I am here in a state of change. We all share this common state, demarcated by zig zag borders. By intricate design and wondrous intent, our world is destined to change. Every single micro-moment. It expresses itself anew. Fluid, not stagnant. Tension rises and falls as we lean into and out of our status quo. Our normals rise up and say we are new, this morning. Every morning, like Mercy.

Some days it creeps in. Finds its way into our world in a subtle, nuanced fashion. The transformation, almost undetectable, like my children’s height on the family growth chart, documented even as adults at Thanksgiving at Woodland Heights, grandparents and parents, archivists of change, measured in pieces of inches. Even when there is no readable, registrable growth to pencil in. We hold a vigil, meet the change.

Image courtesy of @graceappears on Instagram.

Image courtesy of @graceappears on Instagram.

Other days it storms into McClellanville on an October day, making landfall in my hometown, going by the infamous name Hurricane Matthew. We mark time “before Hugo” and “after Hugo” and now “when Matthew came”. Rubbish, piled up curbside waiting to be hauled off. Memories we can physically trash. This is my classroom. Here I learn about a world turned on its head, askew, a bit.

Both the art and science of Life are static. It is blooming, sprouting, dying, ebbing, flowing, shifting, while engraving its mark on of us. By God’s Divine design.

Sometimes It draws lines in the sand, divides us into us and them and asks us to vote. To remain a people of community, one nation under God, still bound together, undivided. We teeter on the cusp of change. Reconciling personal change and practicing the art of re-embracing our neighbors on all sides provides a united front for the forward movement.

Gardeners can bear witness. So can pollsters and politicians. And tide chart makers.Perhaps we are not blue or red, but in fact more the color of the hydrangea at Mersea, lavender. A sea of color, rising and falling.

Renovation has become a way of life for my husband and me. We make our home in a house built in 1904, nestled in a tiny shrimping village. I named it Mersea, a phonetic expression of my gratitude for the privilege of calling this old house near the sea my home.

Our pace of restoration waxes and wanes. Some Sundays we change a door knob or two and cut back Milkweed vines off the lamppost. Other days we take on bigger projects like laying a patio and fire-pit from century-old brick or ripping out a worn-out screened porch. We are at once at peace with the slowness of change and at a place of tension. Adding and removing. Both and.

On honest days, I say I don’t want it this way at all. I want it by my design, my way, my timing. Now. Will we ever come to a point of finally finished. Will we ever fully embrace the imperfection of our state of now. The overhaul of Mersea to a state of perfection? I may never see every room and board and fixture standing shiny, perfect and new. And that must be okay with me.
I tell myself it is wiser and healthier to be at peace with the condition of now. Reconciling myself to it feels critical to gaining peace. Hard fought peace, in the midst of pain with my mother’s Dementia washes over me. Some days.

On others I weep.

I feel disrupted and disturbed by what I cannot avoid. Reconciliation draws on all of me. Calls on all I am and all I have. Requires me to go digging deep into the wellspring of my faith. I am weak but He is strong.

Doctors, caregivers and support groups can tell you this is “by the book”.This is the route that Dementia takes as it moves through a body. This deterioration of basic skills, like speech, mobility, and remembering the words to “You Are My Sunshine”. A first-born daughter can read, listen and educate herself on the textbook progression of the disease. But there is pain in some change. There is deep undeniable pain in this.

This is momma. This is Maggie. I struggle to reconcile the fact that she is a faint shadow of my other mother. The one I’ve known for a lifetime. For 58 years. And so I cry. She still recognizes my face. I claim a victory in my battle with the disease. On my last visit, she whispered “you are my Elizabeth.” She had me when she was twenty. That is a long time to be someone’s Elizabeth.

Image courtesy of @graceappears on Instagram.

Image courtesy of @graceappears on Instagram.

But I am forced to reconcile the old and new. The pain and whatever joy is left. It is well that I do. It is an act of restoration, the past and the present. I hold to what fragments a fraying, fracturing disease leaves in its wake. This disease splinters, splits and breaks.

On Sunday, we tore down the old chicken coop. (Even our chickens benefit from the renovation at Mersea). My husband sawed the salvageable part from the current coop to use for the new one. A favorite neighbor stopped by and called it the “chicken palace.” I wouldn’t call it grand. But somehow, the chickens seem a bit happier in their renovated home.

As we rebuilt the hen house, our favorite hen pulled herself apart from the flock of seven and monitored every move. (She is either Esther or Maggie). It was as if she mourned the demolition of her old home.

This Penciled Wyandotte Bantam hen flew into the nesting box, a remnant of the former coop, as we ripped and sawed wire and wood. We strained to move the coop to a new place in the garden. My husband caught my eye as we moaned and struggled with the heavy load. How odd, how poignant. She had ridden out the move inside her favorite nesting box. It was a bumpy ride for one brave hen. But she felt compelled to witness the change, first hand. And then delighted in what was presented to her on the other side.

Image courtesy of @graceappears on Instagram.

Image courtesy of @graceappears on Instagram.

One Monday, my mother, Maggie, was moved from a hospital to a skilled nursing facility where teams of medical professionals will join my family in the fight against the changes in her mind, body and spirit. Dementia compels me to salvage what is good and worthy. Even beauty washed up in a tide of sorrow.

While I can not restore my mother to perfect health, I am working toward reconciling myself to the changes in her life and naturally, in my own. I pray for God’s mercy and I see goodness and beauty in small moments of miracle, even in the pain. Even in the grief. She remembers to tell stories, ones I know well and even one’s she has never brought to the surface. I strain to hear, to understand, and to decode her new speech.

When this November comes and goes, we will be under another a canopy, as a country and people in community. A lavender canopy, quilted together, a mix of blues and reds. Perhaps we can find peace in the change. Living with change we did not ask for or want. But finding something worth fighting for. Hard won Peace in the state of change. Peace with ourselves, our families, our neighbors and this new state of things.

Reconciliation is never easy. But I am finding beauty in reconciling the old with the new. The then and now. And re-learning in small increments, to love in new ways. Flawed and imperfect, yet struggling to reconcile what is before me. To be changed for good in the midst of change. Changes in me, my mother, my world, my Mersea.

Elizabeth Marshall / Posts / Blog
Elizabeth Wynne Marshall is a writer, poet, blogger. A lover of grace & the sea she spends her days living and writing out the beautiful ordinary in a life lived by the sea. Her words may be found at her writing home, elizabeth w. marshall, poetry & prose through a lens of grace. On twitter & instagram, she is @graceappears.
  • Sharon A Gibbs
    Sharon A Gibbs

    This week after returning from a friend’s celebration of life, I penned a poem about nature’s (and life’s) piercing, ebbing, thinning, and falling. Strangely, I found comfort in that place. Maybe the comfort came only after my reconciliation.

    What a blessing to find comfort in the “condition of now.”

    November 4th, 2016 8:52
    • Avatar
      Elizabeth W. Marshall

      Sharon, thank you for being here in this space. I am grateful for your words. We need each other’s whispers in times of joy and pain. In the right now. I am reminded how I need the blanketing warmth of my family and my friends. My husband, my children, my inner circle and my ever widening circle of friends from places like Gratetable.. We need each other. Your being right here is a gift. The smallest breathes of encouragement and “I understands” are a soul balm.

      November 5th, 2016 9:15
  • Jody Collins
    Jody Collins

    These are some hard lessons, Elizabeth. This line particularly resonated, “I tell myself it is wiser and healthier to be at peace with the condition of now.”
    May you find God’s mercies new every morning, just when you need them.

    November 4th, 2016 18:26
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      Elizabeth W. Marshall

      Jody, thank you faithful friend. Hearing words of encouragement and comfort from the community of readers and partakers at Gracetable brings me a lovely sense of peace and joy. The lessons are hard.Hard learned and fought. While we are learning them, wrestling with them struggling with them. Wise counsel and the comfort found in community are a wondrous gift indeed. God meets us in the middle of it all. And in the middle of our friendships.

      November 5th, 2016 9:20
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    Leah Adams

    Elizabeth, my heart aches for you and your Mama. I walked the road of dementia with my Mother. It is a hard road I’m so sorry you must journey it. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

    November 5th, 2016 4:43
    • Avatar
      Elizabeth W. Marshall

      Leah, thank you sweet one. Thank you for being right here, right now. It is a bittersweet time. So much loss and change. But there are some glorious moments of remembering in the later stages of this disease. Of wonder. And there are times of joy watching her catch glimpses of beauty and watching her face light on something she loves.. But the pain is real, as you know. Thank you for your kindest of words.

      November 5th, 2016 9:26
  • SimplyDarlene

    What a poignant piece (of writing and of heart), Elizabeth. This here is my take-away:

    “We hold a vigil, meet the change.”


    November 8th, 2016 9:09
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    Elizabeth Marshall

    Darlene, thank you for your encouraging words. Always. For hearing my heart and absorbing these lines that bear my voice, from a long way off. Geographically, only. It is always a gift to sit at the table with you.

    November 9th, 2016 9:37
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    Joy Lenton

    Elizabeth, thank you for sharing so openly about the way you have had to adjust to a new normal, a shift in rhythms every bit as jolting as moving the chicken coop must have felt for your hens. When we age and show signs of being new versions of ourselves (or our loved ones do), then change can be hard to cope with. These words reveal how God’s mercy and grace are present at Mersea, imbuing your days with the sweet fragrance of His presence: “I am finding beauty in reconciling the old with the new. The then and now.” May you know yourself to be held steady when life tips you sideways. Blessings and prayers.

    November 13th, 2016 18:38
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    Elizabeth Marshall

    Joy, oh what a balm of sweet amazing grace your wodds are to me today. Thank you for being right here with your wise words of insight and encouragement for me. I’m grateful on this Monday and always for you. Thank you for being beside me and around the table, here. Sweet blessings to you from the other side of the Atlantic. You are a gift, Joy.

    November 14th, 2016 10:10
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    Teresa Glenn

    Beautiful, Elizabeth. I love your voice. It is peace-filled, full of heart and gentle. Your words draw image so clearly.

    January 20th, 2017 14:31
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    March 8th, 2017 21:05

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