Susan C. Anthony

Young Dennis and his motherMother's Day

Happy Mother's Day, all you moms!

The fifth commandment, written by the very finger of God on a tablet of stone is:

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

Two weeks ago today, we were with my 87-year-old mother in the Midwest. I have many pleasant memories of my childhood. Everybody loved my mom. She was an all-American, apple pie mom. She never had a regular job or even drove a car. That was the norm in my neighborhood in those days. She was always there for me and my two younger brothers.

When I was young, my dad was away from home much of the time, trying to earn a living. Times were hard, and jobs were scarce in our area. He worked in the shipyards in California, then went to Canada to work on the Alaska highway and finally joined the Navy at the end of World War II. Sometimes I didn't see him for a year or more. My grandparents lived next door, and they took my mom and me under their wings during that time.

My dad's friends were men, they guys he worked with, fellow ski jumpers, golfers. In many ways, my mom and dad led separate lives.

When Susan and I visited my parents in 1987, we noticed that Mom was unusually forgetful, that she repeated stories, and most disturbing, that she believed little people were coming into her home and stealing from her at night. The change was more apparent to me than to Dad or my brothers because they were with her all the time. They'd adapted to the gradual changes.

Several years later, Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, or, as Susan's grandpa phrased it, "Old Timer's disease." Dad took care of here at home as long as he possibly could. Finally, he had no option but to place her in a nursing home.

The long gradual decline went on and on, to the point that she is no longer aware of anything. She rarely moves, speaks or even opens her eyes.

Most people would think that what has happened to my mom is one of the worst things that could possibly happen. They'd wring their hands, call in specialists, be angry at God, or become depressed. We've adapted. This is just the way it is.

Mom has been in the nursing home now for eight years. Every time we go back, some of the old familiar faces at the facility have been replaced by new ones. Nobody leaves there alive.

You might ask, "What is the purpose?" "What good could possibly come out of this for her or anyone else?"

Well, I've come to understand that things we perceive to be curses can conceal great blessings. God sees things from a different perspective than we do. Isaiah 55:8-9 says:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Since Mom went into the nursing home, my dad has gone there to feed her every day with the exception of two weeks he came here. Every day for more than eight years. All the time I was growing up, I never heard him say "I love you" to my mom or me or anyone else. He treats her with so much tenderness. He holds her hand, kisses her, and tells her he loves her. The first time I heard him say that, I couldn't believe it!

You'd have to know my dad to understand. Susan says I procrastinate, but my dad is in a class of his own. He used to run out of gas all the time. Once we ran out of gas in the middle of a one-lane bridge over the Mississippi River. The traffic backed up for miles in both directions. Finally, someone pushed us off the bridge.

A few years ago, he complained about his phone bill. We looked at it and discovered he was still paying rent on a 1950s-style rotary dial phone he'd lost years before.

My mother is getting excellent care in a Catholic nursing home. It costs about $4000 a month. I have no idea where the money comes from, and what's worse, neither does my dad. He keeps assuring me he'll check into it!

A second amazing blessing has come out of this. My mom used to be afraid of black people. We lived in an all-white neighborhood with mostly Germans and Scandinavians. When I was in high school, only one of the 2,500 students enrolled was black. He was the best football player we ever had and helped us win a state championship.

When we would go downtown and Mom saw a black person or one got on the bus, she would be terrified. She had a nightmare that a black person would hurt her someday.

Now, nearly all her caretakers are black, most of them recent immigrants from Africa. We know them on a first-name basis and they love to share stories of Africa. They're thrilled that we've been to Africa, and even to some of their home towns. We couldn't ask for better caretakers. The people she once feared are lovingly doing all they can to make her life easier now that she can no longer even thank them.

So although my mother isn't at all aware of anything, she still brings blessings to people around her.

None of us knows what our fate will be, or how the final chapters of our life will read. But if we give Jesus authority over our lives, he becomes the author of the story of our life. We can trust that He knows what He's doing.

Go on to read The Six Day War
Source:, ┬ęSusan C. Anthony