Finding Myself at the Top of the Ladder
By Marcia Lee Laycock
“Do you know where I am?”
“Where am I going now?”
I’ve been hearing these similar questions lately, asked with the same heart-wrenching look of confusion and a trace of fear. I’ve seen and heard people say these things before. I’ve seen them enter into the disturbing realm of dementia and thought, how sad when the elderly so often seem to revert to a child-like dependence.
It isn’t the first time this has hit close to home. One of the people who has asked me these kinds of questions was my own mother. Her descent into dementia was long and torturous. Just recently my dear mother-in-law veered onto that same path, but her time of fear and confusion was blessedly short.
It’s hard and it leaves you with a gnawing sense of helplessness that makes you want to scream or weep. Sometimes, paradoxically, it makes you want to laugh. When my mother attended an afternoon luncheon whose theme was tropical, she wondered if we could afford going on such a lovely cruise to Hawaii. We assured her it was all taken care of.
I have reached that stage of life where those who have always been the anchors are now in need of someone to hold onto and I am suddenly in confusion too. This is a new place for me, one I’m not sure I’m ready for, because, truth be told, there are times when I’m not sure I know where I am or where I am going. I feel inadequate to answer those questions.
I am reminded of a poem by Luci Shaw that expresses this feeling so eloquently:
“… There is no one above you
to compass the wideness of space. You
are the final clasp that buckles
earth to heaven. Somehow, you
must hold up the ladder, heavy with life.”
(from When Your Last Parent Dies; Writing the River by Luci Shaw)
Suddenly finding yourself at the top of the ladder of life can be terrifying. But there is, after all, someone to hold onto. We don’t have to hold up the ladder all by ourselves. And when we are asked those disturbing questions, we can answer with assurance and comfort. We can tell them it’s okay, because there is someone who knows where we all are and someone who knows where we all are going.
There’s an old hymn that says it well – “Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms, leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.” The arms of Jesus are waiting to hold us and waiting to point the way. The writer of Proverbs exhorts us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight” (Prov.3:5,6).
There is another very comforting thought about being at the top of this “ladder, heavy with life.”
The next step is into the arms of Jesus.