When a Loved One is Diminishing

Compassionate Love:Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2014 Nancy Virden


On the phone:

Hey, Dad?


I’ll be there on Thursday to see you.

This Thursday? Ok.


Hey dad?


I’ll see you at about 5:00.

You’re coming?

Yes, at 5:00.

You’re coming today? Oh, alright.


In person:

Hi dad!

Hey daughter! I didn’t know you were coming.


It’s painful to watch someone who used to be so capable lose their abilities to function. Mixed emotions circle between our heads and hearts until we do not know what is any longer right or necessary. Do we wish or pray their suffering will end soon? How kind are phone calls when it frustrates them they no longer remember our names? Is one more surgery on a body with a lessening mind an ordeal worth undertaking?

I do not have those answers but would like to. With only one aunt I barely know involved in my dad’s care, end of life decisions will fall to me. My goal is to choose what I know he has said he wants.

Life is sacred. For those of us who struggle with Major Depression that statement may be questionable. Why? Because in despair we tend to see only our pain. This is my experience and that of several people I know.

My son Tim once said to me, “No matter what, no price is too high to pay to help someone change.” He was referring to situations where we may be incapacitated but in some way our purpose for living is not done. Our life is still in God’s hands and his purpose for us has not diminished.  We may never know why our continued existence matters.

“In his time,” a psychologist said to me when I talked about going home to heaven while suicidal thoughts filled my brain.

Indeed, in God’s time. Our mental illnesses and physical limitations do not have the power to interrupt his plan for us in this world. This can be difficult to understand.

I choose to be changed by the last years of my dad’s life. He may not know, or remember. Nevertheless, in the end I will be a better person, stronger to practice humility, and more patient. My life may become more an expression of compassionate love for the weak and marginalized.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline   1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.



  • Just had that same conversation with my Mom on Tuesday! It’s so hard to listen to her talk about me when I’m right there. But I brought some praise music & we had a time of prayer no matter who she thought I was! Don’t know what God is doing here but I still trust Him!!!!


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