So, let's see. What has happened as of late? My running quantity and consistency is going downhill. This has led to an increase in a few pounds, which makes me feel even more puny when I do run. Teaching continues to be rewarding yet time-consuming in preparation. Coaching is demanding but I feel more well-equipped from having sat through a USATF certification course. My book has been released and seems to be well-received. And yet, there is much to do in terms of getting out the word.
And then there was my trip north to spend a few days with my mom. Talk about putting things in perspective! Mother will be 85 this month, as hard as that is to believe. She has always been a go-getter, an endless reservoir of energy and determination. She raised four kids, cooked, sewed, kept house, gardened, was music director at church for decades, played tennis, and learned the intricacies of finance when my father died twenty-six years ago. After moving into the independent living retirement community six years ago, she continued well-doing. She wrote and published a book, writes encouragements to countless missionaries, opens her home to guests, and laboriously leads the cancer support group she established years ago after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
But something was different this time when I walked through the door. My wonderful mother looked tired, worn, her frame shrunken from further compression of her spine. She tried to put on a happy face but I could tell she was worried. She was having a hard time catching her breath, her energy waning. She even contemplated a trip to the hospital since she was fearing another round of severe anemia. With a home test kit for hemoglobin, we were able to ally that fear. Still, I could tell she was not well.
Over the course of my three-day stay, Mother bounced back a little, though she still had to stop and catch her breath when walking to the car or down the long hallways. She also worried about having to take so much Tylenol to help with her arthritis pain. So I was glad to help her with the once-every-three-month shopping trip to Wal-Mart, a chore she found nearly impossible by herself. With a bad shoulder and arthritis, it is difficult to lift and load heavy items like laundry detergent. And dragging all the purchases in her rolling shopping cart up the incline leading into her building is exhausting. I was delighted to lighten her load.
It's hard to see my mom decline in health. She said, "I don't know how to get old." Who does? It's a learn-as-you-go kind of event. There's no school that teaches the subject. Even at 56, I get frustrated at my own decreasing abilities. I can't imagine what an additional 29 years will do to me.
But my gracious, kind, compassionate, Spirit-filled Mother bravely continues on. She doesn't understand the other residents who seem to have time to play bridge and put together jigsaw puzzles. She has planning to do, correspondence to write, phone calls to make to hundreds of cancer patients, and hours of praying time while sitting atop her exercise bike or at the study table in the sun-room. She reads multiple books at a time, taking notes in the margins. Her time in the Word is much more than a cursory reading of a few verses. She drives herself (and two other seniors) to church whenever the doors are open. She organizes and records nearly everything she does, three-ring notebooks filling her office. Mother will rest after lunch for thirty minutes and then relentlessly pursue her passions, even when she doesn't feel like it. Even on one of her bad days, she makes me feel like a weenie.
On the last night of my visit, we sat down to watch a concert performance of David Phelps. To say this tenor is an amazing artist would be an understatement. Over hot cups of tea and a little snack, we were overwhelmed by the melodies, lofting, swelling, and penetrating the soul. But on the last song, I looked over at Mother. Her wiggling nose gave away the tears that followed. The orchestra began to play the haunting tune and Mr. Phelps sang these words of an old negro spiritual: (Video link)