Our Keepsake Journal is Here! 🎉

When we were kids, it was that magical time after dinner when the fireflies were just beginning to dance and the street lamps were starting to buzz as they came to life. Time for most of the neighborhood kids to hear their moms call them in for the night. But sometimes, we were granted bonus time, and those few minutes were the best, for telling scary stories or playing one more game of hide and seek.

When we were a little older, bonus time meant a few extra minutes to add the perfect ending to an essay question on the test or to look over your work to be sure nothing was misspelled and that you’d remembered to put your name on your paper.

Then, bonus time meant a little longer to say goodnight to your boyfriend on the front porch and sneak a kiss between the blinking of the Christmas lights, all the time willing your fingertips to please stay warm inside your coat pockets.

Now, bonus time has taken on a whole new meaning as my sisters and I struggle with our 90-year-old Mom’s dementia diagnosis. A little more time to share an impossibly purple sunset and hear her exclaim how beautiful it is and how happy she is that we were able to see something so magnificent together. I revel in her enthusiasm with tears in my eyes, grateful for another memory, snapping a picture of the sky with my phone because she has misplaced her non-existent camera. I know full well that she won’t remember this even a few minutes from now when I show her the picture on my phone, because that’s how it happens with this dementia thing as it insidiously steals our mother away. But for this precious, outstandingly bittersweet moment, she is with me.

More than once, each of us sisters has wondered about the why of it, the unfairness of it, the uncertainty of our moments together with our mother. No one would wish this existence for her, especially her. There are the agonizing times she tries to make sense of things and can’t, when she tries to rectify years gone and facts in her mind that seem a reality but can’t be. She worries about her little dog, Laddie, and how he is being fed if she isn’t home to take care of him . . . the dog that was hers 80-some years ago.

And it’s in those moments I thank heaven I’m not God, having to make the decision that this existence is no longer worthwhile, that our bonus time has come to an end. Because through all of the tough times, we have been blessed to keep the best of our mom. She remembers all of our names, our husbands, our kids and grandkids. She remembers that my favorite holiday is Halloween, that my youngest sister is the only one who drinks coffee because our babysitter allowed her to sip from her coffee cup, that our middle sister slipped from the top of the swingset and had to get stitches because she was the tomboy of the group. And she’s still creative and funny and social, to the point that she’s often in the hallway organizing all the wheelchairs so folks can share stories and be together.

When Mom can’t remember something, she wings it, weaving delightfully creative stories that the nurses often ask us about. “Did your Mom really grow up on a farm? She told us how wonderful warm milk straight from the cow tastes.” Nope. “Sounds like she was quite a teacher; she’s shared some of her classroom memories with us” Nope again.

One of the nurses aides told me shortly after mom arrived that she thinks the residents of  the memory assistance ward have better “realities” than those of us in the real world could ever imagine. 

But the futility of it all is frustrating, and sad, and so very uncertain. Mom doesn’t want to be there, wherever “there” is to her. Some days she believes she is due at work, or is supposed to be home to cook dinner for our deceased stepdad who is going to be mad that she isn’t there, or is staying at a nice hotel that she can’t possibly afford. She can’t find her purse and she isn’t staying and this isn’t her room and she won’t eat because they will charge her for everyone at the table and they’re all complete strangers, and she never imagined her daughters would leave her alone in an unfamiliar place instead of caring for her in their homes.

But to be honest, I have to admit that those long remembered bonus times weren’t perfect, either. Some of those late evening forays as kids ended up with skinned knees or painful chigger bites. Once, in an extra-innings baseball game, my sister was accidentally hit in the mouth with a bat because it was too dark to see.

And how many times did those few extra bonus minutes at the end of a test mean that I second-guessed a perfectly correct answer and changed it? Or that I added superfluous drivel to an essay answer that detracted from the point I was trying to make?

My dad obviously caught on to the blinking Christmas lights and stolen bonus moments with my boyfriend when he removed the bulb that caused the strand to blink and we were standing on the front porch freezing under a brightly lit overhang.

Bonus time is fickle. Some days, my mom is lucid and looks lovingly at her 70 year old wedding album, remembers guests and the wedding party and shares wonderful stories of our grandparents dancing at the reception.

Other days, she is tired and can’t be roused and we worry this may be the day Mom will simply slip away from us. There will be no more starring moments in the memory challenge games when she remembers old song lyrics and movie stars and phrases that no else in the room does, no more giggles over inside family jokes, no more trips to check out other residents’ door decorations, when she tells me I must be tired of walking and asks if I don’t want to sit in her wheelchair and have her push me for awhile.

There is beautiful artwork in the dining room and hallways of the nursing home. As we walk, one piece always catches Mom’s eye more than the others. It’s a large mural depicting a small cottage by the sea, sittting in the shelter of a snow-capped mountain, and surrounded by colorful flowers. Close up, we marvel at the dabs of paint that make up each petal, each corner of a cloud. From a distance, we see the depth of the distant city and the shadow of a sidewalk that leads to the cottage door.

Mom doesn’t know what day it is, how many years have passed since the orchard she believes we can still pick apples from was bulldozed for a new homesite, how long the neighbors she speaks to each day have been gone. But she never fails to wheel herself to that seaside painting and comment that she swears she could walk right onto that sidewalk and knock on the cottage door.

I like to imagine that will be how it happens for her when our bonus time is over. And how delighted everyone on the other side of the door will be to welcome her home.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Vicki Bahr

I'm a mother of four, grandmother of nine, wife of John for fifty two years, an incurable optimist, word lover, and story sharer. I've worked and played at many careers, from proofreader to preschool teacher, businesswoman to human interest newspaper columnist to medical records clerk. Each path has afforded me the opportunity to appreciate the warmth of humanity and to hopefully spread a lifetime of smiles, empathy, and God's inspiration along the way. My life continues to be one of delight. With experience comes understanding, with understanding comes peace.

I Thought Our Friendship Would Be Unbreakable

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Two friends selfie

The message notification pinged on my phone. A woman, once one of my best friends, was reaching out to me via Facebook. Her message simply read, “Wanted to catch up and see how life was treating you!”  I had very conflicting feelings. It seemed with that one single message, a flood of memories surfaced. Some held some great moments and laughter. Other memories held disappointment and hurt of a friendship that simply had run its course. Out of morbid curiosity, I clicked on her profile page to see how the years had been treating her. She was divorced and still...

Keep Reading

The First 10 Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking

In: Journal, Marriage, Relationships
The First Ten Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking www.herviewfromhome.com

We met online in October of 2005, by way of a spam email ad I was THIS CLOSE to marking as trash. Meet Single Christians! My cheese alert siren sounded loudly, but for some reason, I unchecked the delete box and clicked through to the site. We met face-to-face that Thanksgiving. As I awaited your arrival in my mother’s kitchen, my dad whispered to my little brother, “Hide your valuables. Stacy has some guy she met online coming for Thanksgiving dinner.” We embraced for the first time in my parents’ driveway. I was wearing my black cashmere sweater with the...

Keep Reading

To The Mother Who Is Overwhelmed

In: Inspiration, Motherhood
Tired woman with coffee sitting at table

I have this one head. It is a normal sized head. It didn’t get bigger because I had children. Just like I didn’t grow an extra arm with the birth of each child. I mean, while that would be nice, it’s just not the case. We keep our one self. And the children we add on each add on to our weight in this life. And the head didn’t grow more heads because we become a wife to someone. Or a boss to someone. We carry the weight of motherhood. The decisions we must make each day—fight the shorts battle...

Keep Reading

You’re a Little Less Baby Today Than Yesterday

In: Journal, Motherhood
Toddler sleeping in mother's arms

Tiny sparkles are nestled in the wispy hair falling across her brow, shaken free of the princess costume she pulled over her head this morning. She’s swathed in pink: a satiny pink dress-up bodice, a fluffy, pink, slightly-less-glittery-than-it-was-two-hours-ago tulle skirt, a worn, soft pink baby blanket. She’s slowed long enough to crawl into my lap, blinking heavy eyelids. She’s a little less baby today than she was only yesterday.  Soon, she’ll be too big, too busy for my arms.  But today, I’m rocking a princess. The early years will be filled with exploration and adventure. She’ll climb atop counters and...

Keep Reading

Dear Husband, I Loved You First

In: Marriage, Motherhood, Relationships
Man and woman kissing in love

Dear husband, I loved you first. But often, you get the last of me. I remember you picking me up for our first date. I spent a whole hour getting ready for you. Making sure every hair was in place and my make-up was perfect. When you see me now at the end of the day, the make-up that is left on my face is smeared. My hair is more than likely in a ponytail or some rat’s nest on the top of my head. And my outfit, 100% has someone’s bodily fluids smeared somewhere. But there were days when...

Keep Reading

Stop Being a Butthole Wife

In: Grief, Journal, Marriage, Relationships
Man and woman sit on the end of a dock with arms around each other

Stop being a butthole wife. No, I’m serious. End it.  Let’s start with the laundry angst. I get it, the guy can’t find the hamper. It’s maddening. It’s insanity. Why, why, must he leave piles of clothes scattered, the same way that the toddler does, right? I mean, grow up and help out around here, man. There is no laundry fairy. What if that pile of laundry is a gift in disguise from a God you can’t (yet) see? Don’t roll your eyes, hear me out on this one. I was a butthole wife. Until my husband died. The day...

Keep Reading

I Can’t Be Everyone’s Chick-fil-A Sauce

In: Friendship, Journal, Living, Relationships
woman smiling in the sun

A couple of friends and I went and grabbed lunch at Chick-fil-A a couple of weeks ago. It was delightful. We spent roughly $20 apiece, and our kids ran in and out of the play area barefoot and stinky and begged us for ice cream, to which we responded, “Not until you finish your nuggets,” to which they responded with a whine, and then ran off again like a bolt of crazy energy. One friend had to climb into the play tubes a few times to save her 22-month-old, but it was still worth every penny. Every. Single. One. Even...

Keep Reading

Love Notes From My Mother in Heaven

In: Faith, Grief, Journal, Living
Woman smelling bunch of flowers

Twelve years have passed since my mother exclaimed, “I’ve died and gone to Heaven!” as she leaned back in her big donut-shaped tube and splashed her toes, enjoying the serenity of the river.  Twelve years since I stood on the shore of that same river, 45 minutes later, watching to see if the hopeful EMT would be able to revive my mother as she floated toward his outstretched hands. Twelve years ago, I stood alone in my bedroom, weak and trembling, as I opened my mother’s Bible and all the little keepsakes she’d stowed inside tumbled to the floor.  It...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Friendships End, No Matter How Hard You Try

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Sad woman alone without a friend

I tried. We say these words for two reasons. One: for our own justification that we made an effort to complete a task; and two: to admit that we fell short of that task. I wrote those words in an e-mail tonight to a friend I had for nearly 25 years after not speaking to her for eight months. It was the third e-mail I’ve sent over the past few weeks to try to reconcile with a woman who was more of a sister to me at some points than my own biological sister was. It’s sad when we drift...

Keep Reading

Goodbye to the House That Built Me

In: Grown Children, Journal, Living, Relationships
Ranch style home as seen from the curb

In the winter of 1985, while I was halfway done growing in my mom’s belly, my parents moved into a little brown 3 bedroom/1.5 bath that was halfway between the school and the prison in which my dad worked as a corrections officer. I would be the first baby they brought home to their new house, joining my older sister. I’d take my first steps across the brown shag carpet that the previous owner had installed. The back bedroom was mine, and mom plastered Smurf-themed wallpaper on the accent wall to try to get me to sleep in there every...

Keep Reading