiver, missed some of the most important keys to her heart. Under her tough and sometimes ornery exterior, there was a frightened, fragile and frail soul that needed to be handled with gentleness and mercy so her broken spirit would not shatter beyond repair. This was not a sprint travailed over days but rather over months; a journey made with conversations over quiet meals, drives through beautiful neighborhoods, adventures to the dry cleaners, the local dutch bakery and many, many walks down memory lane. Difficult conversations dotted the landscape of our growing relationship too; from her safety, to the loss of her husband of 70 years. Together we wept. Many times we embraced in her grief and sorrow, and our hearts knit beautifully together. A deep lasting trust solidified.
The day finally came for me to approach her about her bathing needs. I quietly sat at her feet like I had so many times before. I held her hand, tenderly with love and looked into her deep chestnut-brown eyes. As I slowly explained the time had come for me to help her more, tears flowed down her cheeks, and mine. She did not want this. In the end though, she chose to trust me to protect her dignity even in this. We quietly embraced and wept holding each other. No words were necessary. Quiet trust. Quiet understanding. Quiet assurance of safety in authentic friendship. We set a time for me to return later that night.
It would be a perfect story if the rest of the day was utter bliss for my friend. Our human condition is frail though, and when faced with daunting change and fearful circumstances anxiety and restlessness often rear their tormenting heads. For the rest of the day my dear friend desperately tried to find a way to avoid the perceived shame she was about to endure. When I came back, more quiet tears were shed between us. Those tears were difficult and precious. I valued each of hers like gold. If it took 3 minutes or 3 hours for her to be ready, I was willing to walk the journey with her. Why? The honor and dignity of a person matters far more than the time ticking on a clock. Once my friend was ready, we worked together finding the right balance of independence and help. Her dignity was guarded and protected, there was no shame and my friends head was lifted high because she was honored as the intelligent, elegant and wise woman she is. God’s amazing grace overflowed.
Once done and ready to head upstairs to watch her favorite football team play, my friend paused, gave me a hug and said, “Thank you for loving me”. Her words deeply touched my heart. I then said, “I remember, over 5 years ago, when I was laying in a hospital after I was overdosed by my nurse wondering why God would allow such a horrible thing to happen to me. It didn’t make any sense. I wondered again, when nurses would come in and uncover me and give me sponge baths making me feel so exposed and ashamed. I wondered when people would snicker and laugh when I walked with a cane as a trembled as I struggled to walk. I wondered when my seizures were out of control. I’ve wondered so many times. Tonight though, I’m not wondering anymore. I know God allowed me to go through all of that so I could be here to help you with true understanding. It’s one of my life’s greatest honors to help and love you and, I REALLY DO love you.
God knew we needed each other. The experiences of my brain injury and all the pain that came with it, prepared me to love her in ways I never could have if I hadn’t walked that painful road before. I never thought I would say it…but I’m now grateful those painful years because they shaped me into a person who can love my friend well and help her experience her twilight years with greater dignity, and honor. I can’t help but think about 1 Peter 5:10 —
10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace [who imparts His blessing and favor], who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen, and establish you [making you what you ought to be].
Friends, we need to slow down and invest more time in listening, loving and really getting to know each other (hopes, dreams, disappointments, fears, and heartaches). We need to always remember that the dignity of a person matters far more than the time ticking on a clock. Our highest goal shouldn’t be meeting deadlines — but instead loving people so well that they see Jesus shining through us. I believe it is when they see Him in us, they are compelled to say, “Thank you for loving me.” just as my friend did they other day.
I’m determined, by God’s amazing grace, to shine as much of His love into this world as I can. How about you?
Where there is love there is life. Mahatma Gandhi