O LORD, You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Psalm 139:1-6
I am not a stranger to my current situation. I have been here before. I have stood at the watershed moment that likely marks the beginning of the end for a parent. Like for so many other elderly parents, it's begun with a fall.
Some children lose their parents far too young. Others receive an unexpected phone call. Some of us have the opportunity to hold a hand and walk alongside our parent as God begins the preparation for the journey home. We do not know how long this journey will be, but we feel in our hearts the first step has been taken and the road will not likely turn in a different direction.
Each situation has its own unique grief and joy. Each situation offers its own blessings and opportunities.
While I certainly cannot predict this journey, having walked this path before I know some of the decisions ahead; decisions about levels of care; decisions about permanent moves or temporary; decisions balancing medications to offer palliative care rather than healing. Palliative care offers relief from physical, mental, and emotional stress in order to improve the quality of life. It is strange that this starts at the end of life. We could use this relief so much earlier.
I love the spiritual palliative care offered by the words of Psalm 139. My siblings and I feel hemmed in by the stresses and busyness of lives that do not stop when we need to care for our mother. We feel boxed in by the need to interpret doctors and nurses and share their information in a way our mother can understand. We feel a bit claustrophobic in terms of our ability to understand what the doctors are saying while reading between the lines of their communication.
We do not want to be here. But this is where God wants us to be. This is the work and ministry He sets before us. We are hemmed in, behind and before, but the weight we feel on our shoulder is not the weight of decision; it is the hand of God reminding us of His very presence in our lives, in our decisions, and in our mother’s care. Such knowledge is indeed too wonderful for us to comprehend. Instead we stand before Him, with one hand holding the hand of our mother. We stand blessed and loved and we take a deep breath before that first step. The path before us, while unknown to us is known to our Heavenly Father.
If this is your journey, too, know that God's comfort rests on your shoulder, also.
Abba Father, hear our prayer.