Psalm 23 has new meaning to me now.
"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."
The Good Shepherd guides me through the pain of watching my dad's mind deteriorate, and all that it entails. I shall not want for anything, as long as I am resting in the Good Shepherd's care.
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul."
When the pain seems too much to bear, He shows me green grass, and tells me to lie down in it. He takes me for walks near calming, still waters. He restores my broken and restless soul.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me."
Though I am in a valley, and can see death's shadow, I will not fear it. The Good Shepherd is with me, His rod strikes the wolf of fear that threatens me, His staff hooks around me gently to guide me back when I lurk in dangerous places. I take comfort in His great Love and protection of me.
Back when I first found out my dad had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I was numb. Rather than face the pain at that time, I shut it out and just pretended like everything would be okay. My dad was denying it, too, so that made it easier. If I had brought it up, he would have only gotten angry.
In retrospect, though, I wish we could have talked about it. How it made him feel. How it made me feel. I wish I could have reached out to him, given him a hug to tell him how sorry I was, but I couldn't. He was in total denial. He didn't believe the doctors or any of the tests.
Now that I am facing the pain - more through being forced to than anything else since he is now in an assisted living home - I am finding that it is even more painful than I imagined.
One night I was lying in bed awake and told God, "I want my dad back."
That was after a particularly rough day, when my dad kept wanting something from me, but I had no idea what he was talking about. In times past, I was able to fill in the blanks and figure out what he wanted, but not this time. Nothing he said made sense, and yet, he expected me to understand. He kept saying, "If he won't do that, if he doesn't have enough money, I can help with that. I can give you the money." I racked my brain for ideas of what he might be trying to say and asked him all kinds of questions, but he couldn't understand my questions, and so we got nowhere. It was very frustrating. He was getting more and more agitated, and I was getting more and more frustrated, because I wanted to give him what he wanted or at least be able to answer him, but I couldn't.
There was another day I was with him at the assisted living home and there were other residents that were having issues. One woman, while rolling herself around in her wheelchair, kept repeating over and over, "It's all I have left in the world... it's all I have left in the world.." Then she would cry out very loudly in-between, a bone-chilling, shrill cry. Finally one of the male residents shouted out, "Oh will you just shut up!" So she did, and looked over at him very slowly, and said in a small voice, "What?" A worker there came over then and asked if she wanted to help set the tables for dinner, which she was happy to do.
Then there was the other woman who was slinking down in her wheelchair one day and started saying, "It hurts! Oh it hurts. Somebody help me." And then, "Please just shoot me now. Just shoot me. I want to die." Then she would be quiet and repeat it again. I wasn't sure if she actually needed help or if it was just her mental state. I was about to go get someone, but then they came and helped her readjust in her wheelchair, and she was fine after that.
Today, that same woman started crying out in pain again, but this time it was her chest and she was saying, "My chest! Oh my chest! What can I do? Can somebody help me?" and she was holding her chest. This time I went to get someone without hesitation. That's when I found out she was on Hospice.
So sad. Not just her, not just my dad, but all of them. I prayed for her silently right then, for all of the residents.
Another time, a resident was screaming in the hallway, "Stop it! You're hurting me!" And no-one was hurting her. My four-year-old daughter was with me that day. That's the day I decided that I would limit her future visits. She had been with me for the other incidents with the residents as well, and had also experienced her grandpa ignoring her for the first time when she told him she loved him.
I still want to run from the pain. Instead, I cry out to God, telling Him exactly how I feel (He knows anyway), and.... He gives me peace, and the strength to go on. He gives me little moments of joy along the way to help ease the pain.