I find it hard and challenging and really not the place I want to be sometimes...
Mom has had Parkinson's Disease for over 16 years...the last 5 of those have been pretty rough years on our family. She has not walked in five years, not talked in 2 and I haven't seen her eyes open more than a handful of times in the last year.
If I could think of words that described my precious mother when I was growing up, they might be these: independent, strong, strong-willed, athletic in areas, funny, witty, creative, smart, energetic, gracious, loud, emotional, relational, a friend.
And my mom had friends.
She was a part of various groups - moms that prayed for their college-aged kids, moms that volunteered at high school auctions, moms that played monthly bunco, moms that bowled in weekly leagues, moms that served lunch at the elementary school, moms that went out for dinner and dessert and laughed till their bellies ached.
My mom was a friend.
She had good friends and she was a good friend.
I can remember as a child, my mom babysat for young mamas that couldn't afford much. They would pay her nominal amounts and she would watch their precious babies, taking them on like her own.
I can remember my mom volunteering to help the adult daughter of her good friend by staying up through the night to help the new mama feed her twins. My mom had her own kids at the time.
I can remember my mom tending to her friend after her husband had died...making meals, visiting, calling, cleaning, meeting her needs.
I can remember my mom gathering groups of women monthly to go out for dessert to have fun and laugh and share stories of their daughters.
I can remember my mom organizng parties to honor friends: cooking, baking, cleaning, decorating all in preparation to honor someone else.
I can remember my mom taking on the kids of her good friend and being called Aunt Jane. Buying them clothes, shoes, books, toys - offering to pay for college. Yes. College.
And this is the short list....
I could grow it miles longer. The point is that my mom was a friend. She was a loyal, faithful friend. She modeled friendship for me and she inspired what adult women could have in a relationship.
But here is where the extending grace part comes in...
When mom was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease friends were near. Friends stuck close; the disease was easy then. Easy to manage, easy to hide, easy to look at becasue one couldn't see much.
But when things got ugly a few years back my mom's friends began to fade.It was an amazing thing to watch as fewer and fewer people stopped by. More and more people could say to my face, " I just can't go. I just can't see her like that."
For a few years there was a sting to this. I could not believe that these women who had been such good friends- who had poured in to my mom and had let her pour in to them would abandon her. Hints of anger and bitternes began to creep into my life...like those darn weeds that poke through my carrots.
But now, a few years down the road I am learning to walk differently. The Lord has worked on my heart, worked on my life and continues to shape me in to that woman that he longs for me to be. My best self.
And so. Here I am. This day, and tomorrow. And the next day - I will make this sometimes hard choice to extend grace in a way that recognizes that I could have been or could be one of those women friends.
The life lesson here is easy for me though. If and when life's little path puts me in the position that my mom's friends have been in - I get to reflect on the lessons learned...the deep need that we have to continue friendship at it's deepest level and be present even when it's not the easiest thing to do.