Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mom's Slipping Away From Us, But I Know She Is Going to Be Ok

The following stories were first delivered in a speech I gave at 60 Minute Toastmasters, Courtenay BC, in early 2013.  


In the cabin my father built 13 miles down a dirt road outside the small town of Houston BC.

I’m three years old. I’m having a nightmare. I wake up. The darkness around me is palpable and chills me to my little 3 yr old bones.

"Mom, mom."

They don’t hear me.

With all my courage, I risk it all against whatever is lurking in the darkness, lifting off the covers, leaping out of bed and hustling into the next room where my parents sleep.

"Mom, mom, I had a bad dream." The fear is still in my voice.

Disoriented, she stirs. Sits up a little. Rubs sleep from her eyes. Sees me. In her mind everything clicks into focus. It is her little boy. Looking to the one who is strong, wise, safe, an anchor.

"Come on under the covers. Don’t worry David. I’m here. it’s going to be ok. God is with you. Do you want me to pray for you?" "Yes."

"Lord Jesus, please take away David’s fear, and let him know you are with him, and everything is going to be ok."

Calm slowly enters me again.

I’m going to be ok.

As I lay there nestled under the warm covers, it never in a million years occurred to my little mind that one day our roles would be much different.

December 2012.

I wake up in the night hearing a soft voice persistently calling for help.

I’m disoriented. Where am I? Whose voice is this?

Usually it’s a child’s voice. But this isn’t.

My wife, next to me in bed, says, “It’s your mom.”

In my brain everything clicks into focus.

We’re at my sister’s house in Victoria.

Mom’s been staying there for a while.

We’re there for three days giving respite care for mom while my sister and her family go on a needed vacation.

We’re grandma sitting.

I’ve known my mom my whole life, but this is entirely new territory for me. For us.

Since when is she the one getting me up in the night?

When did it all change?

The Parkinson's disease had snuck up slowly on her like grey clouds inching their way across what was a clear blue sky.

Probably 7 years ago now, I remember walking on the beach with her, and finding it odd that she was so stiff and unsteady navigating around a few friendly pieces of driftwood.

Now, about 7 years into the disease and 3 years into a diagnosis, she is like an old lady at 62. Sometimes she freezes altogether, unable even to budge another inch.

Occasionally she walks at a regular pace, the only sign of her disease an uneven, awkward gait.

Most of the time, she lives in slow motion, shuffling from one room to another carefully and with effort.

Some days she slurs and mutters her words, other days she is clear. Buttons and zippers – usually too difficult.

An on it goes.

But the bigger shock came just in the last year.

Like a thief in the night that will keep coming back until he has robbed the house bare, out of the blue, it struck.


I’d seen it in snatches during brief visits and phone calls over the past several months, but now living with her, the dementia confronted me fiercely and brazenly.

Here she was in my sister’s little house in Victoria now for a month, and she still got lost making the 10 foot trip from her bedroom to the bathroom.

“What room is this? Is this the bathroom?” “no mom, that’s the kids room.” Oh ok. She shuffles next into our bedroom.

Looks up. “Hey, that’s my picture! I painted that!” “You sure did, mom. You must have given that as a gift to Deirdre.” “yes, that’s right I did. I need to go to the bathroom. Where is the bathroom in this house?” “It’s just out here.”

Where did my mom go, the mom who was strong and wise and an anchor in my life?

Now she’s the one calling to me in the night.

There’s my wife again, in the darkness, placing her warm hand on my arm.

“It’s your mom David. You’d better go see what’s wrong.”

I stumble out of bed, out the door, to mom’s room. I try opening the door. Something’s blocking it.

“I’ve fallen out of bed. I’m on the floor. I’m very cold. I’m freezing. I need you to help me. I need you to help me.”

“don’t worry mom. I’m here. It’s going to be ok. I’m going to help.”

She’s completely blocking the door. It will only open a crack. I jam my arm through, feel for her, find her back.

“I’m going to give you a push, ok?”

As gently as I can, I slide her body along the varnished wood floor. Now I can move the door enough to squeeze through.

“I can’t stand up. I can't stand up. You’re going to have to lift me.”

I get my arms under her, dead lift her back into bed, get the covers on.

The next day, she’s feeling afraid.

We talk.

"I hate being so weak. Stiff. It’s so hard."

And she breaks down.

"What if I am losing my memory? What do I do?"

And I remember when I was a little boy. Afraid. Her presence comforted me and her faith pointed me to someone greater and stronger than both of us. And her faith is now mine.

And so I said, "mom, remember when I was small, and afraid, and you would comfort me, and remind me that God is with me, and he will never leave me, and it’s going to be ok."

"Yes, I did," she says.

"Mom, you’re trusting him, right?" “yes, I am.” She says definitely.

"Mom," I say with tears in my eyes.

"you may get more confused, one day you may not be able to even speak. And God will still be with you. And these diseases will not ultimately win. One day everything is going to be ok."

And she says, "I know."

And I can see calm slowly entering her again.

She’s going to be ok.

March 29.2016   Possibly my last visit with mom.  Acacia and I are heading back on the plane to Scotland this afternoon.  Mom is now nearly always confused and says very little.  She no longer walks or feeds herself.  And God is still with her.  And the diseases will not ultimately win, because Christ has redeemed mom by his death and resurrection.  One day soon for mom, everything is going to be more than okay.  She will be made new in the presence of her savior.   I love you mom.  Miss you already.  See you there.


  1. Brought tears to my eyes David. God is surely with your mom, always. Xoxo

  2. Inspiring words, thank you for sharing. Andres.

  3. This brought tears to my eyes also. My Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2012. We got her on medication as soon as possible, what a difference, like night and day literally overnight, but 3 years later even with the medication, she is back to being that little old lady you speak of, so frail. I am going back home to see her next month, my first trip home in almost 3 years since I moved to the USA from Vancouver Island. I miss her so much and worry all the time about her.
    Thank you for sharing your story, your words speak for many going through the same heartache. God bless.