Hoeing “In the Garden” #1
Note:  The memoir, In the Garden, portrays my mother, Ellen, an ordinary woman, who became extraordinary by surrendering her will and ego to the will of God at every crossroads of her life.  She chose faith over doubt, acceptance over resignation, hope instead of despair.  “Not my will, but Thy will be done,” was her mantra.  Ellen lived her entire life in a house, on the hill, on a farm in west Michigan(the site of present day Country Dairy)rooting herself in the place where she believed God had planted her.  There, alongside the love of her life, Henry, she found her calling as a helpmeet for him and transformed the house on the hill into a place of beauty and sanctuary for their family.  To view the memoir visit www.principia.com or www.janethasselbring.com.
In Hoeing “In the Garden,” the author revisits her mother’s story, cultivating and digging up tidbits of truth to provide inspiration and encouragement for the challenges of her life.

“In those days of wonderment, I met God.  I had come to know Him through the revelation of His Word and in creation.  And, then in the times I spent with you, I found God anew.  I looked in your face and saw Him.”(In the Garden, A Final Word, page 195)
  
           Finding God in an Alzheimer’s Residence
     Maggie May, my Welsh terrier pup and therapy dog in training, and I visit a local Memory/Alzheimer’s Unit(this photo is not taken from there), where I sit and sing hymns to the residents while Maggie works her magic with them.
     From my experience as a Hospice/nursing home volunteer, I’ve learned not to base what I do – reading psalms and singing hymns, on the residents’ states of being.  Many are asleep when I come.  My challenge is to have most of them awake by the time I leave.  Not just awake either, for the familiarity of the hymn I’m singing or the psalm I’m reciting gets their lips moving and tongues humming! When awake, these folks are lucid.  They converse with me and Maggie May.  They thank us for coming.  I thank them for blessing my day.              
     In the Memory Unit, things are markedly different.  Here again most residents will be sleeping when Maggie May and I arrive, and while some will wake up during our visit, we are met with blank stares, empty expressions and varying stages of lucidity.
     On a given day, one more expressive resident, we’ll call Susan(name
is changed)is chattering about photos. Nothing of what she says makes sense,
yet she chatters on, deftly fitting her focus of the day – photos – into
the conversation. This is the same resident who hums in harmony
with every hymn I sing, sounding like an organ or bass vial.
While I sit and sing hymns into the silent space, Maggie frisks about
oblivious to the seeming disingenuousness of the situation.
For a time, Maggie is coaxed into sitting with Mary(name changed),
who beams radiantly at her charge. 
     Everything about the atmosphere in the room is “off.” There is no
“normal” human communication – no words, facial expressions, gestures –
nothing but silence and the unique mannerisms of this crippling disease
manifesting themselves here and there.
     Yet, for all of that, I realize as I sing out, unheeded,  every person there
is a child of God – every being in the room, encased in a body, has a soul,
which will live on when their bodies join their already departed minds and
in that realization, the truth of eternity stabs my heart.  I look at each one anew,
looking past their bodies and frailties to the soul that is within. I am singing
past the bodies to the formless entity of the eternal.
     And, while I am well aware of the pain that Alzheimer’s cause to families
and to those aware enough to know that their minds are leaving them, I
know that every resident sitting in the circle, oblivious as he or she may be, is
living testament to the truth of God’s promises. 
     “For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them
 and lead them to living fountains of waters.  And God shall wipe
away every tear from their eyes.”  (Revelation 7:17)
     And, I sing on.  “Amazing grace…”

Meet Maggie May of Rod Stewart fame.  My yellow lab of 12 years, Maximus Aurileus, died last summer.  We buried him in the backyard and placed a stone over his gravesite.  The tears I shed over his loss would fill buckets.  All fall and winter,  my husband and I deliberated whether or not to get another dog.  I just knew that I had one more dog in me.  In May my husband and I brought Maggie May, a Welsh terrier pup into our lives.  She is a bundle of joy.  The first day we had her, she raced around the back yard in pure abandon, coming to rest finally atop Max’s gravesite, where she sat, out of breath and panting. It seemed she was laughing and in spite of myself, I couldn’t help but laugh along with her in the pure joy and poignancy of the moment.  It was then I knew that all would be well.  I’d been carrying around my grief over Max’s death long enough.  While I will never forget him, life is meant to be lived and enjoyed.  I knew Max would agree that it was time to move on. So, with Max’s blessing, here we go, Maggie May.  And, I know it will be a great joyous ride.