Yesterday was one of those days that Boo just wouldn't eat. He absolutely refused, even oatmeal, even his new favorite---Honey Nut Cheerios. Finally after an all day struggle with his appetite, Boo was offered a strawberry milkshake. Boo will turn somersaults for strawberry milkshakes...usually. Not yesterday. Yesterday he ate one small banana and two potato chips. That's it. Nothing more.
Around 2:30 or 3:00 this morning, Boo was awake in bed with a loudly growling stomach, a frustrated wife and, to top it all off, he just wasn't talking. Finally, I turned on our trusty ol' laptop and pulled up Facebook. I knew seeing photos of his Louisiana relatives and listening to me read their updates would comfort him. Boo was fairly interested...and then he saw a photo of Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is a young woman in her early twenties from my Mother's local church. She's a warm, bubbly, loving bundle of energy. Boo attended that church for a few months until it just became too overwhelming for him. So, of course he's met Elizabeth. It'd be hard not to notice her in the crowd of generally less than twenty people that attend each Sunday. (This is a small town.)
Last week Elizabeth was diagnosed with acute leukemia. I told Boo about it, but didn't expect much of a reaction because he really doesn't know her. As it turns out, I underestimated him. He heard me. He remembered Elizabeth. And he was affected.
Boo remembers attending that church and remembers Elizabeth hugging him. I don't specifically remember that, but she probably did at the end of the service. Boo remembers Elizabeth bringing a lot of children to Mom's house to sing Christmas carols to him. (Actually, it was five or six children and they really came to sing to Mom. We just happened to be there.) The Christmas caroling was in December of 2009 and not something we've discussed in years. It amazes me that he can remember that so clearly and yet, forget the bathroom's location less than eight feet from the bedroom door.
Boo asked me to read the updates on Elizabeth. I read several and he continued asking me to read them. I read one that I'd read to him before from Elizabeth's sister:
I cried today, not because of Liz's sickness, but because of her strength. For those of you who keep asking what you can do---I asked her and she said, "I'm fine. If they wanna help, tell them to sign up for a United Way Day of Caring Team and help someone in need. They can do it for me." So, for those of you who want to do something for Liz, go volunteer. Do it for Liz.Suddenly, Boo was animated. "That's it! And I can't. She wants us to volunteer and I can't. But I can pray and fast for Elizabeth."
And then I understood. All day Boo's refusal to eat wasn't due to dementia as I'd assumed, but because he was fasting. His quietness wasn't an inability to communicate as I'd assumed, but because he was praying for Elizabeth. All day he's done his part...consistently and steadily. For Boo that's quite an accomplishment and quite a witness.
Today Boo has continued his fast...with modifications to ensure that his health needs are met. He's giving up desserts and sweets. That's a hard one for him because he definitely has a sweet tooth. Yet, he's given them up without complaint. Not even one tiny complaint. Not even when a friend ate homemade cookies in front of him. And we're both praying for Elizabeth...for healing and for strength.
I've been humbled. So many times Boo needs help and comfort that I often forget about his very real need to help others. His ability to physically do things is extremely limited. His ability to do those things which are truly important is far from limited. I can learn from that.
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