By Tarah Harl
Brave Women Series - Tarah's Story
I was 30 years old. Not yet a mother myself, I sat with my mom in the doctor’s office that breezy fall morning. We had waited months for this day. At 60 my mom had started to do and say some unusual things.
At my urging, we went to the doctor – many doctors actually, trying to find answers. Sadly, because of her age, we had to fight for her to be tested. No one believed our worst fear could happen.
That day we heard the words no adult child wants to hear. Early Onset Alzheimer’s. My strong mother, a woman who had dealt with so many terrible blows in life, would now suffer the same fate as her father. Alzheimer’s Disease. Entirely too young.
"My strong mother, a woman who had dealt with so many terrible blows in life, would now suffer the same fate as her father. Alzheimer’s Disease. Entirely too young."
My husband and I had been enduring an almost five-year infertility battle - IVF cycles, clomid trials, miscarriages, and utter heartbreak, and finally letting go and starting the process to adopt. Now would I be caring for my mom instead of a baby? God, this is not how my life was supposed to look! When I started following Jesus as a young adult, I assumed this was my way out of pain. Of suffering. Of having a life that didn’t meet my expectations. I was attracted to the idea of a Savior who rescues. I learned to seek Him above all else, because He was the only place I felt at home.
"When I started following Jesus as a young adult, I assumed this was my way out of pain. Of suffering. Of having a life that didn’t meet my expectations. I was attracted to the idea of a Savior who rescues. I learned to seek Him above all else, because He was the only place I felt at home."
The day we got mom’s diagnosis I remember being in shock. This news was my mom’s actual worst nightmare, and she knew what was in store for me. As her condition progressed, our roles would reverse. Every day. Little by little. The child would now be the one responsible for the parent. The days after were filled with anger at God. Fear of the unknown. Pleading that this wasn’t a part of our story.
How would I get through this? How would my mom? Alzheimer’s moved rather quickly as it ravaged my sweet mama’s tiny body. First by changing her personality, then bringing in anxiety, coupled with fear, and slow memory loss. During this time, we found out that God had blessed us with a natural pregnancy! We were overjoyed about finally having a baby, but there was so much fear about what that would look like as my mom's condition quickly progressed. My family and I felt that it would be best if we found a good facility to properly care for Mom. God consistently showed His grace and wisdom as He led us to the right facilities with the most incredible people. His provision was everywhere. Often, I felt out of my league and, honestly, like a child as I talked with nurses and directors of facilities. Most of the other family members I became friends with were my mom's age and caring for their parents with Alzheimer's. I grew up quickly during those years, not only as a new mother, but as a daughter who wanted to honor her mother well.
"I grew up quickly during those years, not only as a new mother, but as a daughter who wanted to honor her mother well."
When the disease was near the end, it was sudden. It took my sweet mama 7 days to leave this earth. In the Bible, 7 means completion or fulfillment. In those 7 days, I felt God with me, with us, stronger than ever before. Prayer was constant. Peace was felt when it didn’t make sense. More divine appointments with nurses and hospice workers. His supernatural grace. The Spirit was thick. Unmistakable. Anyone who entered her room during those days felt it. Knew it. God was with her. With us. I may not quite understand the meaning of life, but I know without a doubt that our days are numbered. We will not live forever.
King David says in Psalm 39:4-7,
“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered — how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath. We are merely moving shadows and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” (NLT)
Looking back on those years I see God's hand loving us, leading us, shaping us for His glory. I see His grace. I see how God poured into me when I had nothing left to give. That tiny seed of faith that originally thought Jesus was my cure for the suffering in this world grew into a faith that has now carried me through so many earthshakingly hard things.
"I see how God poured into me when I had nothing left to give. That tiny seed of faith that originally thought Jesus was my cure for the suffering in this world grew into a faith that has now carried me through so many earthshakingly hard things."
I can praise God now for our infertility. God knew better. He knew that I would need that first year of my mom's diagnosis to fully care for her in ways that I couldn't have if I had been a new mom.
I see how He refined me during that time. It was painful. But I wasn't alone and now on the other side of that season, I have brave hope in the suffering. I can cling to Jesus in seasons of suffering and find peace, hope, and purpose.
"I see how He refined me during that time. It was painful. But I wasn't alone and now on the other side of that season, I have brave hope in the suffering."
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story. And by the way...
You are Brave!
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Tarah Harl is an aspiring writer and speaker who shares stories on faith, family, and grief. She's a wife to her incredible husband and three beautiful children living in central Texas. She loves being with her many pets, exploring the outdoors, diving into a good book and anything involving ice cream.
Tarah is passionate about sharing stories and helping people feel less alone in their struggles. She finds joy in encouraging others and helping women live with purpose and grow in their relationship with God. Connect with Tarah on her website tarahkharl.com and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.