He shall feed his flock

It’s been a bittersweet year for us here in Jacksonville.

In April, my mother could still walk with a walker, feed herself and converse with relative normality. Due to Alzheimer’s, she has declined in rapid stages since then.

She no longer remembers how to walk or do self-care, and she rarely speaks—perhaps a few words, if she just speaks before trying to think out what she wants to say. She sleeps much of the time.

In August, my brother came from Massachusetts. We took Mom to the Cummer Museum, where she enjoys the gardens and the massive live oak, and we cooked dinner for her at our house.

One rainy afternoon, watching the St. John’s River, she said to my brother and me: “Someday we’ll all remember sitting together on this day.”

My sister and her husband came from Pensacola in November. Mom was speaking much less, yet we had several sweet visits.

My sister told Mom that hearing the hymn “Beautiful Savior” was the first thing she remembers from childhood. She sang all the verses, and Mom watched her intently.

Jim’s sister stayed with us for Thanksgiving. We brought Mom to the house so she could watch Chef Jim in the kitchen. I fed Mom, and, though she wasn’t speaking, she was clearly enjoying the dinner.

Jim’s sister said how much she had wanted to visit. Mom looked her in the eye and said, “Thank you.”

The sweet side of the bittersweet, then, is that Mom still recognizes us. When we speak to her and hold her hand, she gives us very clear eye contact and smiles.

We have never believed that mortality is a punishment—painful as it is. In some ways, the heart of the salvation God brings to us is this news:

I am taking on your mortality so that you will know it is not a punishment. I love you and will carry the burden along with you.”

Mom at Cummer Museum, by M.C. Shell

And so it is.

Blessèd Be.

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