When Christmas Changes

Throughout our city, wherever we traveled, we heard it.Xmas pkg - hot choc

In grocery stores, libraries, Target and Wal-Mart — even during church services where it occurred in stereo sound — one person in the aisle echoed by someone across the room.

The Great Cough of 2016.

In spite of our vitamins, clean eating and daily spraying through the house with Lysol, my son and I both caught the Great Cough of 2016.

With all our plans for the holidays suddenly deleted, we dragged our pitiful selves to our respective recliners. The cat glanced back and forth as we coughed, trying to rid our bodies of what the doctors called “Upper Respiratory Infection.”

Christmas plans immediately changed. None of our usual holiday foods. I wasn’t cooking anything except chicken soup. Unwrapped presents waited in Amazon boxes. Worse, we were not able to spend Christmas with the family in Oklahoma.

We didn’t want to infect the entire clan, and truthfully — they didn’t want us within breathing distance. Why take our germs across the state line to risk the health of the children, my elderly mother and all the other relatives?

This was the first year since I served as a missionary in Honduras that I did not see my mother for Christmas.

We found an urgent care open on a Sunday. Bless the hearts of that medical staff! We armed ourselves with legal drugs. Thank you to the hard-working people at CVS! Fully medicated, we each returned to bed and slept late — when the coughing didn’t wake us up.

But Christmas happened in spite of illness. A few days later, my son’s girlfriend and her family invited us for a delicious meal and an evening of fun. We played table games, wearing hygienic gloves, trying not to cough on anyone.

The next day, we piled cough drops into my purse and escaped the sick house for a movie. I highly recommend “Collateral Beauty” with Will Smith’s poignant performance of a man dealing with intense grief. The twist at the end gave us plenty of conversation starters as we managed an evening breakfast at IHOP.

Then we again collapsed in our recliners. Still coughing, but finding some joy in TV shows. The Grinch tried to steal Christmas from Cindy Lou Who while George Bailey learned how he lived a wonderful life.

Our Christmas may have looked different and not what we planned but we survived it. The promised Messiah still came. The beauty of Luke chapter two remained solid and the twinkle lights on our tree reflected a glowing  angel at the top.

Hope survived our Christmas changes as gradual healing brought us upright to face a new year. The Great Cough of 2016 did not win, because Christmas is not about food, health, presents or travel.

Christmas incorporates the beauty of music, joy, light and a Love that forever transforms lives. No matter how we celebrate the season, the root of its beginning cannot change.

And in that security, we find hope in the eternal promise – Immanuel – God is still with us.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved.

For a holiday gift you can give to a hard-working caregiver, consider Holiday Tips for Caregivers. Available on Amazon and Kindle.

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Hope in the Gratitudes – Post 1

During the month of November, I want to focus on special gratitudes. Makes sense, right? During Thanksgiving month we should be grateful.November country

But this year, I want to dig a bit deeper than the usual, “Thank you for health, for food, for the roof over my head.

This year, the focus is a series of gratitudes on my current life or the people in my life.

Post One underscores gratitude for the beautiful life my mother lives.

Mom is currently in Stage Six of the Alzheimer’s journey. She can still dress herself, although I’ve noticed her hairdo needs a bit of tweaking. She can still feed herself and she eats well — gaining weight this year.

But confusion still reigns, and we never know which day may be more lucid than the other. She no longer knows her family members as the connections of relationships remain a puzzle. She often exists in the past, waiting for her parents or her husband to come pick her up and take her to town.

Last year, Mom recognized me by the connection with my son. If I said, “Caleb is working at Amazon,” she would nod and call me by name.

But that has changed. She remembers she has a grandson named Caleb, and she has a daughter who lives in the Kansas City area. But connecting us together and recognizing either of us is now gone.

We are in the stage of Alzheimers where it is comfortable and easy for the patient yet harder for the family and caregivers.

Mom is basically happier now that ever before. The Type A personality, busy all the time, is gone. She sits contentedly in her chair and reads her Bible or the same mystery novel over and over.

She sleeps, then rises for breakfast. She eats all her meals when they call her to the dining room. She attends activities, rides the shuttle to see the Christmas lights and plays Bingo several times / week.

No bills to pay. All that was settled long ago when papers were signed with the facility.

No chores to do. Even her laundry is washed, dried and sorted by others.

No stresses from life or job. She has no idea of current events. Rarely watches the news. Reads the paper but who cares about what’s happening when you have no desire to do anything about it?

Her life is filled with adjectives such as peaceful, safe, content.

Sometimes I envy her.

But mostly, I am grateful Mom has these days of quiet rest with nothing to look forward to but the next meal, the Bingo gathering or lights out.

And the only thing that’s better will be her next move – to heaven.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For more essays about the Alzheimers journey, check out Sometimes They Forget.

Who Are My Readers?

A royalty check arrives from my publisher at CrossRiver Media. My novel, “The Unraveling of Reverend G” has traveled to more homes and more hands. Someone is reading my words.3D Rev G cover

I look at the list and marvel at the numbers of people who read the story of Reverend G – these folks who follow her journey into Alzheimer’s and learn to love the characters: Gabriel, Chris, Roxie and all the others.

Who are these people who order my book and read it?

Some of them order directly from my publisher. That is good. I want my publisher to succeed and thrive.

Some use the popular Amazon site while others download my book onto Kindle with its electronic convenience. Are some of these people like my friend who has multiple sclerosis? Kindle makes it easy for her to turn pages.

Or are some of my readers like me who love to feel the texture of a book, to highlight favorite phrases, to read and reread the same page and experience the wonder of the words.

I stare at the list and pray.

Maybe some of these readers are like me, long distance caregivers who wonder how they can help their loved ones deal with Alzheimer’s when they live so far away.

Maybe some of them are the primary caregivers who live in constant stress within their 36-hour day. They need a respite, a place to laugh at the similes of Bert and the antics of Gabriel. I included funny stories in my book on purpose. We all need to laugh and seek joy.

Maybe some of my readers are ministers such as Reverend G, who know how it feels to have an Edna Simmons in the pew, an EGR – Extra Grace Required. Or maybe they are looking for ways to provide hope and encouragement to people in their congregations who struggle with Alzheimer’s and dementia, with death and discouragement.

For all of these, I pray.

Because this is why I write. This is why I come home from my ministry job and then work another couple of hours at my writing job. This is why I sit in my office and type on my laptop and let the words flow from my soul to yours.

I write to somehow share the hope that God is with us on this journey. We are not alone. That whether we are the readers or the writer, the words do have a purpose.

And although I may not know your name or where you live, I do know that God loves you and somehow he will use the words he has birthed in me to send you a message.

So I thank you, my readers. I thank you for the royalty check because life is reality and I need the money.

I thank you also for encouraging me to stay the course, to keep writing and telling the rest of Reverend G’s story.

I thank you for letting me enter your lives and share God’s hope.

©2013 RJ Thesman