Monday, May 12, 2008

What’s the FIVE-1-1?

I hope everyone had a good Mother’s Day, either as a mom or with their mom. My friend Shay gave birth to her first child, Ezekiel, just last month so this was her first Mother’s Day as the mom. And to add if I haven’t said this before, I have the best mom that I could have. I see other mothers with their children, and they can be good mothers, but for me, I am so glad that I have the mom that I have.
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Our senior pastor is away for a couple of weeks; he and his family have traveled to the mainland to celebrate the college graduation of his son. So, on Mother’s Day, we enjoyed a sermon from two members of the congregation. I’m not being disrespectful; our pastor is good, but it is also good to know that when he cannot be around, we are in good hands--- God’s. As it should be, right?

I was expecting a typical Mother’s Day sermon; be good to your mother and all of that. What I got was so much more.

We first heard from one of our elders, Mr. Kawamoto. He spoke from Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” It started out like the sermon I was expecting; Mr. K went quickly over the beginning of the Mother’s Day observance. And then he said that we ought to pay attention to the parent-child relationship as it says in Exodus because it is the model of our relationship with God.

It is the model of our relationship with God. God the Father, we His children. It’s not the first time I came to realize this fully; the first time was earlier this year from a lesson in The Truth Project. Mr. K also spoke about how this explains why we are to honor our parents even when we don’t feel like it or even when we’ve got lousy parents. When we honor our parents, we are honoring God, the relationship that He has with us.
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But I want to move on to what Mrs. Ching had to say because it touched me more personally. It’s also something that is not heard as often and that which a lot of people deal, especially in Hawai‘i I think. The title of her speech is “Feeling Hopeless? Call FIVE-1-1.”

At 72 [I can say her age because she said it herself], Mrs. Ching is the primary caregiver of her mother in her 90s. She told several short stories to illustrate the hardship of being a caregiver to her parent who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Being the caregiver is draining, exhausting, and relentless. It can also feel joyless and hopeless, but it doesn’t have to be.

Mrs. Ching says that we can “be joyful in hope.” The FIVE in FIVE-1-1 was chosen after the 5th commandment which is Exodus 20:12. FIVE stands for “For/ I have/ Vowed/ Everything to God.” [also Matt. 22:37-39].

In that, we can be “patient in affliction.” The first “1” is a [daily] reminder that we are to go “1 step at a time, and let the 1st step be Jesus.” When we feel like we don’t know what to do, where to start, we do one thing. Then we do the next thing and so on until the job is done. We are strengthened by Jesus who showed us how [Col. 1:11a].

And we are to be “faithful in prayer.” The second “1” is another reminder that “you are only 1 person, but God is always with you.” Where is the joy in caregiving? It is in the knowledge that God is with us always [Matt. 28:20b]. It is in the fellowship and prayers with His people [1 Thes. 5: 11, 16-18]. And it is also in the small moments, like when Mrs. Ching sees the joy in her mother’s face in the company of children or when her mother starts dancing the hula when she’s never taken a lesson.
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It’s a good lesson to internalize.

When she mentioned her mother dancing the hula, I had flash-forwards to my mom popping into her own dance moves whenever a groovy song comes on. “Dancing in the Street” in One Crazy Summer is already a special favorite; I’m not even sure she’s watched the whole movie but she perks up when the song plays near the end. I know that is one habit she is never going to break because, well, she will never want to.

I also had flashbacks to my grandmother and how she continued to laugh after her stroke. The stroke paralyzed the left side of her body. Mom, Grandma’s sister Aunty Tats, and I went to pick up Grandma from her PT session. They wheeled Grandma out and we gathered around her. I think Mom was speaking to the therapist and so Grandma, with a rascal smile, looked up at her sister. She raises her right hand and flattens her palm, saying, “Look, Tats, I’m getting better!” Aunty Tats looks at Grandma’s hand and says, “Oh, yes, that’s good!”

Then Grandma says, “Nah!” She lifts her left hand, which was stuck in an almost fist, just a little and adds, “This the junk one!”

Oh, Grandma….

I also remember when Grandma came to live with us for a short while. She stayed in my brother’s room; he had a bed close to the floor. I heard a noise and went in to check on Grandma. She had slipped off of the bed but was okay, she was trying to get herself on her feet again. I went to lift her back on the bed and she waved me off. She said, “Nah, I’m too heavy. I don’t want you to hurt your back.” She was about 80 lbs, maybe. “Grandma, I can handle.”

Oh, the moments of joy amongst the moments of the pain of seeing someone I love age. How much more painful was it for my mom? How much more will it be for me when Mom gets to be that way?

And to that, after Mrs. Ching’s speech, Mom turned to me and, smiling that rascal smile she probably got from Grandma, apologized for how she is going to be later [in life].

You wanna know what’s gonna happen? My mom’s time of aging is gonna be a “payback” for how I treated her when she raised me--- it’s gonna be BAD!! I know this because she's already threatened a self-induced Alzheimer's!

But I’ll be calling FIVE-1-1.

Mahalo for reading in…and please, pray for me! *wink*