Mary Pedersen considers how her mother's journey through a childlike state brought on by dementia brought her mom closer to Jesus.
Mini-stroke after mini-stroke took its toll on Mom. Dementia stole her memory bit by bit. She remained mostly happy as she grew childlike. Mom continued to love life, play with children, and care for others.
During these years, she spent much of her time on the patio. She watched the clouds — for hours. With excitement, she’d say, “Look up. Look up.” For the first few moments, I’d look up and ooh and ah over the clouds. But soon I’d return to visiting with dad or finishing a task. And then Mom would repeat, “Look up!” I would appease her by nodding.
But one day, I kept raising my head. I began to see through her eyes. Each time, the clouds had moved, the sky had changed, the hues had deepened. Her spirit had noticed. Deep within, she knew all of life was changing. And though she was always faithful, I thought of how Mom’s spirit was becoming like a saint, a contemplative, or a child living in the moment.
As time wore on, Mom refused to wash her hair; once a meticulously groomed woman, she now had little concern for her appearance (she preferred her favorite stained sky blue sweatshirt — every day!) Eventually, she agreed to a weekly wash and trim at her favorite hairdresser. One day while sitting with Mom in the salon’s waiting room, a man struggled as he wheeled in his elderly wife. Bent in the wheelchair, the woman’s stringy gray hair fell into her face while drool slid down her chin. As I stared, Mom jumped up, headed straight to the woman, embraced her, and the two wept in each other’s arms. My mother, in her “compromised” state, recognized the stranger’s suffering and reached out with childlike compassion.
After work, I picked up hot fudge sundaes for Mom and Dad. I walked back to the patio on this glorious day in April. Dad appreciated my visit and reported Mom was out front. Soon she turned the corner with an enormous smile on her face. Though she couldn’t speak, her face radiated as she practically shook with joy. She held out her hands in childlike wonder, offering me a branch brimming with bright violet blooms. Before leaving their home, I invited Dad to meet us at a restaurant for dinner and he agreed. As the server poured our water, Mom collapsed in the booth. She later died from this massive stroke.
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Mom had become a child: depending on others for every detail of her life; living in the moment; seeing life with awe and wonder; showing deep compassion for others. #catholicmom
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus welcomes the child as He chastises the disciples:
“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:16)
Mom had become a child: depending on others for every detail of her life; living in the moment; seeing life with awe and wonder; showing deep compassion for others. I trust Jesus welcomed Mom with her childlike spirit, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as her!
Copyright 2021 Mary Pedersen
Images: (top) Canva Pro; all others copyright 2021 Mary Pedersen, all rights reserved
About the Author
Mary Pedersen serves as "first preacher" to six and grand-preacher to ten! She holds a doctorate in preaching from the Aquinas Institute of Theology, with her thesis, "Parents as First Preachers: Naming Grace in the Domestic Church." She writes and speaks on topics of faith and family, and has been known on probably far too many occasions, to shout out a woo-hoo! Mary blogs at MaryPedersen.com.