Ma and Me

Today I’m spending time with my grandmother, who we all call “Ma.” She is 87. She has always been the glue of our family. Somehow, she still is, even though she is well into the disease of Alzheimer’s.

This disease evokes a lot of emotions. The overriding one for me is sadness, but there is some laughter in there as well. It is a disease that both of my grandmothers suffered from, as well as my great-grandmother. So, there is also the possibility (reality?) that it is coming for me too.

My grandmother got up yesterday morning and told me “one morning I’ma up and die.” And then she laughed like it was the funniest joke ever. It made me laugh too.

But later that night she was very distressed. Why? The shoes my mom ordered for her “were so damn heavy,” she kept saying. All evening she’d frown at the shoes, pick them up, talk about their cursed weight, and put them down again. Looks like the shoes will have to go back. Unless tomorrow she declares them beautiful and light.

Since my mother and grandmother live together, and both suffer from disease (my mom from something akin to ALS, and my grandmother from Alzheimer’s), I am visiting monthly to be with them and to help out.

I do believe there is a reason for this, this time to enjoy, to serve, to experience the sadness of older age and infirmity. And as odd as it sounds, it is not all bad and sad.

All throughout Scripture, the juxtaposition of life and death are everywhere, and how worldly life is ultimately death, and physical death can leave to eternal life.

We, all of us, have these types of apparently mundane experiences in life that we need to recognize as divine and important to our own path. It is easy to run from them and avoid them. It is easy to stuff them down with food, drown them out with alcohol, or ignore them for the busyness of professional life. But of course, these are all poor substitutes for choosing to endure the joy and sadness of real life and real death.

Sit back, and think about what you are attempting to forget by stuffing, drowning or avoiding. Lean into it.

No one is every sorry when they do this. But the world is filled with people who are sorry that they ate, drank or worked their life away in the fruitless attempt to avoid pain.

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