I didn’t even know I was crying until my cheeks were wet.

I pulled up to the stop sign, made sure there wasn’t a car behind me, and started fishing around in my purse for a kleenex. Charlotte’s concerned voice came from the back seat, “Mom, what’s wrong?” I smiled weakly, made a dismissive wave with my hand and blew my nose. “I’m okay, honey. Just got kind of sad all of a sudden about leaving Nanno and Papa. It’s all right, I’m ready to drive now.” Madi eyed me suspiciously, and then said firmly, “He’s FINE. Papa is just fine,” before replacing her iPod earbud and studiously looking out of the car window. Sweet Madi, with the tough girl stance– you don’t fool me for a minute.

Because the thing is, he’s not fine.

It’s not an emergency, it’s not drastic or horrifying. But he’s slowing down, he’s hesitating, he’s struggling just a little as he tries to retrieve a name or a word he KNOWS he knows. And sometimes, if you unexpectedly ask him something that he’s not prepared for, there’s a slight look of distress and a momentary blankness that flickers across his face, then a grimace of frustration. “So stupid,” he says under his breath. But he’s not stupid, he’s just slowing down. It’s normal. For the love of God, the man is 93 years old!

For the love of God.

I know it is the order of things. I know we have had him much longer than anyone has a right to expect, healthy and in his right mind despite the “little bit of a heart attack” and subsequent stent surgery he had a couple of years ago. We have all known that this was coming, it shouldn’t shock me and it doesn’t, really. My reaction is what shocks me.

Honestly? I’m having to fight the urge to go stand outside in the yard and start bargaining so loudly with God that I scare the neighbors. Since we got back to Nashville I find myself Googling all manner of subjects relating to ‘geriatric medicine’ and ‘memory recall’ and vitamin regimens and blah blah blah DENIAL!!! It’s the Mom in me, I know that. She’s almost 93 too, but trust me, that feisty little piece of work is not about to go gently into that good night. She’ll stave it off with everything she can think of, from crossword puzzles and Sudoku to walking laps around the backyard, cooking and gardening. They’ll probably have to pry a hoe and a spatula out of her cold dead hands. In fact, one of the most heartbreaking parts of being home this last week was noticing that Mom’s usual combative attitude towards any sign of what she terms ‘weakness’ or ‘giving up’ in Dad was, for the most part, gone. I saw her eyes soften towards him a couple of times when he moved even s l o w e r than usual, and once I saw her look pained when he didn’t grasp something that was being said to him right away, instead of being impatient and cross. Mom always gets mad when she gets scared, bless her, and the thought of Dad declining or God forbid, leaving her alone usually just pisses her off. She is convinced that sheer force of will should keep him healthy and whole indefinitely. Well, sheer force of will and fresh fruit and deep breathing and watching less television. But this time, there was something closer to compassion in her manner towards him. Don’t get me wrong, she’ll be back to her usual cattle prod self before too long, it’s her way–but behind all that bluster is a child inside who is terrified of being abandoned. However, there is also the heart of a lion. She’ll be OK.

And so will Daddy. When he was having his heart problems a few years ago I truly saw what he was made of, and how very deep and solid his lifelong faith really was. He wasn’t afraid, there was only a quiet acceptance and deep sense of peace. He was dignified and kind, and of course, funny. The Funny goes a long way in this family. I’m sure we’ll all be digging deep for it in the weeks/months/years to come.

Please God, give me the courage to let him go as gracefully as he is hanging on.

I love him so much.

34 Responses

  1. crummy_cupcake

    Oh, sweet lady. This is making my heart break.

    How lucky you are to love and be loved. How very, extra special lucky you are to know that these fleeting moments with him are to be treasured and not to be treated lightly. That they are holy and even imagining the absence of them changes you.

    You are very blessed.

  2. gracelynn

    I know how you feel Tori. Despite the problems I have with my parents, it is hard to imagine my life without either of them. My dad’s health has failed so much over the past year and he is much younger than your dad – only 69. But despite his misdirected anger and frustration, he’s still my dad and I love him deeply. I don’t think we are ever truly prepared to lose someone we love, even if we EXPECT it. Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow’s not promised. So we just have to make the most of the time we have today and make memories that will last a lifetime while we can.

  3. tammy961

    Oh sweet Tori. Your precious words have tears streaming down my face as I remember my own Daddy who was called home much much too soon at the age of 58. He had liver cancer and it was 2 weeks from diagnosis to death. What a shock! I don’t think I am over it yet and it was 1999. Like I told you when you posted this picture of you and your Daddy, it speaks a billion words. I think it is one of my very favorite pics you have posted. My prayer is that god give each of you in the family the strength to deal with whatever happens in the months/years to come. God’s love and grace will reach down and hold you close and comfort you. Love you my sweet sister.


  4. Myrna

    Oh Tori…….my keyboard is dampened by my tears. It doesn’t matter how old we are or how old our parents are, it hurts. It hurts to see them hurt, it hurts to see them frightened, it hurts to see them weak……whether it be mind or body…..it hurts. You are in my prayers always and tonight I will be more specific. God comfort you and your mom and dad, and everyone that loves them. Please know that I care.
    Blessings and love…..

  5. mmyrrh

    Oh, Tori. What an incredible blessing you are. This will be a Sacred Journey . . .

    Love you, Shelley

  6. ShowMeStGirl

    Tori, we can all give you our stories about our parents and I think most of us feel the same, we will have a hard time with the changes in them because they are the ones that have taken care of us, loved us and it is hard to see them “deteriorate”, to get old, forget, pass.
    We look at their life and the journey they have been on. The changes they have seen. They have seen the Great Depression, lived through major wars, gone from no electricity in their homes to remote control, voice control, etc.
    No one knows your pain, my pain or anyone elses. It’s your parent. Only you know how your heart feels. Your passions and compassion towards these two. A feisty mom and a dad that struggles to remember.
    I managed a nursing home and the greatest job I ever had. What we as their children, friend can do is reminisce with them. Look at old pictures, show new ones, remind them how important they are to us. Love them. It sounds as if you did and do just that. Love your parents.
    Thank you for sharing your heartfelt thoughts and intimate feelings with us. Treasure this and you are setting a good example to your children. They are learning what love is all about. God bless, and it’s okay to let the tears come. If they didn’t, I’d worry about you ;)

  7. LindaB

    (((((Tori))))) I had similar feelings about my Mom this week, only instead of writing about it as beautifully as you did, I just do what I usually do when life sucks——I ate ice cream, and lots of it. Right out of the carton. (It’s more therapeutic that way.)

    We lost Dad when he was only 56, and I’ve always felt cheated. I must discuss this someday with God, but until then, I just tear up every time I think of him. Can’t possibly actually talk about him and say his name out loud without crying like a baby.

    God has blessed you with more years than most have with their parents. And I know they would say you and your family have been a great blessing and comfort to them. But it’s still hard to imagine life without them. I have a feeling you will be fine when the time comes to tell them goodbye……….a little weepy maybe, but just fine because you have your father’s strength and courage, and your Mom’s fire and grit! They have prepared you well for those times when life sucks. (Okay, maybe a LOT weepy, but still fine.)

  8. mariajhmom

    I spent most of a day this week watching disc 1 of the Gaither Vocal Band reunion. (Do you know anything about those guys? Ha!) I loved every minute of it. I watched it twice. We were in the mountains of Montana and it was snowing like crazy. I was in bed in my pj’s with my knitting.
    Tomorrow, stay in your pajamas, get some coffee and chocolate, and watch it. When they started “Gentle Shepherd” I was just thinking it was an old song. By the end, I was in tears with such a feeling of peace. All of our theology is boiled down to that song. We need Him!
    This life is just a tea party. We get to be with our loved ones for all of eternity! This is hard, but heaven is going to be so worth it!!!

  9. LOpitz

    Aunt Tori, reading that just made me cry. The thought of losing grandpa kills me. Mom is down here for her Spring Break and has been telling me how grandpa is really going downhill, and even said she thinks this is his last year. Its really hard to imagine life without he or grandma. I try and think “What would we do for Christmas? Or Thanksgiving?” or really any family gathering? It has always centered around being at grandma and grandpas that it pains me to think about losing them. I hate being so far from them now and would hate myself if either of them went without me seeing them again. I am grateful, however, for all of the years and memories we have had with them, good and bad (grandma making Caroline and I take crochet lessons… no comment..) and that they have lived to be at least 93 and still be in great health mentally and physically, for their age. Also, I know Perri probably won’t grow to know them well before they pass, but I am glad she was able to meet them and we have pictures of it to show her. They have been such wonderful influences in all our lives and I thank the Lord for the time we’ve had with them.

  10. Leisa Hammett

    Ahem. Got logged in here. Accomplishment. Gave up last time. WELL! Where were we? Tori, I only just last night FINALLY looked up that award-winning blog of yours from the fall or summer about your parents. Saw this on Twitter. Don’t know if you’re ready for this, but here’s how I’ve dealt with my mother’s recent passing and watching my father now go down as you describe. See below. In our family, the cattle prodder was Daddy. He know longer has mother to prod and now he seems to also be losing his ability to prod, too. Thank you for sharing so beautifully. Here’s my Grief and Loss entries since early December: http://leisahammett.typepad.com/the_journey_with_grace/grief-loss/

  11. twenty9eleven

    Hello Tori. I began following your blog several months ago, despite the fact that I’m a guy. I’ve been a fan of Russ for many years, and I think we may even have some common friends along the way.

    But your post today struck a powerful cord with me.

    I just lost my mom Friday night after a very lengthy battle.

    I will not try to find the right words. I will only say that I understand. I almost hesitate to say it because I feel like people are more interested in talking about themselves rather than connect with my grief…and now I’m guilty of it with you! But I wanted to say that your post resonated with me in a powerful way today, and is especially poignant to me in this hour of my life.

    I self-medicated by writing in my blog, and I am so glad I had that outlet. I suspect you will do much the same.

    I’m praying for you and your family.


    (if you’re interested in reading any of my attempts at self-medicating, including what I’m about to write when I finish this, it’s at http://twenty9eleven.blogspot.com/)

  12. LindaB

    I read many of your blog entries, Leisa (the Grief Warrior), and you are a gifted and compelling writer! Loved your blog! Thanks for the link. And thanks for stopping by and posting.

  13. nashbabe


  14. ruthiebear

    ((((((TORI))))) I lost both of my parents in very different ways and neither experience was easy. Dad was here one day, vital and full of energy, and gone the next. That was hard to believe and to accept. BUt Mom lingered and suffered, it was painful to watch. SHe was ready to go to Jesus, but I was nowhere near ready to let her go. I raged at God asking how He could let someone who loved and Served Him so many years suffer that way. I quit the choir at church as I just could not praise the Lord after her passing. I went into depression. I sought comfort in food instead of the Lord. THen I really listened to a song by my favorite worship leader, DOn MOen. IT is called “I Will Sing” and GOd used that song to heal my hurting heart.
    Losing our parents is incredibly difficult, even when we and they are believers. Knowing it is coming does not make it any easier. I cried with you as I read your blog, reliving my own experiences. WHen we love greatly, the loss is that much greater. Enjoy every minute that you can with your dear parents. Love and hug them more than ever. Thank you for sharing so openly with us who love you.

  15. auburn60

    You’ll have the courage you need when the time comes because that is one of your dad’s gifts to you–along with the acceptance, peace, dignity and kindness he showed you before. And just because I’m a parent,even though I don’t know your dad, I know he has looked at you and the girls and just been SO proud of you all. What a legacy you all are for him, not just you,but his whole family! And never underestimate what a blessing it is to let them go and know that you have no regrets about your relationship. I don’t have that confidence.

    My husband came home from visiting his parents last week with some of the same concerns about them. They really don’t need to be driving anymore, they are confused in places they aren’t familiar with, they can’t keep up with bills and things like that. But they don’t want to move closer to us and they insist on staying in their own home. They are about the same distance from us as your parents are from you,Tori.
    So it seems we will have some decisions to make in the near future. We’ve been pretty comfortably in denial about their declining health.

    Maybe we are all meant to minister to each other in this way, through this blog.
    Thanks for being so open, Tori.

  16. MostlySunny

    Thank you for sharing your heart.

    Some of us have been down that road. No fun.

    Stages in life. Some good, some not so much. It’s hard to try to imagine life without our parents; they’ve just always been there, whether we were close the them or not.

    But you know what? After the bend in the road (even if it’s a rugged, bumpy, curvy road)…there’s more road! God is God and God is good. Always.

    Blessings to you today for a peaceful and settled heart…

  17. jonny

    My heart & prayers go out to you & this situation. Appreciate the sharing! Peace, and much love!! jonny

  18. Phyllis R

    Lord help, how do you comfort someone who is going through this. Like someone said in their earlier post…we could all tell you stories of our parents…but that doesn’t change the fact that is is YOUR parent and YOUR Dad. Your last two sentences kind of sum it all up so beautifully…Please God, give courage. I know I miss both of my parents still so much and it has been a few years…but..God does give courage. But, right now when you are in the thick of it…it seems like courage is a looooooong way away. I wish I had the magical words to set your heart and hurt at ease. I don’t, but I can say, I am in your corner, as we all are. Wrap your arms around yourself and consider yourself hugged from us all. Gather the troops close and weather the storm sis. :) We love ya!

  19. foodandshelter

    You have been much on my mind, Tori. I am going through the same thing, watching my father get a little bit weaker and a little less confident every day. He has always been so strong, so active – loved fixing cars. So seeing him struggle to remember how to fix this or that and finally admitting that he could not do it anymore and selling off all of his “junkers” was hard for me. He loves them so much and seeing the light go out of his eyes when he had to let them go….well, I know that you know how I felt. As you say God is God and God is good always..and even this will work together for good…sometimes we have to gradually let go of the hand of our earthly father and hold tighter to the hand of our Heavenly Father. But it is so hard…

  20. LindaB

    Tori, you have given your parents a wonderful gift—–they can leave this world knowing you are strong, independent, resourceful, secure, and grounded in faith. They know you’ll be alright. And you’ll make sure Madi and Char will be alright. That’s incredibly comforting. And it makes leaving easier for them.

    “Maybe we are all meant to minister to each other in this way, through this blog.” — Alyson
    Amen to that! I like it.

  21. tori

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your comments. I am reading and re-reading every one of them. It’s weird how cathartic it was to write this, but it’s kind of made me a little sad and mopey today–appropriate feelings under the circumstances, I know. I just wanted you guys to know that your kindness to me and your openness about your own journeys is really helping. Thank you.

  22. drsalin

    This is so carthartic for ME! I have been struggling SO MUCH with this lately…I have the kind of father that all of his MANY kids wanted to see “be gone” because of the terrible pain and abuse he has caused us, but, he is still here. I thank God, though that I have been able to share the Gospel with him–I know God is not done with him yet, but the pain and abuse lingers…as does the guilt…

    Then there is my grandfather (“Papa”)who I look at like a dad, the man that I wanted to walk me down the aisle some day; he thinks the sun rises and sets with me, so he tells me anyway. He will be 90 in June and last year we put him in an inpatient facility where he continues to battle 2 forms of cancer, stroke, 5 bypasses, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, recent memory loss, etc.. He is one of 22 brothers and sisters and there are only 2 left– he lost them all, including his wife and prized dog. I visit him 2-3 times every week and each time I leave it is getting harder and harder for me, especially, when he rolls back his head and tells me “I want to make it, I want to see you get married, I want to see your little girl someday…” I smile and tell him that he HAS “made it” through more things then any of us EVER could (the depression, WW2). I tell him Jesus will always be with him and loves him–he tries to believe and yet he grasps my hand because he is afraid…sadly, I am too… I love him but Jesus loves him more…softly and tenderly Jesus is calling…
    Love you Tori,
    Sherry (“Doc”)

  23. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Oh my, I suppose I am more in line with your parents, Tori, so I want to tell you not to ruin today…because today is good. Rejoice and be happy in it. Tomorrow will come and then there will be time for sorrow.
    I lost my day when he was only 65…I will always miss him…but I am so thankful for the wonderful memories he left with me. Then I lost my mother when she was 85. Besides the sadness, I remember how alone I felt. Even though I had a husband and three children. It was the feeling of having no parents…the two people who raised me and loved me so completely.
    But, this isn’t all there is. Christian can look forward to a great reunion one day with all of our loved ones…and they will not be feeble or forgetful….they will be standing strong again, with their arms wide open as we come through the Gate.

  24. blondemomblog

    Tori, I love this post. It’s beautiful. My parents are very youthful 70-somethings but I know I’m going to face these issues some day. It’s so tough to not want to stop the clock and do as much as we can to halt the inevitable. Your parents sound like amazing, joyful individuals (and you sound like you have a feisty mom, too.)

    Hugs to you…

  25. belinda

    You have been on my mind ever since I knew you were all going to Arkansas and now I know why. I know how hard it is when I go home and see the differences in my parents. It makes those visits so much more special. We all want them to hang in there with us and are so thankful that they have. I have been blessed like you have and cherish all of it. I’m reminded of a song that Jim Brady of the Booth Brothers wrote after Roger of Legacy Five passed away. It talks about saying good bye but then saying hello when we see them again. The hello will be a lot longer than the good bye will be. We have that to hold on to. Sending special thoughts your way. (((((Tori))))) it is not fun when our parents get older.

  26. Phyllis S

    What a loving and thought provoking blog this is. Each post has so much to say, so many lessons to ponder and most of all so much caring.

    I was reading Lulu Roman’s group page this morning, on that page is a “You Tube” clip of her testimony. She was born to an unwed mother, put in an orphanage at birth, in her words, “she never had a doll, she never had a dog, and more than that she never had a hug”, that is until recently when she found some of her biological family. She still has not had a doll or a dog, but now gets a bundle of hugs. This reminded me of how blessed I was to grow up in a loving Christian home. My Mom went to be with the Lord eleven years ago, but we are so thankful to still have Dad, he is 87 and is good health. I do see him slowing down, not driving at night, yard work now takes him two days instead of one. Yes the day is coming when we will no longer have him or mom, I just hope it is without suffering and pain. Will death be easy for us, absolutely not, but he is looking forward to it, he says he will be with Mom and my sister who they lost at 9 months old. He tells us that he will miss us, miss the grandkids, but what better place to be.

    Belinda, Dad often tells us a line from another Booth Bro. song, “Just Look For Me At Jesus Feet”, what more can we ask for.

    Tori, tears may come and go, but our parents love, understanding, faith, personalities and laughs are with us for ever.

  27. CarolynR

    Can’t think what to say, these are very poignant and moving stories. It doesn’t matter what age you are, when you lose your parents then there is no one left to insulate you from your own mortality.

    My father died at 74, very suddenly four years ago. There was no warning. He was the rock of our family, he was always there to guide, advise, protect. I miss him dreadfully. My mother is 77 and lives with me. I notice she is getting frailer, not quite so agile or bright as she was. I dread the day …… However, if we have our eyes fixed on eternity, it makes it so much easier to bear. Mum loves that song sung by Tania Sykes (I think) called “Look for me ..” It says it all.

  28. swerchon

    Hi Tori,

    I finally decided to join this blog….especially after reading this latest post – it touched me deeply (I’m Susan W……..from the “Gaither Community”)

    I’m soooo sorry, I feel your pain coming through this post. I must say that we all know at sometime in our life we must “let go”, but that is extremely difficult, and the thought of that is terrifying. As well to see your parents (especially a father) begin to “slow down” is heart breaking to say the least. That is our dad/father – he should be Strong, Tough etc. and this can’t be happening to “Daddy”.

    I’m sorry you are going through this valley right now, lean on your loving family as well as our Lord. It is going to be hard over the next little while and I will be praying for you and your parents.

    I must say I was never close to my father (he was an alcoholic, and I never really got to know him at all, when he drank he was abusive and violent), but I would imagine seeing your father slowing down must be absolutely heart breaking for you. I’m sorry, whatever happens you will get through this.

    What a true blessing to have wonderful, and loving parents, cherish them now and forever.

    Praying for you

  29. rockin robyn

    Just thinkin of you Tori and saying a prayer that God puts a peace on your heart and takes the sad away. God will keep your “Daddy” around as long as he is assigned to be here, to give wonderful memories to his “little girl”. When that time comes, you will know that your Dad is at peace and he no longer has to struggle with being alert and on top-of-his-game all the time.

    Both my parents are still here and I’m very fortunate that life didn’t take me far away from them. My dad is a heart patient and he is soooo bad. He doesn’t eat the proper foods. He does the grocery shopping and I’ll go there to visit and see chocolate cookies or hear from my Mom that he’s not drinking water like he should. When he takes his “walks” to get exercise — he goes far enough in the mall to get to the coffee shop… to get his coffee and “bear claw” and talk to the pretty girls that know him by name. But you know what, that is what makes him happy and I’m not going to take that away from him because I know one day he will be taken from us.

    Live for the moment (but be obedient) and know only better things will come when we all get to finally meet the Master!

    You’re a good daughter Tori and look at your wonderful family… You gotta know that you have brought your Dad such joy already and hopefully there will be more time for more joy!

    God Bless you and thanks for sharing your feelings!

    Now take another pic of a cops butt or something… did he know you took a picture of his butt… I’m just saying!!!

  30. jonny

    Oh man, why’d you have to bring HIM up again!?! I JUST got him, and his obviously special part, out of my mind a couple days ago! It even got to the point where I was wondering if it was not some type of authority abuse, being a cop with such a tempting target on Saint Patrick’s day and blatantly not wear anything green knowing no one in their right mind would risk taking advantage of a situation like that because you are a keeper of the peace… Sorry. Still proffering prayers for all those who’ve been sharing!! Peace! jonny

  31. LSBellamy

    I was supposed to lose my dad in 1986.

    I DID lose my dad in 1991. April 9. I was 26, he was 72.
    (Yep, I was a LATE baby)

    The point of saying that is to say this: This time is a precious and fragile one. But the single most important thing that can be done now—YOU ARE DOING. You love him, and he knows it. And in the long run, all that really matters in the end of it all — is love. And we remember love LONG after everything else.
    My prayers are with you. ::hugs::

  32. annd

    Bless you, sweet Tori!!! I’m so sorry you hurt. AnnD

  33. Great post on aging parents « Living in the Sandwich Generation

    […] why I really like this post. She explains so well the logical side of it all and how logic doesn’t help you feel better. […]

  34. morgitta

    I’ve been thinking a lot of this post and of you this days, Tori.
    It triggered some stuff too and that was a good thing.
    Sending you love and prayers.

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