Yesterday I had a pleasant trip to South Carolina to visit with Cheryl’s mother. It was great to go for a drive even if the trip over was marked by heavy fog with drizzle and the trip back was blanketed with thunder showers and punctuated with multiple traffic jams due to accidents.
I had lunch with Josh and Bethany Bridges, Cheryl’s nephew and his wife. They are such a blessing. It’s refreshing to be with young people who are in love with Christ and involved in church ministry. Josh is the Youth Pastor at a Pentecostal Holiness church. They just completed a youth retreat with a real spiritual breakthrough for the youth of their church.
Thelma was a delight. I found her scooting along in her wheelchair way down the hall from her room. She recognized me immediately and seemed very glad to see me. She wondered where Cheryl was and remained confused about this throughout my visit.
It was cool for her to introduce me to all of the staff we passed. “This is my son-in-law.” Once she continued “He’s married to (pause), never mind, he is my son-in-law.” I guess I am married to “what’s-her-name.”
She asked me to take her home, “but not today, I’m not up to it.”
I asked if she wasn’t feeling well and she responded that she was fine, just getting over the flu (which was true).
I complemented her with “Well, Thelma, you sure look good.”
She grinned and replied “I didn’t ask you to say that (pause), but you did tell the truth. I look good for 100 and eight children.”
She’s 93 and only had four children -- that we know of.
She is in constant slow motion, pushing herself around in the wheelchair. Even when she was talking with me she was pushing back and forth. In a moment of clarity she realized her motion and said “I keep rocking back and forth.”
I asked, “Why do you think you are doing that?”
“It might be because my knee is hurting.” While rubbing her knee and without any hint of duplicity she continued, “I think my knees are going to give me problems when I get old.”
At one point she looked at me and said, "Cheryl will tell you what to do. (pause) Well she want tell you what to do, but she will tell you what she is going to do." No one has ever describe our marriage better.
She told me over and over how glad she was I came to visit and she continued “I love you; I have always loved you.” A couple of times she added as evidence of her love “I worked hard for your wedding; I worked hard for two weeks for your wedding.” And I thought, my wedding to “what’s-her-name.”
I am loved and remembered by a 93 year old with dementia who had refused to use my real name for the first fifteen years she knew me. I don’t know if God is blessing me or punishing her, or both. I suspect Thelma is living evidence of the grace of God toward all who call on His name. May her final days blossom more and more with the love of God and may she find inner healing for all her wounds.
March 13, 2010