I’ve worried today about an awful lot of things…
Will I be home in time to swipe the dust before my friends arrive?
Are my jeans sagging where I don’t want them to because I’m filling them where I shouldn’t?
Dinner… what’s for dinner that’s easy and at least a little healthful?
What do I wear this weekend if it’s hot? Can I get away with bare legs at a funeral or have I got to cover up with nylons?
I really should go running… and I really don’t want to… but that ½ is coming and I really should go running…
And while I worry about a lot of things, my friend is worried about just one…
How long will her daughter recognize her face?
My friend could care less about dust cloths and saggy jeans or nylons on a hot day. She just wants Rachel to know who she is. To be assured at her touch. To snicker a little laugh at an inside joke. Vickie just wants Rachel to remember.
A couple of decades ago, Rachel came squalling into the Hughes family, a healthy, vibrant baby girl with a little more than the normal number of chromosomes and a whole lot more than the average amount of girlishness.
A little fairy of a child, Rachel loved pink and glitter and Cinderella wands. Her silky blond hair framed a face kissed by God Himself, a smile with dimples, and those lovely slanted eyes that marked her as different.
Everyone who knew Rachel relished the different—the grace and the light and the pure joy that wrapped her little frame from head to toe.
By the age of two, Rachel’s fragile body was attacked by leukemia. A battle raged with horrific force as her mother and father joined an army of souls to fight it back. Needles and drips and searing pain marked that little girl’s days. She thought the white-robed ones were enemies, the hospital a house of horror.
All she wanted was to go home.
After what seemed like forever, she did.
And she flourished there.
Years went by. Years of Barbie parties and pretend weddings and real wedding dresses. Dangly earrings and fresh cut bangs. Sandals with heels.
And pink, lots and lots of pink.
Then Crohn’s hit. And migraines. And hormone problems. And more pain.
My friend, Vickie, cared for little Rachel through many a long night of pain. She sang songs and read stories and played Barbie and stroked those silky blond bangs.
She and Dave stayed home when other parents went to the beach or out to dinner or otherwise flew the coop. Rachel needed them and so they stayed.
And so did her brother and sister. Teenagers who loved that little girl with a fierce kind of love. The kind that grows kids up in a hurry and creates a gentle waft of fragrance in their presence.
After a while, the battles subsided once again and Rachel came back full of all the vim and vigor of a true teenager. She carried purses with nothing in them and joined a cheerleading team and worshiped with her hands held high.
An angel in the pew.
And we all loved Rachel. She swept us into her world of fairy tales and beauty and everything good.
Never bold or bombastic, she just managed to leave in her wake a certain kind of smile, like a secret yet spoken. She was a lady and proud of it, with a little bit of girliness still lurking just under her sophisticated surface.
But then she began to fade. To draw away. Her mom noticed it first, the mumbling words and sinking deep. Rachel’s humor waned and with it her smile.
Something was wrong.
Once again a round of doctors. Tests. Wonderings.
But Rachel retreated further and further away, lost in a world of her own, rarely reachable.
Instead of dancing, Rachel straightened. She fussed and fixed and folded t-shirts over and over again. Had to get it right. Had to have the order her mind was missing. Had to do something to calm the swirling inside.
And then the diagnosis: Alzheimer’s.
What do you say to a parent of a teenager with Alzheimer’s?
Read that again.
A parent of a teenager with Alzheimer’s.
Wouldn’t you think my friend, Vickie, would be mad?
Ranting and raving and kicking the cat?
Or at least popping pills to alleviate the anguish?
Not Vickie, not a chance.
Instead this grieving mom is writing about birds’ nests and beauty and lessons learned in that shadow world. About hugging and memories goodnight songs. About letting go and holding on and allowing God to be good in the midst of all that bad.
Vickie is laying out lessons every harried mother needs to know. Lessons every family needs to grasp.
Lessons hard won and hardly ever learned.
I don’t know how long Rachel has in our real world or how long until she forgets.
I don’t know how Vickie can smile through the kind of pain no mother ought to suffer.
I only know this: there’s still an awful lot I don’t know.
I hear my Savior say to me in all my fussing,
you are worried about so many things.
But see your sister, Vickie?
She knows what’s really important.
She washes My feet with her tears and washes the world with her faith.
Go thou and do likewise.
Learning from a friend,
To learn from my friend, Vickie, click here.
- August 19, 2011
- My Heart