The lines we color in through life sometime change. But the love we feel for our families, the imitation of God’s love for us, does not.
by Patti Eischen
Recently, I visited my mother at the skilled nursing center where she has lived for about the last year. This is the second facility that she has lived in. Her body and her cognitive ability are breaking down after 79 years of living.
Whenever I visit, I always try to take something to brighten her day: a bouquet of flowers, a new flavored water, a chocolate shake. Dementia and short term memory loss have taken their toll on her—it is better for both of us if we have something on which to focus our conversation.
This last time, I took her a coloring book for adults, so popular now. In her prime she loved gardening and flowers; could name all sorts of plants and where they would flourish. So the coloring book had a floral motif. I knew that she’d love it.
She spent several minutes just leafing through looking at each page. We found one page that was a simple design. I had also brought washable felt tip markers. I set us up, using the over the bed table, mom on one side, me on the other. She took one corner, I took the other. And we began.
As we began to fill in the empty spaces, I noticed that she was having a hard time staying within the lines. On the other corner, I began to fill in a hydrangea, a daisy, choosing contrasting colors for petals, centers and stems.
I noticed that mom made slow and unsteady progress in her coloring. Her cognitive ability, poor vision too perhaps made it difficult to stay within the lines. It felt very much like I was the parent and she was the child. This is a feeling and an expression I’ve heard from other adult children about how relationships with parents change over time.
While we colored, we had a conversation. I had some difficult news to share with her. I was worried about the backlash. But the coloring gave us both something else to focus on. It really did have a calming effect as has been alluded to by the marketers. The coloring seemed to create a neutral ground. She took the news well, in fact, she was understanding and expressed her concern for me.
But when I told her the difficult news, I was the child and she was the parent. She didn’t try to fix anything (as she would sometimes jump in to do) she just comforted and consoled me. For that I am grateful. She stayed within the lines—not with coloring—but what parents are charged to do—to love us, to comfort us.
The lines we color in through life sometime change. But the love we feel for our families, the imitation of God’s love for us, does not. Nor does His love for us change. He stays within the lines.