I don’t know if we are ever prepared for the experience of caring for a loved one at the end of his or her life. The initial grief and confusion, the rush to be present and express our love in the early days of decline, can eventually turn into a new rhythm of caregiving and even a semblance of normalcy on some days. No two days are alike, however. Whereas today it may seem to us that the end is drawing near, tomorrow we may witness a rallying of strength and humor and once again see that spark of life and individuality that we so treasure.
It is this roller coaster of emotion that takes its toll and often we are caught off-guard by those things that once again trigger our tears. In much the same way we are surprised by laughter, that cleansing release which reminds us that life still goes on and joy is inexplicably intertwined with sorrow.
I’ve taken to writing down my grandmother’s funny sayings, because her sharp wit and humor was always such a part of her personality. Hearing it now in the midst of her discomfort reminds me that our bodies are simply the outer shell of who we truly are. It is not our wrinkled skin, or feeble hands, or eyes clouded by cataracts that give or take away our value: but our soul and spirit which reflect the image of our Creator.
As my young daughters observe these things through their childish eyes, it is my prayer that God will impress upon them these indelible truths. They are receiving an education in life experience that we never imagined would be theirs at such a young age, but which God can use to mold their hearts toward compassion and service and hope for eternity because they know their great-grandmother’s future is secure in Christ.
As the apostle Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 4:16-18,
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.