The Long Goodbye

by Amy L. Harden

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you. Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT

My mother took 13 years in her long goodbye. The last time my sister and I saw her, we were the “lovely ladies” who came to visit. Mother sat in her chair, staring into the void. Sadly, there was no coming back from this journey home. We were grateful my father didn’t have to experience her vanishing away. Mother’s inability to recognize her loved ones would have broken his heart.

As hard as the long goodbye was for us, it allowed my sister, brother, and me time to come to terms with issues we had with our mother. God, in His amazing grace, gave us time to regain our understanding of the person who was melting away. We needed to rely on His grace and mercy throughout those years. On some days, it was all He gave us.

My mother had become angry and belligerent in her final months, hitting and throwing things. The last time I saw her, I tried to comfort her as she lay in bed, but she angrily hit and hissed at me. Heartbroken and crying, I left the room.

I wondered, Wasn’t this always the way it was with my mother? I never measured up in her eyes, and we had constant battles. Yet, God reminded me of one visit a few years prior when a window in the void had opened.

My visits up north had been few since my mother moved into the memory care unit. The responsibilities of raising five children consumed me; finding time to break away from home for an eight-hour trip proved impossible—besides trying to afford a hotel stay. However, a time opened for me to travel, and my siblings gifted me with a three-day stay at a lovely bed-and-breakfast near my mother.

As my sister and I drove to the hospital, she said Mother hadn’t recognized her in many months and probably wouldn’t know me either. Yet, when we walked into Mother’s room, recognition swept across her face, and she said, “Amy, my sweet Amy. You have come to see me.” She reached out and pulled me toward her as she had never done when I was a child.

That was my window of love and warmth after years of resentment, bitterness, and anger. It was the opportunity God provided for complete forgiveness, mercy, and grace. All the memories and filters that had kept Mother and I from being authentic with one another were demolished. As I rested in her arms, I felt the purity and innocence of the moment.

Standing in the hallway that day, I realized God had gone before me. He told me to remember this moment, not the previous visit that brought anger and resentment. That healing moment gave me a new perspective to share with my brother and sister so they could forgive Mother before she passed.

The reality of the long journey is that you mourn twice—first when dementia steals your loved one’s mind, and again when God claims their body. We should never abandon or fail them. And if we’re attentive to the Lord’s presence, we’ll capture memories, and perhaps healing and restoration for all.

To learn more about Alzheimer’s and Dementia, please go to https://alzfdn.org.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Amy L Harden is an author, wife, mother of five children, and Nanny to four grandchildren. She has written for Guideposts, Focus on the Family, Christian websites, and blogs. Amy is presently working on her first novel. Connect with Amy at her website – AmyLHarden.com, or on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the Conversation. What healing moments has God given you?

7 thoughts on “The Long Goodbye

  1. Oh, Amy. Thanks for sharing this. My mom is about a year into the Alzheimer’s Disease–or rather since she was diagnosed. We had a very complicated relationship–similar to yours. During these precious moments where she still recognizes me–recognizes my voice–I realized we’re closer now than we’ve ever been. I know the days are coming when she won’t, and like you I live a long distance away, but for now this window of time has been so precious. God bless you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Terri – thank you for sharing your story. I am happy that our story is an encouragement. The one blessing I found was the filters my mother put up before her dementia was gone and she freely expressed herself. That day’s visit and love were pure, as was the anger she displayed at a later visit. God was so good to remind me. I will be praying for both you and your mother as you travel this difficult journey. Numbers 6: 24-26

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Amy, thank you so much for sharing these tender thoughts–yet painful. I’m so glad the Lord gave you a bit of joy in the midst of a long goodbye. I also cared for two elderly parents and the journey is tough. I love the way you bring out the good along with the hard. That’s the best thing we can do demonstrating God’s strength. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for responding. My sister was the sibling who dealt with her slow deterioration more than I did. The long goodbye is different for each child, and the person closest takes the brunt of the hardship. God gave me insight while writing this devotion that even though the person with dementia has mentally departed – God still sees and will not abandon them. For me, who wonders if this will be passed on to me or my siblings, it was comforting to know God still saw her and gave her blessings. I can do anything as long as I know God will not abandon me. Numbers 6:24-26

      Liked by 1 person

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