My grandmother's faith in God is strong even though her mind and strength fade.
Watching her physical shortcomings tears my heart. But to admit I hurt feels like I've torn my protective layers. My sadness, anger, aloneness, and regret are revealed like an open nerve.
Since eighth grade I've helped my mom with her parents. I love them. I pray for my grandparents every night and know God hears my prayers. Yet my requests do not stop or reverse the side effects of time.
In December 2014 my grandfather passed away. He and my grandmother had been married for 63 years. He was her rock. His absence was hard for her even as my family and I tried to be there for her and help with her needs. She hid her crying. But I could stand by the door to her room some nights and hear her hidden sobs as they turned into whispered prayers.
My grandmother moved in with my family a few weeks after my grandfather passed. I was surprised she wanted to go over Grandpa's stories and look at the albums she'd made of their years together. She can't remember all the names of everyone they knew. She can't recall every story or who is still alive and needs a birthday card sent to them. But that doesn't keep her from enjoying her memories.
My brother, mom, or I pull out the albums she can no longer lift so she can go through the pictures. We get her tea since she can't hear the teapot whistle anymore. We've hung a hummingbird feeder by her bedroom window so she can see the hummingbirds she and Grandpa enjoyed so much.
I remember Grandpa commenting on moments she wasn't herself, but since I didn't see her everyday like he did, I didn't get it. Now I do. I've seen the progression of dementia and the results of four mini strokes. Her appetite and a couple of her habits are no longer the same. Sometimes it seems like she is staring at a wall and not involved in the moment.
Watching some of her layers wilt away, part of her extraordinariness gone, twists my heart.
Through it all, she still regularly prays. On good days she reads the newspaper while she watches her favorite old movies. So, not everything has changed.
The important pieces, like faith and prayer, have stayed. From Grandma's example I've learned to pray no matter what. From prayer my layer of trust and love of God and Jesus Christ has strengthened. It is the layer that holds my real strength. It is the layer Grandma and I share.
"I love thee, O Lord, my strength,
"The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer,
"my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge
"my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." Pslam 18:1-2 (Ignatius Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition)
(This piece was originally written in February 2019, not long before my grandmother passed. I didn't change the tenses because the piece works as it is.)