Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cats, Chocolate, and a Glass of Wine

This post is not for the faint of heart. It's not for those who judge whether dancing, bare arms, or a glass of wine makes or breaks a Christian. It's for those who have had one heck of a day. It's for those who wonder when they are going to have a good day again. And for those who are drug out, tired, and frazzled. And maybe sad. And real.

Tonight I came home from the nursing home knowing the end is coming for my mom. (No, this isn't a weepy-pity-me-kind of post either.) She's 63, paranoid schizophrenic, diabetic, oh what the hay-she's really sick and the list goes on and on. She might live past this week, but it would be pretty amazing. It's so hard to watch her struggle for air and listen to the rattle in her chest. Trying to wake her up to eat was another painful experience. I felt so inept and useless.

"Mom? Can you open your eyes? Can you see my son? He came to see you...Mom?" I touched her face. I cupped her cheek. I leaned my head against her chest to hear the rattle. It's called a death rattle. Death rattle-more like a rattle snake waiting to strike. Tears ran down my cheeks. This frail woman who alternately loved me, or didn't recognize me, and drove me nuts with her mental illness. She couldn't figure out some days if she was my mother or my child or me. This woman who rocked me and sang to me and later grounded me for imaginary grievances. This woman who ran from the FBI or the CIA or me. This is my mom.

I fought the grief. "Mom? Come on open your eyes." I adjusted the oxygen tubing to avoid stepping on it.

An eyelid wiggled. Her head sagged farther down her chest as she sat in the wheel chair. No go.

My son struggled for composure. His eyes turned glassy and bloodshot, but he refused to let the tears fall. Not yet.

This woman he watched fade always made him a Christmas present. It was never logical. But he learned to appreciate the love and effort behind the gifts. And sometimes we had a good laugh later at the odd names she put on the gift tags.

His face blushed, but no tears fell even as her head fell again deeper into her chest.

Some of you have already been through this end-of-life stage. Some of you are just plain having a rotten day. I want to draw your attention to the little things God puts in our lives to help us through freaking bad days like today. Yep, I use that word in my "real" live bad habit talk. Yeah, I know. But today's not the day to worry about it. Some days just aren't. Don't try to be perfect, be real.

Here's the deal. Often we cry out something to the effect of, "Where are you God? I can't feel you!" Then we push away the people we love, the animals we supposedly care for, and things that make us feel better.

Have you done that? I have. I've stood in my kitchen and screamed at the ceiling. I've terrified my poor dogs. I've been so mad at the Big Guy! You haven't? Hmm, have you had those feelings and just not done the screaming? If not, why not?

But tonight no screaming at the sky-- tonight, God sent me a hug from two of my sons. Unbidden, just given. Not fast or obligatory. Warm, open hugs from my sons.

I melted into their arms in such a sweet release of tension. It steamed out of me like a lid lifted off a pot. You could almost see the tension hit the air and float away in a white puff. They are both a bit bigger than me. I felt enveloped in love several times. Neither knew the other had given the hugs. Neither stopped at one. I am so blessed by the comfort the Lord sent through my sons.

I experienced a piece of dark chocolate. The luxuriant feel of the candy swirled across my tongue. I pressed it to the roof of my mouth smoothing the silky confection. I realized mom wouldn't do that again. She wouldn't taste the delicacy of this pleasure. Her next ecstacy would be the banquet table with Christ. I felt okay with that thought. Her morsel would taste better than this crumb ever could. I explored the possibility of something tasting better than dark chocolate to me. Can you imagine the food in heaven?

Then my dog, Louie, wouldn't leave my side all night. His head snuggled my leg or pressed into my hand. He's a big black lab cross. Super soft ears, with blue-black fur made for petting. I did pet him. A lot. He slept on my feet. A lot.

Adi, one of my three cats took the first watch. She snuggled in my lap with utter trust and contentment while I sat at my computer. I moved to let the dog out and the next big, fluffy gray bundle shot in out of the snow for his turn. Ted tucked his chin up under mine like my arms were the most important place on earth. He pushed his head further up into my long, dark hair and slung his furry paws about my neck. I stood there, at the kitchen door, a long time while he rubbed his ears against mine. A little later Rosie, the fattest black cat you've ever seen, hopped up next to me on the couch. Her fur, softer than velvet, felt warm and real. She stayed there as long as I did. Again, a long time. I stroked her chin, ears, and head while I mused at the rich color of her coat.

My husband brought me a drink. I reached out to accept the glass of sweet, white wine. He'd pulled it out without even asking if I'd like some wine. He knows my favorite is Hogue Late Harvest Reisling. A dessert wine. One glass. A thoughtful gesture.

Proverbs 31:6-7 says, "Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more."

No, this isn't about the debate of wine or no wine. It would not be in the right context for this post. I recognize some religious beliefs don't agree. The Bible is as full of examples of drinking wine appropriately as it is of avoiding it inappropriately. 'Nuf said.

God communicates to us in so many ways like the hugs he sends, the creative displays of affection from our animals, and the joy of taste. He gives our hurt rest through distraction, comfort in the repetitive action of petting an animal, surprise in a simple gift of wine.

Sometimes when I reflect back over a bad day, I recognize the tactile comfort God provides me. The senses He uses to reach our hearts and touch us in our real, physical bodies. The ones I sometimes miss if I'm too caught up in me.

Where are you God?

He responds, "Right here, in this place, with you. Touch, taste, and feel."

What ways do you think God has reached out to you lately?



  1. Angie,
    Animals are truly therapeutic. My Lab loves to rub his huge body against my leg to let me know he loves me. My Bulldog notifies me when my temper's flaring and keeps my feet warm at night. I think God uses animals when we need them most, even when we don't realize we need them! You are blessed to have your husband and children by your side, also.

    For me, God used the birth of my daughter to remind me of the miracle of Him and His promise to us through His Son. God used my mother in-law through her gift, to my husband and I, of a beautiful portrait that hangs over my desk. She bought it to keep us all moving forward after a devastating loss several years ago. I STILL look to the portrait and the scripture on that print to this day and it will be a part of the book I've written.

    The title of the print is "Clinging to the Cross"

    The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him. Nahum 1:7.

    I can't read the artist's name on the print (The first letter is D....) But just looking at the print gives me peace and encouragement, as does the scripture that is printed below it. I hope this scripture can be an encouragement to you too.

  2. Angie,
    Our prayers are with you and your mom. You have such a rounded view of life, God and all things important. You see the good, the bad and handled them and the realms between as someone who knows where her happiness and joy really comes from. It's not the earthly things.
    I'm glad you found contentment and peace in your way.
    Shoot- cats, wine and chocolate sound pretty good to me.
    And the thing is you're not denying, procrastinating, or hiding.
    You're being real.
    Thank you.

  3. Angie, I wish I could handle a bad day with the grace you did. Even in the pits, you were able to recognize God's presence in the little things. When I grow up, I want to be just like you.

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  5. You all a also a great source of encouragement. I hope that your words pour out across the earth to help others as well as me.

  6. Angie,

    I really appreciate your post. It was touching and thought provoking.

  7. Angie,

    I'm sorry for the pain you are feeling. I'm so glad God reaches out when we are hurting and brings comfort to us.

    God reached out to me last night and I'm still in awe. It's too long to type into here, but it's on my blog if you want to read it.

    Hang in there. Oh and cats (we have three plus two dogs), chocolate and wine sound relaxing. Well, I find wine bitter - haven't tried the right kind I guess, but I like daiquiris.

  8. Dear Angie--

    I'm so sorry about your mother. Thank you for this beautiful expression of faith.

    I, too, believe God ministers to us through many things--including our animals. We were going through a terrible, dark time during which we could find nothing to rejoice about except a blond cocker spaniel who made us laugh.

    Jane Myers Perrine

  9. Thanks so much to all of you. I'm very touched by the loving and supportive things you shared with me.