At the other end of our fully-extended dining table, my 88-year-old father-in-law was laughing. And it made my heart swell.
Seated on either side of this widower were all four of his grown kids and many grandchildren who had gathered for Christmas dinner. He eagerly ate a full meal of his favorite holiday foods, including rich pumpkin pie. A similar scene has played out many times for our family … but this year was different.
While my father-in-law’s laughter was genuine, he probably wasn’t 100% sure what he – and everyone else – was joyfully laughing about. You see, over the last year, his dementia has been rapidly increasing, his eyesight continues to fail, his hearing aid had run out of batteries and he'd broken his wrist. Because of these extensive health problems, he’s been staying in a nursing home where he can receive the best possible care. And it’s caused him great sadness.
That’s why his full-on laughter brought such joy to my heart. Honestly, I don’t think he would have laughed any harder even if he had been able to hear every single sound. The sounds that he DID hear – and those that REALLY mattered – were the familiar giggles and guffaws of his family. He knew he was surrounded by love.
Tonight, exactly one week later, this dear man’s dinner is being served on a hospital tray, with two of his kids (and one granddaughter) by his side. He’s picking at his food, trying to get his son (my hubby) to eat it instead. He’s doing fairly well, considering he’s been admitted for flu and pneumonia.
For now, we pray for comfort and quality care during his hospital stay. And we remember the peals of laughter just seven days ago, knowing that being surrounded by his family was the best gift we could ever give my father-in-law.