by Jill Francis on September 23rd, 2013

This week's blog is a bit different than usual, for it comes with a Faith perspective.  It is not my intent to offend anyone, but I am simply sharing some thoughts as I share with my son; he is in his first year of college, is a bit homesick and is learning that life can be hard at times.  He was very close to his grandma, after all, she helped raise him for most of the first seven years of his life while I worked full time, and he has been on the journey of Alzheimer's with her for half of his life.

In sharing this letter, I'm giving you a a bit of a peek into our private world, so perhaps you'll understand why Gracious Goodbyes is so important to us and how we've been able to cope for the last eleven years.

Dear Jack,
Sometimes, life is hard and it feels as though we have no choices, no options, no control. And sometimes, it feels as though no matter how hard we try, nothing goes right and we"re left with a feeling of helplessness and maybe even hopelessness 
That's how I felt when your grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I was angry with God, with Life and I wanted to quit. I felt helpless and, at times, hopeless. I knew the next few years would be hard and I didn't want "hard"; I wanted nice, comfortable, easy, happy. And I wanted that for your grandma and grandpa too; I didn't want them to hurt or suffer, to experience the hardship or pain of long term, debilitating illness.  I wanted them to spend their retirement years traveling, laughing, spending time together and enjoying the fruits of their labors. But Life didn't happen that became hard.
Your grandma could have taken the easy way out. She could have asked us to help her end her life at the first sign of significant memory loss or disability, or perhaps, when she went Ito the nursing home; after all, she never wanted to be in one, she wanted to stay at home. Why didn't we just give her the easy way out?  Because that's not our right; we didn't Create life, so it's not ours to end. We also trust that God is ultimately in control and in the midst of the hard stuff and that He will work out all things for our good. That doesn't mean healing, it doesn't mean easy, it doesn't mean happy, it doesn't mean nice. It simply means "for our Good"...making us better, stronger, more like Him, perhaps, because we have suffered. Perhaps, because we have felt pain and heartache and perhaps, because we needed all of that to be more be better...for our Good.  We have had to learn to trust that God knows what He is doing in spite of our pain and helplessness. We have had to learn to trust that God has us where He wants/needs us and that He is allowing us to be there for our Good.
There are many things I have learned about myself, my family, about God  and His mercy, grace and mystery in the last eleven years of Alzheimer's   I've learned to grow up, to depend more on God and less on my mommy. I've learned to scream and yell at God when I'm angry and afraid and know that He's big enough t take it. I've learned that when I am so sad I don't think I can breathe, He breathes into me. I've learned that even when life is hard and painful, I can trust Him. I've learned the things that Grandma wanted me to know about our Savior that I might not have learned if life was easy. I've learned that when circumstances dictate that we have no choices, we always have the choice of attitude...and that is our greatest power over a situation.
That, ultimately, is what I think your grandma understood about Alzheimer's and God: that she had no choice regarding cure and healing, but she did have a choice in choosing to live with Grace and Mercy, knowing life would be hard. She never complained about her illness, she didn't respond in anger or defeat, she trusted her Creator to comfort her and be with her through the hard stuff. She didn't quit or take the easy way out: she lassoed herself to her Heavenly Father and held on. Even though she knew it would be hard.
Sometimes, Jack, life is hard, but you have a choice:  you can take the easy way out, or you can be tough like your grandma and face it with Grace and dignity; you can hang on and cling to your Creator or you can quit...there is always a choice and the choices you make determine the kind of man you will become.
I love you,
(Jill Francis)

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Diane - September 23rd, 2013 at 8:01 PM
Amen and amen. Well said from someone who has seen and experienced it. Love you.

Lorna - September 23rd, 2013 at 8:03 PM
You are an incredible writer........touched my heart and I hope it did with Jack also. Miss you, prayers for your family always.

DeLana Borja - September 28th, 2013 at 10:38 PM
Your mom and dad and you have always been such an inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing. Love you.

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