That’s what I want to be when I grow up.
That’s the only thought that went through my head yesterday when I was in the company of my precious mother-in-law. Obviously, my desire isn’t to wrestle someday with the nightmare that is Alzheimer’s. Because, after all, it’s not the Alzheimer’s that defines her (try as it might). What makes her who she is, what humbles me to my knees, what makes me see past the disease and want to be like her is her heart. Her character that still bleeds out of her through tears. The love that pours out through her outstretched arms and still-strong hugs.
Yesterday as we were all gathered to see my nieces’s performance in Fiddler On The Roof (amazing job, Emily!) my sweet mom-in-love kept saying, “This is what I love…I love my family…I’m so thankful.” And not a word of each phrase was uttered without accompanying happy tears. No self-pity. No anger or frustration. Just one very happy mama.
And having known this woman for nearly 33 years of my life, I shouldn’t be surprised that THIS is what remains when so many other things like reading and driving and memory are gone. Every unfinished sentenced is marked with a genuine smile. There is a hug and kiss that fill in the gap when words won’t come. If your name doesn’t come to mind, she will still tell you how wonderful you are, how proud she is of you. This is how she lived her life BEFORE the onset of Alzheimer’s and this is what defines her life. Everyone I know would put an equal sign between the words Lorna and love.
Remember the 1 Corinthians 13 passage that talks about love? It says it never fails. It outlasts everything else. It sticks around when everything else wears out.
That same kind of love is expressed in the man who cares for this precious lady, too. My wonderful father-in-love. Tireless, joyful, selfless. Though his love for her has had to take on new roles, it is strong and vibrant and more beautiful than ever.
And it reminds me all over again, that everything I invest my time and energy and passion into has to begin with the letter “love”. And, conversely, my life needs to be a love letter. Communicating the greatest love of all. God’s love for us. Like my mother-in-love, it needs to bleed and pour from me, past words or silence. It needs to wring out of me when life squeezes tightly. It needs to be the source of my responses and reactions. It needs to become more than just a good habit, but an indelible part of my DNA.
Much of who I am now will fade with age – body and mind. But I hope that I have a heart and soul so filled with love, so rehearsed in its practices, that when everything else goes, my heart is all that’s left to see. A heart so consumed with God Himself – the very definition of love – that there is no possibility of any other scenario.
I love you, Mama J, so very much. Thank you for your constant, living example to all of us. Your heart speaks louder than any hard-to-find words ever could…
1 Corinthians 13 – If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.