CAN A WOMAN FORGET?
“Can a woman forget her nursing child and not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.”
We had guests over for dinner this past weekend. In the course of the conversation, Joanie expressed the grief she feels because her own mother doesn’t remember who she is. I totally understood her, and my mind flashed back to how I felt when Mom didn’t remember me anymore, either. At that time, I wrote something I’d like to share.
In the past, each time I read the passage in Isaiah 49:15,16, I thought to myself: “That’s an interesting example, but there’s NO WAY a mother can ever forget one of her children.” After all, I reasoned, that child was part of her very being since before he even made his physical debut on this planet! And after his arrival, in his helplessness, he consumes a mother’s days and nights as she tends to his every need. As the child grows and matures, mom guides, protects, provides for, comforts, encourages and rejoices, as she finally sees her child reach the point of independence. Yet even then, a mother’s heart is still entwined with that child she invested so much in. She continues to support, defend, and give, even to the point to sacrifice. What would a mother NOT do for her child, even her adult child? Will a mother ever stop being concerned for her child? How could it be possible that she would ever forget that child she holds so dear?
That is what I used to think. Then mom’s Alzheimer’s got worse. When we would go to see her, I started having to tell her who I was. I was 55 years old, and my introduction was always the same, so she would be able to place me. It was: “Hi Mom, I’m Kath, your baby.” By the barrage of questions that followed, she confirmed the fact that she had forgotten me: “Are you married? Who to? Where do you live?” She completely forgot that my Argentine husband Jorge and I had lived in Argentina for 27 years, that we raised our family there, and that she often visited us. She forgot that my husband and I lived with her and dad to help them with their daily care for nearly 1½ years after we returned to Ohio in 2003; even being a Grandma that dearly loved her twenty grandchildren, she didn’t remember that we have children. After introducing myself and answering all of her initial questions, she would look at me and ask, “Which one are you?” Then she would proceed to ask the same questions over and over, and hear the same answers time and time again. Each time I visited her, our familiar routine started out with “Hi Mom, I’m Kath, your baby”, and continued right on course.
As I watched Mom’s memory come and go, and saw that she forgot each of her 4 remaining children more frequently (and forgot that her oldest child, Janet, passed away in December of 2004), this verse that Isaiah wrote so many centuries ago nearly jumped off the page of my Bible one morning. What I once considered to be nothing more than an example that didn’t quite line up with reality, became the unfortunate reality I was experiencing. When I came to that realization, the second part of this passage became all the more precious to me, as I wrapped my arms around it and embraced the truth of it: “surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you in the palms of my hands.” Those nail scars that He has on the palms of His hands give me the assurance that He really does love me “with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3).
Knowing and believing these truths allows me to be reconciled with the fact that Mom had truly forgotten me. It was hard for me to imagine, and even harder to accept, but God used this heartbreaking situation to make His eternal love all the more precious to me. It causes me to praise God for His promise that He will not forget me ever! I thank Him that I don’t have to introduce myself to Him every time I present myself before Him! (“Hi God, I’m your child. You adopted me way back in 1965…Remember?”) It is assuring to know that He knew me and loved me before I was even born, with His perfect, unchanging, everlasting love. And I praise Him that I can rest in that love – even though my own Mom, who very peacefully passed into the Lord’s eternal presence on June 9, 2007, had forgotten me!