Sunday, March 20, 2011

Comfort Measures Only

Mom and Beth--October 4, 2008

My mother had been admitted to the palliative care unit at our local hospital. Her physician said, “I have written the orders for Comfort Measures Only, your mother will not be suffering, I have walked in your shoes with my own mother, this is the loving choice.” This began the closing of the final chapter of my mother’s life following a three-year decline mentally and physically due to dementia. It was also the closing of a chapter in my own life, as part of the “sandwich” generation—caring for an elderly relative while raising my own children. Our youngest child was graduating from high school and moving from our home to attend college. During this same season of change, we also lost our two dogs to cancer within eight months of each other.
My mother moved in with us following my father’s death and lived with us for 17 years. My parents had no life insurance, no investments, no savings, and my mother had never worked outside the home. For many years, it was a blessing to all of us. She was there for our daughter after school or when I had to work late. When our son was born, she was a great help, and it was a joy for our children to have their only grandmother living with our family. As osteoporosis fractures in Mom’s spine began to cause her more and more unbearable pain, and pain management medications became stronger, dementia began to take over her mind.
            Philippians 3:10 from the Amplified Bible became my daily prayer throughout this season of change. “My determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly.” God has answered that prayer. I am progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with my Lord through this season of change. God met me at the point of my need, answering my prayer through giving me a heart to set my alarm for 5 a.m. each morning so that I would have quiet time with Him and His word each morning before I faced the day. Each morning I awake and before my feet hit the floor, I begin asking Him to speak to me through His word. After putting on a pot of coffee, and settling down at my kitchen table, I open His word, and listen for His still small voice to minister to me. I have journaled these changes over the years, and how a specific Scripture would be just what I would need for that day, that moment in time.
I came to a place in my life where I wanted, more than anything else, to love God more. I began to pray, “Lord, I want to delight in you!” God is so inconceivably good. He’s not looking for perfection. He already saw it in Christ. He’s looking for affection. That’s why every lasting change will invariably be a change of heart. He’ll even supply the heart, if we’ll ask him.  My daily prayer continues to this day, “Lord Jesus, give me a heart which yearns for Your Presence, a yearning for You that draws me over and over into Your Presence, a yearning that makes only a few days without time in prayer and Your Word seem like an eternity. Give me a heart which is motivated first and foremost by a desire for You, not for what You can do for me, but a yearning for Your Presence. Give me a heart that wants You more than anything else You could give, to love You and know You more than anything in life. Give me a heart that takes what You have made known to me and makes You re-known to everyone else, a heart that makes Your name and renown the desire of my heart. Give me a heart to feel Your Holy Spirit woo me once again to the place where I meet You. In the simplicity of my prayer time, give me a heart to be suddenly confronted by the majesty of my Redeemer—the One Who is responsible for any good in me. Lord, each morning, give me a heart that seeks Your forgiveness for past sins, and welcomes Your fresh mercies which fall like manna from Heaven, and once again move my heart. I surrender all. Morning after morning.”
            As my mother’s mental and physical health began to decline three years ago, God answered my prayer in helping us to find the funding for a wonderful assisted living facility nearby that provided her with the care and security she needed. I was able to go there daily to see her, interact with her caregivers and help with her care. Mom would often ask me to pray with her, and it was such a comfort to both of us as we would come before the throne of grace together, seeking the loving arms of our Great Shepherd. He walked with us through the valley of the shadow of death as she lingered for several days in the palliative care unit at our local hospital before Mom stepped out of time and into eternity with our Lord. Mom’s last year on earth was also our son’s last year in high school. One of the last things Mom was able to articulate was that our son would be able to go to the college that he wanted to attend. God answered that prayer by helping us to put together the financial aid needed. God has met me right at the point of my need, even in this season of an “empty nest” by allowing me to see our son successfully in college.
Our sweet little "Cookie"
            God is into the details of our lives, as He has answered my prayer to know Him more deeply and more intimately, He has met my needs moment-by-moment—even to the point of leading us to a little beagle-mix puppy who had been rescued from abandonment just days after we returned from taking our son to college. Our little beagle, “Cookie,” has filled our empty arms with love and joy. What comfort, what compassion, meeting us right at the point of our need! Even though this has been a season of great change, great loss, I can truly say, my determined purpose is still that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly every day.  
(c) 2011 beth willis miller
What are your thoughts about this post?
      In what ways have you experienced an "empty nest" or "sandwich generation" season?
            How have you been encouraged or inspired during a difficult time in your life?



  1. I enjoyed this post so much Beth. My kids were gone from home when this happened to me. Mom with her cancer became a person we didn't know when it hit her brain. Much of the time she felt I was her mother. The wonderful thing was that she never lost her connection with the Lord she loved. Dad was pretty good until the last month of his life. He went home this past Christmas day, spending Christmas with both families! Most of the family was with him when God took him home. We gathered around his shell and sang the Doxology. God had blessed his children with a loving,kind,and Godly father. It was easy for us to love God because of his example. Thank you for your post.

  2. Beth, this is such a poignant story of you and your mom. So honoring of her, which is how it should be to the very end. I am sure you were such a blessing to her.
    Love the title of the article and your writing style made me feel like I was right in the room witnessing what was happening in your life.
    Thanks for sharing this. I'm sure many will be blessed by it.

  3. Thank you so much for your means so much to me :)

  4. Thank you for stopping by my blog today. I have relied so heavily on God in my grief that it has provided so much...the only way to get through it. Your mom sounds like a blessing and how unselfish and such a witness of God in your life, in your reality that you would care for your mom the way you did. You honored your mother while she was alive and you still are in this post. Praise the Lord for this! Thank you for sharing this post with me. May the Lord bring us more joy than we can ever imagine this Mother's Day. Blessings to you.

    1. Thank you, Dionne. You are so right in saying how unselfish my mother was and what a witness of God she was in my life. It was an honor and a privilege to be able to serve her in small ways after she spent her life serving me. Truly, all is grace, from the moment God knits us together in our mother's womb until the moment we see Him face to face.

  5. Thank you, Beth. This post reminded me of the time years ago when my own mother was dying and how precious those last moments were before she entered the gates of heaven.

    1. Thank you for sharing that with me, Karen. This essay, "Comfort Measures Only" was also published in the book, "A New Song: Glimpses of the Grace Journey," an anthology of essays, poems, stories and photos celebrating God's grace on life's journey. Following the example of the psalmist in Psalm 40, the 70 writers for this collection have remembered their histories with God, describing His rescue, their salvation, His comfort in a time of crisis, or leading when they needed a new direction. We hope our collective hymn of praise will be an encouragement to others. If you would like a copy I will send you more information, just let me know.

  6. Beth- you obviously wrote this 2 years ago- but it was lovely to read. I love your hearts cry : “Lord, I want to delight in you!”.During the long hard years with my Mum, I held tight to the verse:2 Corinthians 4:17
    For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
    I also remembered that no matter Mum's actions, I am accountable for mine, and what I Long to hear when I meet Jesus is " well done good and faithful servant". I am sure we will both hear those words dear Beth. God Bless you. Mary Empty Nests

    1. Thank you so much for your responses to my posts, are such an encouragement from the Lord

  7. Beth- my heart mirrors yours in these words: Give me a heart which is motivated first and foremost by a desire for You, not for what You can do for me, but a yearning for Your Presence. Give me a heart that wants You more than anything else. I am glad God answered your hearts cries so beautifully. It makes me sad my Mum refused to come to Jesus- but I have to move on and not allow that grief to represent my life. Rather, that the Glory of the Lord would be revealed to me and that when people see me, they see the love of the Father.
    How lovely you have a dear wee 4 legged friend now :)
    I am asking God's peace to Guard my heart and mind and declaring His word that no good thing does He withhold from those that love Him, as I face shoulder surgery and recover from a back injury- living along can be tricky at such times- but I know He can and will work it all out beautifully as He did for you.

    1. Yes, Mary, we keep our eyes on Jesus, and He does the rest, amen?


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