“Do my cool hands feel good, Mama?”
I watched from the bedside as my mother touched my grandmother’s face tenderly.
We had gathered around the frail eighty-eight-year-old woman to be with her in her final hours.
Actually, for my own mother, it hadn’t just involved a few days of care. Mother had been tending to her Alzheimer-ridden mother for the past several years.
My adolescent eyes had seen my mother serve my grandparents in so many ways. She had called repairmen and managed their finances. She had mopped their floor and taken them home-made left-overs. She had mended their socks and taken their dirty laundry home with her to mix with our own.
Each morning, Mother called her mom to let her know she was prayed for. As Grandmother’s dementia progressed, my mother often cried after those calls, but she continued to make them day after day to offer her encouragement and love.
Numerous times when Mother stopped by our rural grocery store, she picked up this and that, especially for my grandmother. Sometimes it was a box of crackers and sometimes a piece of fruit, but as often as not, it was a box of cherry cordials. “Mother loves these so,” Mama always justified.
When my parents moved my grandparents from their farm residence into the neighboring small town for better care, my Mother routinely carried Grandmother “well” water fresh from the ground source. As my grandmother drank deeply from the mouth of the Mason jar, my mother was satisfied knowing that she had taken an appreciated gift.
“This tastes so much better than the lake water you all get here, doesn’t it, Mother?” my Mom would always ask.
In her own quiet way, my mother was a busy woman, involved at our church and in her community. Yet, she always had the time to sit a while and talk to Grandmother, even when my grandmother’s speech began to deteriorate and her gaze became distant.
Years after my grandmother’s death, I read Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages” and knew I’d seen acts of service, quality time, words of encouragement, gifts, and physical touch in action as a child. My Mother had expressed each and every one to her own mother, as well as to me throughout my impressionable youth. “It’s just what we do for one another,” my mother would often say.
Parent toward child, child toward parent – each act of love was modeled and then matched. A mother wiping the tears of her child, then in the course of time, that same child turning to wipe her own mother’s eyes.
With my own mother and father both gone now, I wonder if I have reciprocated my Heavenly Father’s love toward me? Granted He doesn’t need my love – there is nothing that I can do for God – but isn’t there something about the true nature of love that is responsive? Isn’t that what it means to love with a whole heart? Have I responded to His spiritual acts of service, quality time, words of encouragement, gifts, and physical touch in some creative way with my own?
How about you? How do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30)?
My mother giving my sister her first birthday cake with Grandmother looking on from the doorway.