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Jingle Bells, Dementia, and Being Ready to Die


Life is always interesting during "Thanksgiving Weekend." Some folks have a "cousin Eddie" they need to contend with. All of us probably overeat and undersleep. And sometimes, there's ample time for reflection...and, to be sure, some memories are green; others gray.

Coming back to work yesterday, I felt a bit depleted. Sleeping with my two-year-old grandson for a couple of nights contributed somewhat to the dilemma. He's like an octopus having bad dreams. He's everywhere all the time...in the same bed. I love him with all my heart. Frankly, I'd die for him in a heartbeat, even though he got considerably more sleep than I did! But, that's as it should be.

Yesterday, I visited a man with dementia. He's in his eighties and has had a long and colorful life--good colors, bright colors--but much of that's gone now. I'm grateful he's still healthy, but our visit was filled with a lot of blank stares as I labored to conjure up memories to try to "help" him do what he can't do--remember. If you've ever been a caregiver for someone with alzheimers, you know how heart-wrenching it can be...for us, but also for he/she.

Bless his heart, he's on the other end of life and declining quickly. So much vitality and quality of life is diminishing. In Psalm 90, Moses wrote, "Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away." Sobering, isn't it. Despite all our efforts to "eat healthy" and "work out," most of us travel the road described in that Psalm. Things "fade" in the latter years and, like it or not, we fly away.

Today, I dropped my daughter and son-in-law off at the airport at 6 a.m. They're headed back to Phoenix. It's always hard to let her go. Despite the fact that she married a prince of a man, there remains a bent in parents to cling; control, coach and advise their adult children. It's both a blessing and a curse.

Along the way, I've learned that I'm truly happiest when they feel free to be free...but that doesn't mean it's what I want. Like a worrisome robin caring for her young, it's important to know we've done our most important work when they can fly on their own (and I'm so thankful both my kids can...and want to). It's how things should be...but I always feel nostalgic as I watch them fade into the crowd at the airport, waving and smiling as they disappear. Sometimes it feels like a spring shower; other times like the blast of a chilling winter wind. Only a parent can understand it.

Our church has a daycare program for preschoolers. Before I got too busy this morning, I thought I'd take a stroll through the concourse, mainly to see the sunrise. Most poems are written about sunsets, most love stories too. But I've always liked sunrises. Maybe it's because life has taught me to look ahead, more than look back. Nostalgia, like a river, is great to swim in occasionally, but a poor place to live. An occasional dip remains the best approach.

Anyway, on my "sunrise" walk this morning I heard the voices of two-year olds, singing Jingle Bells. Yes, I took the detour. I was already feeling overly reflective...too much "fading" in my thoughts; not enough joy. And there they were...a room full of little ones...with bells on their wrists, singing, singing, singing at the top of their lungs, "Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh, o're the fields we go, laughing all the way..." Those are the words of youth, hope, excitement! They're the opposite of Psalm 90. Today, I needed to "learn from a child," not Moses in his dying days...and I did.

But I'm still reflecting. On nothing, really...but maybe...on everything. And I had this thought, "If I died tomorrow, I will have lived a great life." You know why? Because I've known a pretty fair amount of pain and suffering, along with a pretty fair amount of joy and blessings. Mountains and valleys...one can't exist without the other. But we usually understand that best on the far side of the continuum. I've learned that both are so rich and beautiful in their own way, and I don't know that I need much more of either to feel like I've lived well (despite all the nagging regrets), because life is, in a sense, always like Jingle Bells and dementia in some way, every day. We're arriving and fading at the same time. We're remembering and forgetting at the same time. And along the way, we're learning that moments matter...perhaps more than anything else...and we shouldn't waste any of them.

So, on the heels of Thanksgiving, with all the reflection, we move on to "Merry Christmas" with all the celebration. And so it goes...and it's all good. This I know: I'm ready for whatever. How about you?

#life #seasons #reflections #wisdom

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Lexington, Kentucky
(Opinions expressed here are solely my own and do not reflect the views or opinions of my employer.)

©2019 by Gary is Thinking.