So what if she lived in the past - those were the happiest days
of her life!
It was time again for that periodic trip to the nursing home to
visit my mother-in-law. I wasn't anticipating the trip. Mom will
not even know who we are. We will have to explain again and again.
And I abhor the distinctive odors. Even though the home is spotlessly
clean, the smell of disinfectant, cooking odors, and diapers hangs
in the air. You unconsciously try to limit your air intake.
I pulled out on the freeway and headed for downtown to pick up
my wife, waiting at her office. It was Friday evening. We had a
fire-hour trip ahead of us, so we left directly from work.
Again on the freeway, we found the hum of the motor and the wind
noise soon reached the hypnotic sound level of the speed limit.
After a trivial exchange of, "How as your day?" my thoughts
again began to wonder. Am I wrong not to want to make this trip?
For a moment, a wave of guilt drifted though my thoughts.
It had been some time since our last visit, but we live in a distant
city. Surely the distance alone should take away any guilt feelings
of neglect for the infrequent trips.
I continued to think that we might someday be in the same condition
as Mom. Will our kids not want to visit us? What a depressing thought!
Martha, a saintly woman, devoted her life to making a good home
environment for her husband and children. But now her failing eyesight,
loss of hearing, and general deterioration leave her confused, and
with no concept of time. Events that happened decades ago are more
real than the present.
In the morning we went to the nursing home and discovered her
lapse of awareness even more pronounced than we expected. She could
talk lucidly about her youth and up to the time we were in our middle
teens, but the past four decades were completely out of focus. My
wife and I started dating in our middle teens and this period of
time Mother still could remember clearly.
She did not recognize us, but when we told her who we were, she
laughed with her usual good humor and said, "My, how you have
outgrown your name!" Later, she said to my wife: "He's
changed. He's a lot wiser!" As we talked about her family -
my wife was the youngest of four daughters - we found she comprehended
better when the maiden name of each daughter was added to given
name. She could relate only to the time of our youth. Mother's soft
reflection was, "You're taking me back to where I belong!"
As the visit progressed, an amazing thing happened. I found myself
enjoying the visit and realized I was gaining much more than I was
giving. As my wife and I each held one of Mother's hands, my thoughts
drifted toward what heaven is going to be like. A verse from 2 Peter
came to mind, "But, beloved be not ignorant of this one thing,
that one day is with Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years
as one day" (3:8)
The older person's inability to comprehend time may be a prelude
to heaven, where there is no time dimension. Without the limiting
dimension of time, we will be able to fellowship with the saints
of old just as if we were with them on earth. Perhaps this is what
heaven will be like.
The highlight of the visit came when I read twenty-third Psalm.
Mother, by memory, repeated the words forcefully and with complete
confidence. "Yes, the Lord is my shepherd." In face, she
said the words even ahead of my reading.
Our spirits were high as we concluded the visit and prepared to
leave. We left aware of the importance of learning Scriptures while
the mind is clear. Mother was able to focus on the Scriptures when
all else seemed out of focus. The Scriptures are not limited by
the dimension of time.
Mother smiled as we said good-bye. The parting kiss on the cheek,
the slight pressure of her frail hand, and the lump in our throat
- all had a special meaning. We even gave thanks for Mother's lack
of present day awareness. We realized she is reliving an era that
was a happy time in her life. This mental regression to the past
gives Mother a sense of well being and happiness there in the nursing
We gave thanks to the Good Shepherd who will someday remove the
limiting dimension called time and open up a complete new vista.
I believe Mother may be catching a glimpse of that day now.
We both were thankful for the visit as we walked down the hall,
through the front door, and onto the parking lot. Soon the hum of
the motor and the wind noise reached its familiar sound level. I
looked at my wife and smiled, "Let's not wait so long before
the next visit!"
Note; Martha Klima had three daughters Bonnie Haynes, Betty Irmen,
and Marjorie Weber. Martha it is said was the life of the party
on her ninety-fifth birthday.