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On Putting Mom in a Nursing Home

            I watched the bright morning sun set the red- orange- and golden-leafed trees ablaze against a Hoosier sky of crystal blue.  There was little or no wind and the drive was quiet.  Time seemed to have stopped in order to create a series of picture-perfect postcard scenes—an illusion.   For time never stops and the evidence of its ravages lay beside me in the form of my mother tied to a gurney in an ambulance on the way to a nursing home.

            Mom had been in a rapid decline for the past five months, and I had flown in the previous night to help my sister carry out the painful charge of putting our mother in a nursing home.  She and my brother-in-law had faithfully and ably cared for Mom in their home for the past two and a half years.  Mom’s dementia and increasingly debilitated physical condition had made care for her by them impossibly difficult, and they were exhausted.

            So there I sat in an ambulance with Mom, noticing the beautiful autumn day to which she was oblivious.  Her obliviousness to the beauty of God’s creation and advancing detachment from those around her struck me as the most tragic part of her condition and indeed of the human condition.  A life well-lived is vibrant; its heart attune to the tabernacle for the sun, the love of family and friends and all that this world has to offer.

            As I reflected on the sorrow of life nearing its end, it occurred to me that Mom’s condition is God’s final mercy in this fallen world.  The lack of interest in her surroundings is perhaps God’s way of weaning us from a wonderful, albeit terribly flawed, world and preparing us for one of eternal joy.

            Many years ago we gave Mom a silly Mother’s Day card that read, “What do you get for working your fingers to the bone?  Boney fingers.”  She had laughed and laughed at it.  In the nursing home I kept seeing those hands thin with age and gnarled by arthritis. 

            Tuesday the Cair Paravel Poetry Club met.  Our assignment had been to write a poem using the word “fret.”  As I thought of Mom’s hands, the image of a fretted guitar came to mind.  I wrote the following three haikus about it. 


Arthritic hands clenched.

Fretted guitars of mother’s love,

Music being silenced.


Arthritic hands clenched,

Fretted guitars of a life,

Music remembered.


Arthritic hands clenched.

Two guitars fretted with cares,

Signs of life well played.


May God bless you all.

4 thoughts on “On Putting Mom in a Nursing Home

  1. Thoughtful and very meaningful words in honor of your mother. Thanks, Bill… and greetings from southern CA where we’re on a ministry trip.

  2. Bill, this is so lovely and heartfelt. I have cared for folks with various dementias for a number of years and have some understanding of that day, your drive and even some of your feelings. The haikus are wonderful, and vivid in their symbolism. Your Mother and her bony fingers were very fortunate to have you and the rest of her family for so many LUCID years, and all the rest as well. Thanks so much, your other bony fingered mama. (so happy I can still multiply…)

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