“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you.” Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

“Your mother has been sleeping most of the morning,” said the aide who greeted me when I arrived at the nursing home. I waited until my mother awoke, then, asked an attendant to help me put Mom into her wheelchair.

No words were spoken between my mother and me. Smiles had been rare during recent months. All verbal communication had come to an end. My heart was anchor-heavy.

We took the elevator down to the cafeteria. Once there, I wheeled her chair up to a long rectangular table. Most of the residents had eaten or were leaving the cafeteria when we arrived. There were just the two of us.

I held the soup spoon in my hand and began to feed my mother. She ate slowly while staring at the cream-painted wall our table faced. Whenever I touched the spoon to her lips, she would turn her head toward me, childlike, and open her mouth. Her once-clear blue eyes appeared vacant—a fog had rolled in to create a permanent haze.

For the fourth time, I lifted the spoon to her mouth. At that point, she turned her head to look directly into my eyes! Her own eyes appeared clear for a few seconds. And then it happened. She said “love”—quietly, softly. A slight smile lit up her face. The spoon felt weightless as it hovered between us. I knew the moment would evaporate like dew on a hot day. Slowly, I lowered the spoon and set it down, my eyes fixed upon Mom’s.

“Love, Mom—you feel my love? I feel your love, too!”

Abruptly, she turned her head back toward the wall. I stood up, leaned down, and wrapped my arms around her shoulders. She squirmed under my touch. The moment was over, but I will cherish it as I long as I, myself, have memory: This was God’s love gift to us, shared through my mother’s whisper, five months before she died of dementia.

“Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39