I went to a beautiful Lessons and Carols service last night at Piedmont. (They have another free concert tonight at 7:30 if you are interested.) Bill is in the choir, so Dad and I had dinner beforehand and went together. If you are unfamiliar with Lessons and Carols, it is an Advent service which includes scriptural readings and beautiful choral music, as well as some congregational carols. There was brass, percussion, the organ, a cello, and a violin in addition to the two choirs, all of which combined beautifully to fill the chapel with music. The crowded space overflowed with the sound of hope floating in the air. Advent in song. It gave me chills.
One particular carol, O Come All Ye Faithful, took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. As the music swelled to an angelic sounding chorus, my mind’s eye I tried to picture Mom in the crowd, with her eyes closed. Listening. It was her favorite way to take in music. When I was little, I asked her once why she closed her eyes and she said she could focus on hearing the music better if she wasn’t distracted. She sang along too, but many times, she would sit and just listen with a smile on her face.
Last night, I closed my eyes and wished she was with us. I saw her instead, in her wheelchair, in her childlike and sometimes confused state. In her room unable to do much for herself. Totally dependent on others to care for her. A pain pierced my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Not tears of worship, but tears of grief. Tears that needed release. My throat caught as I tried to sing the words, O, come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant. In that moment, I wanted her there with us. Whole and able. Singing her precious Advent songs and sitting next to Dad listening with her whole being. The reality of her condition sunk in and would not leave my mind. Honestly, I needed to weep but an ugly cry would not have been uplifting to anyone around me, so I forced my mind elsewhere.
There is such a helpless feeling while watching Mom fade. I want to cradle her in my arms, like a baby. I want to rock her and tell her it will all be okay and just hold her next to my heart. She doesn’t appear to be scared, but to be trapped inside your own body without understanding seems pretty scary to me. I feel the need to comfort her but I can’t. Dementia doesn’t work that way. Last night, I imagined sitting with her and holding her hand. Patting her back and soothing her. O, come all ye faithful. She is one of the faithful. She has come and adored him her whole life. Now, the long-awaited promise is nearer for her.
Yea, Lord we greet thee, born this happy morning, Jesus to thee be all glory given. O, come let us adore him. O, come let us adore him. O, come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.
She is not far from me, Dear One. She is with me in spirit already. Singing in her heart if not with her voice. She is joyful and triumphant. You see her outer shell. I see her whole. Her spirit soaring. Advent, still her favorite season to celebrate me. She is not helpless as she appears. She is dependent on me now. She can do nothing but trust and she doesn’t even know she is doing that. Her awareness of this earth is limited by her brain, but her spirit is fully alive. Fully awake. Fully engaged with me. Your desire to comfort her is born of the comfort she has always given you. You want to keep her safe and protect her. That is a precious gift to give her. I know you miss the closeness. I know your heart longs to sit with her and connect, to talk and to share. I know you cannot do these things, not in the way you want to. Keep going. Keep showing up. She knows, even if you don’t think she does. But also know, I am with her. I will never leave or forsake her. I will give her the long-awaited promise to behold me face to face.