Moving Mum

Want to know what it’s like to check your Mum into full care? I don’t know either, but one thing’s for sure: I am about to find out…

I am on a flight from Brisbane to Melbourne. This will be followed by a two and half hour drive to Victoria’s western district. Tonight I will stay at my parents’ home. It will be the last night Mum and Dad will spend together in their family home. I don’t think the momentous nature of this change has settled on us just yet.

Mum, March 2010

So, it all started about three months ago. I was visiting Mum and Dad on one of my ‘flying visits’: quick mid week jaunts where I would stay over with them for two nights and then return home. Mum, Dad and I were to go next door to have tea with my sister Jo and her husband Fred. Jo was picking up some tea on the way home from work. So here we are, waiting in my parent’s lounge room, and Mum simply said “Do you think Jo will have enough food for all these people?” The phrase “all these people” took me by surprise: there were only the three of us in the room, and with Jo and Fred, that still only came to five.

“What do you mean, ‘all these people, Mum?’ There are only three of us, and then Jo and Fred” I said.

Mum gave me a bit of an odd look. Like she knew I was right, but also that there was some other reality invading hers…

I don’t think the momentous nature of this change has settled on us just yet.

Chatting with Jo later that night I learned that these ‘visions’ had been happening from time to time.

Then, two weeks later, I called Mum to see how she and Dad were going. Mum asked me whether I had heard what had happened earlier that morning. I hadn’t. So she told me: mum explained how that morning she had fainted, and she thought she had died, and that some people revived her, but now everything was OK. Or so her story went.

Since that time there have been a good number of other stories, all with a similar cast of other people. For some reason, they all seem to be dressed in black. We have come to call these people ‘the men in black’. These apparently benign and everpresent figures are very real to Mum. The problem is they are not real to anyone else who might be present at the time…

At this point, we have learned not to challenge the existence of the Men in Black, or anything else that Mum may “see”. Instead, we have decided to explore Mum’s experiences with her. We ask her what the Men in Black are doing, or what they are saying. I think this has helped ‘normalise’ Mum’s experiences for her, and I’m sure that if we challenged her every time she mentioned them, she would only become distressed. So our goal has been to keep things as normal as we can for Mum. It seems, at this point, to have been a successful strategy.

In the last three months Mum’s delusional ‘realities’ have made their presence felt in our lives. While we are still waiting for an official diagnosis, it seems that Mum is being drawn into the world of some sort of Alzheimer’s or dementia. In way, the diagnosis is kind of academic. Whatever it turns out to be, the ACAT clinician says Mum should go into full care, and hence this plane trip. And this blog post. And the ones that will follow.

In the next few posts I want to explore this time of transition for our family, in the hope that it may be helpful for others in the same position. And, of course, I’ll keep you up to date with how it all goes.

Q: Have you ever had to check a parent or loved one into full care? How did it go? Feel free to share your experiences by posting a comment.

Grace and peace: Dave

Why great achievement inspires us to be better people

Last week we spent some time in Bath, Somerset. Best known for its Roman Baths, still operational after 2000 years, Bath boasts a rich architectural and social history.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey was founded in the 7th century, and rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries. Like most Abbeys and ancient churches, the Abbey presents a visual history of piety, fame and achievement.

Crypts line the floors while the walls covered with memorials to saints, gentry, and people of note. Sir Isaac Pittman, who invented shorthand notation. Captain Arthur Phillip, leader of the First Fleet, Governor of Australia also features in a memorial.

Memorial to Arthur Phillip

I do not know how many memorials there are in the Abbey. Probably hundreds. As I was walking through the Abbey, something occurred to me. Why do we have memorials? Why do we have this idea of achievement? Why do we honour achievement? And perhaps most importantly, why does achievement inspire us? It’s true: If we listen to our heart, we find ourselves drawn to those who make outstanding achievement. A roman architect in the first century AD. Thomas ‘Beau’ Nash (1674 – 1762) who in the 18th century, the town’s celebrated ‘dandy’, made substantial advances in breaking down some of the class divisions in Bath society, even if he di do it through some interesting means. Bishop Oliver King who undertook the building of the current Abbey in the early 1500s.

The organ in Bath Abbey, fanned arches in background

There is something in us that yearns to achieve. Every one of us. We want to do whatever we do very well. We want to excel, and develop, and pioneer, and create.

There is something in us that yearns to achieve. Every one of us. We want to do whatever we do very well. We want to excel, and develop, and pioneer, and create. Even we we do something very well, we still want to do better. It is in is to strive for perfection.

This desire is from God. The Genesis account tells us that God has placed his image in us. More: We are his image. And this means we want to do what God does. The early chapters of the Bible tells us that God wanted to create. And he did. He excelled. He caused life to abound. He caused the universe and humanity to thrive. It was all very good. It is not surprise that we find our purpose in imitating him.

We also know about rebellion and the Fall. While these are the natural inclination of our being, it’s not how this life giving, glorious achieving God first made us. In fact, Jesus’ coming is to draws us back to God’s original purpose. That’s why we imitate him, reflect his glory, and direct all our achievement to his wonderful praise.

Who has inspired you to be more than what you once were? What would to really long to do, or be?

Grace and peace: Dave

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years – Don Miller


The story starts when a movie producer wants to make a film about Don Miller’s life. This is all very exciting until Don realises how boring it’s all going to look. So Don and the producers wrestle to develop a storyline that will hold interest. As they wrestle with this, we are drawn into what Don discovers, not only about movies, but about life itself. We start to see how life might work better, both for Don and for us. The surprise this book has for us is how this ‘better story’ might become our reality. 

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years drew me into the questions of my own life. I wondered about the ‘story’ or my own life, and before I knew it, I was thinking about how it could or should develop. As Don and the people of his book faced their challenges, I thought about how I was facing my own challenges, and whether I would meet them more resolutely, or further seek to avoid them.

I was also struck with the observation that the restlessness we sometimes feel in life often arises out of an ignorance of what our story actually is. Too often we do not know what sort of character we are supposed to be. As a consequence, we rarely get the idea that identity and meaning are formed as we grapple with the conflicts that inevitably come our way. Surprisingly, this realisation did not get me withdrawing from the challenge, it actually drew me deeper into it.

Miller’s book does that to you: it is an enticing invitation into hope. You read it and you want to be a better person. I love the way Miller’s warmth and spirituality sneaks up on you, whets your appetite for a fullness of life, and sometimes takes your breath away.



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