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Opportunity for Grace, ignored

Jean and LaurenWe, like many of you, view our adult children's birthday with joy mixed with a sense of disbelief that they, once toddlers, now are mature, independent adults. For Jean, birthdays have always been special occasions celebrated in special ways, no matter what our personal circumstances were are. Cards, cakes, candles, presents were selected well in advance, hidden away and brought out on the great day so that our children could feel Jean's love, present always, but, on these occasions, made explicit once again. Memory for remote things intact, Jean will still look at photographs of past birthdays and often be able to describe the setting of that birthday with surprisingly accuracy.

Our youngest child's birthday falls on the day before the date of our wedding anniversary. That relationship now is somewhat smudged in Jean's memory. Reminded of our child's upcoming birthday, Jean will exclaim excitedly that we must select a birthday card and then will not remember it an hour later. Keeping Jean in some way at the helm of these annual celebrations is important to us as a way of trying to maintain in her a sense of autonomy, purpose and place. It has become more difficult as her Alzheimer disease progresses.

A month before our daughter's birthday was to take place, repeated offers to take Jean to the store to buy birthday cards (each child usually received several) were declined. So,birthday cards were purchased and placed on a writing table for Jean to write a birthday greeting. Repeated observations that our child's birthday were fast approaching were met with, "I will do it first thing tomorrow. It's too late for the mail pickup today anyhow".

How often do we not heed opportunities for grace!

I was completely oblivious to the fact that in these repeated delays Jean was really asking for help. While I was insisting on her taking action, as she had always done before, she was telling me that she needed my help in getting started. Blinded by insistence for Jean to return to the person she was years ago, caused me to ignore a wonderful opportunity for grace and mercy.

Finally! When Jean's message became clear to me, I sat down at the table with her, wrote my birthday greeting, handed her the pen to write hers and while Jean was doing that addressed and stamped the envelope. Together we then arranged for a gift to be delivered to our daughter. So simple a response, so late in coming.

Jean's "thank you" was as subtle as her requests for help: a smile, a kiss and a look of relief mingled with joy that her daughter would recognize her mother's special love on yet another birthday.

Robert Luchi