Seeking Hope After Christmas

Because I love Christmas, it is always a bittersweet challenge to pack up everything, tape the boxes closed and carry Christmas to the basement.mantel after Xmas

I simply cannot endure the thought of an entire year before I pull out the twinkle lights, caress my angel collection and replay memories associated with the ornaments.

This Christmas was especially difficult as my son had to work through the holidays. I missed being with him as I remembered Christmases past and the excitement of a little boy discovering his first drum set, a giant box of Legos and a package of plastic army men.

This Christmas also brought more confusion for my mother. Her Alzheimer’s side effects seem to peak during the holidays, when I long for her to remember the daughter she sewed for, the special box of books she placed under the tree with my name on the tag, my excitement when I opened that box and knew I would soon be transported into the mysterious world of Nancy Drew.

This year, Mom didn’t even remember that Dad now lives in heaven. Our quality time was nonexistent, and when I drove her back to assisted living – she argued about living there. She couldn’t even remember why someone had given her presents.

So to preserve some joy of the season, I rearranged my pearl lights on the mantel and merged winter accessories with pine cone candles. Just a touch of Christmas to lessen the loss.

But I needed more. I have learned the best way to preserve the joy of Christmas is to proactively use my Christmas cards. I keep them in a pile beside my Bible, then each morning throughout January and February, I choose one card and pray for that person or the family that sent the card.

I remember special friends and family members, clients and colleagues by reminding God of their importance in my life, lifting up their needs to the only one who can fulfill them.


It helps me tolerate the cold fingers of winter as I focus on the warm love of the God who transcends every season and time.


So as we move into 2016, let’s all try to find more tangible ways to seek hope.

Then next year during Christmas, we can celebrate with extra joy.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

How to Find Hope in a Published Book

With the release of “Final Grace for Reverend G,” the trilogy is complete. The gutsy little minister has challenged us to find hope even within the plaque-infested world of Alzheimer’s Disease.Rev G 3 Cover

On the eve of the release, I sat in my office and looked at the three books on my dream shelf. “The Unraveling of Reverend G,” acquired by Pamela Sonnenmoser for CrossRiver Media, not long before she graduated to heaven. The book that surprised even me, because I didn’t think I could write fiction.

Intermission for Reverend G” followed with its characterization of Alzheimer’s and a culmination of a romance between Reverend G and her soulmate, Chris. Another surprise for me because I don’t read romance. I still have no idea how that plot line happened and what made it so successful with my readers. Maybe because the characters were older and the idea of a romance with an Alzheimer’s patient was just flukey enough to be wonderful.

Final Grace for Reverend G” ended the trilogy and hopefully – it will become a best-seller with my readers, reminding us all that hope is eternal and God has a good plan for our lives – even when we face a serious disease.

As I looked at the books and realized the release date had arrived, I wondered – why am I not more excited? I didn’t even feel like celebrating with a bowl of Chunky Monkey ice cream or a slice of cheesecake with blueberries on top.


Was it because I missed Reverend G and the end of the series meant I had to finally let her go?


The publishing of a book is still a big deal to me. Even though I’ve been published before, these were my first novels. This story was real, because it mirrored what my family is going through with Mom. But it’s not the final release that is exciting, or the marketing and promotional activities.

It’s something else.

The achievement of writing and finding a publisher for three books is also a big deal. It marks another goal in my writing career, the answer to many prayers and the culmination of a dream. Seeing my books on library shelves and signing my name on the title page of each book during speaking events or booksignings – I still get chills up and down my arms.

But that doesn’t bring the most excitement.

What really does it for me is when I hear from readers, “Your books gave me ideas for how to deal with my dad. He has dementia, and we just didn’t know what to do.”

Or the CNA who shared the books with her colleagues, hoping they could all learn some new techniques for dealing with patients in assisted living.

The reader in Kansas who buys my books for her friend in Indiana, so she’ll have something encouraging to read as she watches her husband fade away in the last stages of Alzheimer’s.

Or the readers who emailed me, “I didn’t know we could pray so honestly to God. Reverend G taught us that it’s okay to cry out, ‘I can’t stand this.’”

When my readers learn something from the story, when they feel encouraged in their difficult journeys, when they find some hope, when they hear from God through the words he breathed through me – that’s exciting.

The end result of all the hours of writing, editing, revising, and doing it all over again to make it the best it can be is when all that perseverance pays off.

The excitement generates when people read my books and then buy them for someone else – to help another family dealing with the disease.

That’s when I know it was all worth it. And that’s when I’m encouraged to write another book, another blog post or another article so that this writer can somehow make a difference.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Hope Returns with a Bossy Mom

Several weeks ago, I drove to Oklahoma and spent an afternoon with Mom. For the first time in months, she was fairly lucid, bossing me, like her old self.heart - sunset

We took a walk around the perimeter of the assisted living facility, discussed the geese who sometimes fly onto the pond for a drink or goose fellowship – whatever geese do.

Mom remarked how nice the facility is and how glad she is to live there – a reversal of the attitude she sometimes displays when she demands, “Why am I here? Why did you kids do this to me?”

Heartache piled upon guilt.

But on this day, she seemed grateful, and I saw in her the personality I grew up with – the bossy Mom who made sure her kids read at least seven books each week, practiced their musical instruments and worked hard to complete their chores and finish their homework.

Suddenly, we were transported decades back as Mom became herself:

“You need to hem up those pants you’re wearing. They’re dragging on the ground.”

“I did hem them, Mom.”

“Well, you need to do it again – another inch at least.”

“Okay, Mom. When I get home.”

Then we walked to the dining room. Mom instructed me where to sit. “Grab that chair over there. Someone else will sit beside me.”

As the meal was served, Mom worried that I wasn’t eating. “How come you don’t have a plate? Do you want me to order one for you?”

“No. I stopped at Braum’s two hours ago. I’m not hungry.”

“Well, you’ll be hungry by morning. Do you want a cookie? I’ll get you a cookie.”

“No, thanks. I eat gluten free.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m allergic to wheat.”

“Well, that can’t be right. You grew up on a wheat farm and we had bread for every meal.”

“Exactly. That’s why I have an allergy to wheat.”

“Are you sure you don’t want a cookie?”

The nurturing of children continues into old age, even when the brain is infected with Alzheimer’s plaque. A mother longs to feed her children, to make sure they are never hungry, even if they’re just visiting, even if they’ve just eaten.

After the meal, we walked back to Mom’s room. “Do you want to watch the idiot box?” (Mom’s description for the TV).

“No. I’ll just sit here with you or read a book.”

“Yeah. There’s nothing on but junk anyway.” We sat in silence for a while, then suddenly – Mom looked at me, her glasses slightly askew. “Are you dating?”

“No. I’m pretty busy.”

“Well, you should be dating someone. I don’t understand why some wonderful man hasn’t snatched you up.”

It was the nicest compliment she has paid me in years. My throat began to fill with the tears of missing my mom, of not being able to call her and discuss my latest book, of no longer sharing a shopping trip or the latest crochet pattern or the encouragement of a Psalm.

“Thanks, Mom. That’s nice.”

“Well, I’m just askin’.”

For a few hours on a hot July afternoon, Mom and I connected on a level long past. She was again the bossy Mom, demanding answers and commanding me in directions she wanted me to take.

Once again, I was the daughter and our roles were clear, not reversed or confused in the dynamics of what Alzheimer’s does to families.

And for a few hours, we sat together in peace, two women – still joined by an emotional umbilical cord.

It was sweet. I know that may never happen again.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Stage 7 of Alzheimer’s – The Race is Won

As told by Reverend G …

How long will it take before I die?

Day after day and night after long night when I often don’t sleep – I watch for the light.

John 14-3It creeps under the doorway when everything is quiet in the hallways. Then it flirts with the window in the corner of my room as it changes from the mere beginnings of another day into the full-blown afternoon and then again – the silence of evening.

People come into my room and do things to me. They change my sheets and my clothes. They make me feel clean again. They help me go to the bathroom. I wish they didn’t have to do that, but I am so completely helpless.

Once I was a vital pastor who cared for her people and taught about God’s love. I am now a baby – an infant in an adult body.

How long will it take before I die? I am so ready to die, dear God. Will you please let me die?

I remember a beautiful piece of the Bible, and every day I think about these words, “Many homes are up there where my Father lives. Jesus is preparing them for my coming. When everything is ready, he will come and get me so that I can always be with him in heaven” (John 14:3).

I wonder what my home in heaven will look like. I am glad that it will be nothing like this room and this sterile bed where I wait to die.


It will be beautiful, because God is beautiful and he knows how to create the very best for me. No Alzheimer’s exists in heaven. No dementia. No illness of any kind. No more death.


Only great love and the light of God’s goodness, shining through everything – his holiness everywhere.

How long will it be before I get to see that light? I am so ready to be with Jesus.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G Books – http://bit.ly/1RH27AT

When Humor Eases the Alzheimer’s Journey

When our children are little, we keep a journal of their cute sayings, their trials with language and their funny mistakes. We laugh and share these moments with grandparents and any friends who will listen.smiley faces

When our parents become children because of plaque-laden Alzheimer’s, we still laugh at their funny stories. These moments aren’t as cute at age 80+, but laughter provides the necessary impetus to make it through another care-giving day.

So when I share the funny things Mom has done, I’m not mocking her or making fun of her. I hope to encourage other caregivers, to share a common bond and to keep humor as one of our coping mechanisms.

Last week, Mom lost her bobby pins. Although she is scheduled for the salon each week, she still fixes her hair every night with tiny curls held in place with bobby pins.

But now, her bobby pins are gone and Mom is convinced they were stolen. “People come into my room at night. And while I’m sleeping, they steal my bobby pins off my head.”

I don’t know why Mom thinks bobby-pin fairies need her particular bobby pins, but when things mysteriously disappear – she always believes someone has stolen them.

The issue of losing possessions and accusing others of theft appears in the Reverend G books. Follow the story and find out how Reverend G’s son deals with the disappearing / stolen angels. http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

The bobby pin story kept us laughing for a while, until Mom lost her bridge and the teeth attached to it. In spite of an application of extra cement by the dentist, Mom managed to loosen her bridge, yank it out of her mouth and then lose it.

Again, she was convinced, “Someone stole my teeth.”

My sister asked, “Why would someone steal your teeth? What would they do with them?”

Always ready with an answer, Mom said, “They could take them to the dentist and trade my bridge for their new teeth.”

The visual flashed through my mind of an older woman carrying a plastic sack filled with stolen teeth. She walks into the dentist’s office and asks, “How much will you give me for these? I need dentures and I’m trying to save money.”

It sort of gives a new significance to the tooth fairy.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Sits With My Child

Because of our busy schedules, we rarely see each other. This boy child who has become a man in such a short time – my only living child, my son.

Yet each time we are together, the emotional bond feels as strong as if we had never experienced a separation. We sit in the living room, watching the news or a rerun of Blue Bloods. We switch to ESPN and cheer for the Jayhawks.

sitting on sofasAcross those few feet in my living room, the emotional umbilical cord stretches. We are content to merely sit and be.

A certain joy exists when the child becomes an adult and the two of us can share the same space without the hormonal conflicts of a male teenager and a menopausal woman.

This peace indeed is a palpable blessing.

When I visit my mother in assisted living, we share the same bond. Though the roles are reversed and I am now the child – still we find a peaceful coexistence in the moment.

We watch television or not. We read or not. We sit silently without conflict, knowing that just being together is precious.

Until I sat with my child, I did not realize the pure treasure of sitting with a loved one.

No need for conversation. No stress to finish a chore. No desire to fix a meal or hurry anywhere.

Just the quiet assurance that we are together. Each of us knows a time will come when we cannot share such a physical space.

A sacred communion. An extraordinary gifting.

On either side of this juncture, I cherish the bond. Knowing my child will one day leave, certain my mother will graduate to heaven.

And I will be left – to savor this fragile breath we have shared and find hope that in the future – we will sit together again.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Hope Inspires When Art Becomes Life

Oscar Wilde opined that life often imitates art, but once in a while, the philosophy reverses and art becomes life. I’ve seen it happen with my Reverend G series and recently, it happened again.Art-Becomes-Life

In the third Reverend G book – to be released late spring, 2015 – Reverend G purchases birthday cards for her son, Jacob, long before she begins to recede into the shadows of Alzheimer’s. She wants to celebrate with him even when she no longer remembers his birth date.

My son recently celebrated his 29th birthday and he received an interesting card from his grandmother. Although Mom hasn’t read any of the Reverend G books nor have I told her anything about Book # 3, art became life.

My sister found a birthday card for Caleb that Mom purchased several years ago, signed and wrote Caleb’s name on the envelope. In her tiny scrawl were the same words she once used for all his birthday cards, “Love you bunches – Grandma Arlene.”

Did she have some sort of premonition that this one card would be sent when she no longer remembered dates, when time itself became an extinct commodity in her mind?

Did she hope that her first grandchild would still cherish the grandmother who sits in assisted living and makes up stories that she believes are true? Did she want him to know that although she cannot remember his age or his career, she cares enough to ask the same questions over and over, “How’s Caleb? Is he doing okay? Tell him I think about him all the time.”

Did she wonder if she would still be living when that card was delivered? Or would it be the last greeting she would send to this boy she has loved?

When art becomes life, it gives me pause as a writer. Because I dedicate my words to the One who is the Word, I wonder how much of what pours out of me will manifest in the future.

Writers often use words for therapy as many of our past experiences show up in our books and characters. But we also face the responsibility of knowing that the words we use today might actually become reality tomorrow.

In that case, it behooves Christian writers to be even more cautious and ever alert for the voice of the Word within.

May the words of my mouth and those of my pen be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Savior and my God.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo