What I Need

by Jill Francis on June 19th, 2016

 After fourteen years of Alzheimer’s disease, eight years in a nursing home, five years of unintelligible words, three years of silence and two years of sleeping, my mother is finally in her last days.  I say “finally” because it has been a long fourteen years and we have been saying “good-bye” for at least eight of them, thinking that with each decline she would leave us.  “Finally” because she has been gone, absent, removed, away…vacant…for a long, long time; it’s simply that her body didn’t seem to know.

Friends and extended family members, who have been on this extensive journey with us are aware of the circumstances, aware that she is dying and want to know how to help.  I understand their dilemma:  what do you do for a family who is simply waiting for someone to die?  Is there a Hallmark card for this? What is appropriate?  Is it too soon to start making casseroles?

I’ve been giving it a lot of thought because I have a husband and a girlfriend who have both stated they want to help, they just don’t know what to do and quite frankly, I don’t know either.  I’ve never done this before.  So I’ll give you some suggestions for me (and examples of what people are doing for me) and I have a feeling they’ll apply to most in our situation.

Please manage your expectations for how/when/if I respond.  I want to hear from you, so please text, and know that I may not text you back.  Call me and leave a voice mail if I don’t answer.  I want to hear your voice, I want to know you love me and are praying for me, but I may not want to chat. E-mail me or send me a card and know that I may forget to thank you.  Knowing my friends care about me and have me on their mind is comforting.  But please don’t treat me with kid gloves; I’m grieving, but I’m still me…I want to laugh, I want to be silly, I want to know if you’re hurting or if I can pray for you.

Don’t tell me I’ll see my mom again, that she will be in Heaven and be healed, that I’ll get over it and that time will heal.  I know all of that.  I don’t want to hear it.  Don’t tell me how to feel or that God will comfort me or that Mom wouldn’t want me to be sad, blah, blah, blah….  Say good things or just be quiet.  Don’t give me platitudes, even if they’re true.  Tell me you’re sorry.  Tell me you love me.  Tell me it stinks because that is true.

Be like my friend who dropped off a book at my house.  A book she knew I would like that would remind me she loves me.  That was a good thing to do.

Be like my friends who are helping me plan my mother’s memorial service, who are offering to participate with prayer, music and scripture readings.  They are willing to use their gifts and talents to serve during a stressful time and in a service that won’t be categorized as “joyous”.  Although I believe my mother is going to Heaven and will be healed, whole and happy and although her service will reflect that belief, it does not diminish the fact that we will grieve her loss.  It does not diminish that fact that a memorial service is hard.  Those who participate are doing it out of loving kindness for our family…and that is comforting.  If you are gifted in a way that can help a family, offer your gift, but don’t take it personally should they decline.  It is the offer (and the participation) that makes us feel loved.

Be like my friends who are willing to listen as I think through these last days and all that must be done; they let me ramble and think out loud.  I have friends who tell me what’s happening in their lives and it helps distract me from what’s happening in mine.  I have friends who allow me to be angry, melancholy, inappropriate, distant and sad.  I have friends who will pretend not to notice the extra weight I am gaining and the fact that “stretchy pants” may soon be in my wardrobe.  I have friends who listen; they’re not giving me advice or telling me how I should feel.  They just listen.

Just let me be…quiet, distant, ridiculous, needy, chatty, forgetful, rude, silly, inappropriate, wounded, wishy-washy, selfish, the best of myself and the worst of myself.  And acknowledge that this is hard, that it hurts and that you don’t understand either.

And then, when the crises has passed, when the service has ended and everyone has gone home, when you meet me for coffee or dinner and I’m still talking about my mother, let me talk.  Allow me the next year to grieve as I spend my Sundays without her, as I face Thanksgiving being grateful for who she was and Christmas knowing she is with the One who came as an infant.  Let me go through the Holidays and seasons adjusting to her absence, mourning the loss of her physical body, adjusting to my new “normal”.  Give me time…for the One who loves me most to comfort me best.  I know that joy returns in the morning but please bear with me…it may be a very long night.

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Tonita - June 19th, 2016 at 8:04 PM
Jill, I love each of you. All of you have a special place in my heart even though there has been this long distance. You are special.
Peggy Jaynes - June 20th, 2016 at 12:41 AM
I wish I could give you hugs, my friend.
Brenda Rarick - June 20th, 2016 at 5:17 AM
I wish I had those words in March when I sat in my Mother's hospital and then nursing home room. I loved your Mom, but not nearly as well as she loved me. How Jeanette loved me will never be forgotten. Prayers for you, Jeffrey, your Dad and the entire family as you say this last goodbye. It's not easy.
Kevin - June 20th, 2016 at 6:35 AM
Brilliant! Friends and family are often lost as to how to help, support, be, love and your writing gives wonderful insight and wisdom. Thank you for sharing your heart and your thoughts. I admire that, in the midst of this difficult journey of goodbye, you share and you guide- the "Jill way". Our family loves you, prays for you, and aches for you and you awesome family.
Christina - June 20th, 2016 at 7:42 AM
Jill, I love you. Thank you for being transparent and gracious, honest and hopeful. Thank you for being a voice and an advocate. Thank you for being you.
Shari Spring - June 20th, 2016 at 9:13 PM
Jill, just wanted to let you know that you and your family are all in my prayers. Every time I see your name on facebook or it crosses my mind, I see your beautiful, smiling, enthusiastic you. I appreciate that yes, you will need time to adjust to a different way of life. And, yes, even though she has been gone from the mom that raised you, she's still your mom, and our mom always has a special part of our heart and our life and is one of the most difficult persons to say goodbye to in this life. I will continue to pray for all of you as you will have dark times and it will take time and at moments you never expect something will trigger a memory that very well may bring tears. Love always my fellow passionate purple pilgrim. %uD83D%uDC9C
Jill Francis - June 22nd, 2016 at 7:27 PM
Dear family and friends,
Thank you for all of your support and prayers, we are feeling them and we know our God is Faithful. You are loved,

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