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Archive | Family musings

Dementia Took My Mom Years Ago

Caring for Aging Parents

My mother was witty, fun, and smart. She danced in the kitchen, talked her way out of every traffic ticket, and ran her own business. She read constantly, created intricate cross-stitched pieces, and could quote baseball statistics like a pro. She loved Jesus and adored my dad.

Mom may still be living, but years ago, dementia took the person she was. The disease slowly changed her personality and tore down her ability to effectively relate to other people. Although it happened over time, the reality hit me one day.

“Mom” was gone; just a shadow remained. And I’ve been feeling the loss ever since.

My mother and I were always close. Even after I married and we moved hundreds of miles away, Mom and I stayed connected with regular, long phone calls. I went to her with parenting questions and friendship issues. She always cared, always listened, and always had some words of wisdom.

I never realized how much I had depended on Mom until I couldn’t. But then I discovered that in some ways, our relationship had hindered my dependence on God. When something happened, instead of turning to Him, I called Mom. When she lost the ability to listen and understand, I began to learn how to take those things to the One who would always listen. Always understand.

Grieving Lost Relationships

The psalmist David knew about personal loss and painful relationships. Yet David learned to cultivate a deep, satisfying relationship with God that brought him comfort in the midst of grief, security in tumultuous circumstances, and joy that surpassed any loss.

In the sixty-third psalm, David emphasized God’s presence with His people. Whether through death, betrayal, or simply change, human relationships will always fail us. But God will never fail us. Our earthly relationships can never meet all our needs, but God can meet every need. He can quench our thirst and satisfy our hunger. His love is better than life itself. (See Psalm 63:1-8.)

When you feel alone, when a sense of loss overwhelms you, turn to the Truth. You are not alone. God is with you. Remember the times He has made His presence known to you in the past. Reflect on those moments you’ve experienced His loving care. Whisper His name and turn to Him. Depend on His strength and sustenance.

Finding Joy in the Changes

Yes, our relationship with our parents is different than it once was. Now they depend on us. Now they need our help. Our guidance. In many ways, we are the parent and they are the child. We grieve the people they were and the relationship we had with them. But, in our grief, let’s not miss what we still have. Who they are now.

Today, my relationship with my mother is drastically different than it was. Yet I’m seeking new ways to find joy in the relationship we do have and to help her enjoy the life she still has. Mom can no longer read, stitch, or dance. But she does like watching planes take off and land. So recently, we drove out and parked next to the airport. And we sat and together we watched the planes.

How has the relationship with your parents changed in recent years? What are some practical ways you can enjoy the relationship you have with them now.

 

30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents

Caring for Aging ParentsStruggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? Kathy Howard’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection.

Read first 5 devotionals.

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6 Practical Tips When Caring for Aging Parents

Tips Aging Parents

Wouldn’t it be great if our aging parents came with an instruction manual? But, no guidebook exists. We don’t have a troubleshooting checklist.

So, here we are struggling to navigate the family role-reversal. The parent, who cared for us, now needs our care. And we are often physically emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. So, how can we excel at this challenging, God-given task?

The first – and best – things we can do are not “tangible.” Things like pray constantly, rely on God for daily strength, and humbly seek His wisdom. And let’s do those things. Every day let’s do those things. (The tips in this post are found in Kathy’s new book “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents. Read the first 5 days of devotions now. Or order from Amazon!)

6 Practical Tips for Caring for Aging Parents

But practical things are helpful too. And in the little bit of experience I’ve had caring for my father-in-law and my parents, I’ve stumbled across a few things you might find helpful too.

  1. Mark your calendar with a pencil – Like you, I’ve cancelled lunch plans to take a parent to the doctor. I’ve blocked off weeks for hospital stays. But the one that really hurt  was when I had to cancel keeping my grandson for a few days. After I threw my pity party, God got my attention. In this season, my parents needed me most. I can make plans, but I need to hold them loosely. I’ll never regret the time spent with my parents.
  2. Build a network of accountability – My husband has talked me down off the ledge more than once. The night Mom told me to leave her house, she didn’t want me there, sent me running out of the room ready to explode. (It was the dementia talking, but it still hurt.) My husband calmed me enough to pray, then God did the rest. We all need 2 or 3 trusted people who can not only act as a sounding board but also keep us properly on our God-given task.
  3. Help your parents find new ways to enjoy life – Due to Parkinson’s, Dad can no longer fish or golf. But he spends a lot of time beating my brother and me at dominoes. Dementia prevents Mom from doing pretty much everything she used to enjoy, but we color together and she loves beading with one of her caregivers.
  4. Ask for and accept help – Whether you care for a parent full-time, part-time, or share the responsibility with a family member there will be times when you need additional help. It may be ongoing or for a single afternoon, but don’t let pride or self-sufficiency get in the way. There are people who would love to help they just don’t know how. If someone says “Let me know if I can do anything,” give them a time, a date, and a task!
  5. Choose to act in love even when you don’t feel like it -True love, agape love, is love of volition, not emotion. This truth is freeing to me! We don’t have to feel guilty about not always feeling loving toward our parents when caring for them gets hard. Choosing to act in love pleases and honors God!
  6. Practice praise and thanksgiving – The caregiving journey is often deeply discouraging for the parent and the caregiver. Purposefully praising God for who He is and looking for things to thank Him for are not only the best weapons against anxiety, they also foster joy and peace. (See Philippians 4:4-7.)

These ideas are just a start. All of you caregivers have some hard-earned wisdom to share.

What practical ideas can you share with us to help us excel at caring for our aging parents?

 

 

30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents

Caring for Aging ParentsStruggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? Kathy Howard’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection.

Read first 5 devotionals.

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We Don’t Have What it Takes to Care for Aging Parents

Caring for Aging Parents

This article is excerpted from Kathy’s new devotional book “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents,” which releases today! 

When my husband and I were young parents, our church friends had an ongoing joke that reflected the challenge of raising little humans. We designated that carefree time of life before the arrival of the first offspring as “BC” – before children. Before children, we enjoyed spontaneous outings, a little extra spending money, and a good night’s sleep.

But after the children’s arrival, everything changed. Grocery store trips required hours of preparation. Paychecks often ran out before the next payday. And we regularly navigated our days in a sleep-deprived state.

Caring for little ones was tough. Then they grew to be teenagers and parenting stretched us to new lengths. Now, with our children grown, we can look back and clearly see how God sustained us with His grace through every stage of parenting.

Kids out, parents in

Then we totally skipped the empty-nest stage. The summer our last child left for college, my 80-year-old father-in-law arrived. One young birdie flew out and one old birdie flew in.

Granted, Pappaw only needed a little assistance during the first years he spent with us. Then his health began to decline and he experienced one major problem after another. As doctors, medication, lengthy hospital stays, surgeries, and rehab dominated his life, he needed us more and more.

For a season, I was helping both my husband with his father and making regular trips to care for my own parents. I desperately wanted to do it all right, but the responsibilities felt heavy, draining.

I quickly realized I don’t have what it takes. I’m ill-equipped to make good decisions for my aging parents. I lack the spiritual strength to love and care for them unconditionally. One minute I want to hug them and tell them everything will be alright and the next I want to force them to “listen to reason.”

Read the first 5 days of “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents”

Are you caring for aging parents?

Many of you are there now – overwhelmed with the needs of your parents. With the responsibility of caring for them. Like me, you don’t have what it takes to do it well.

But I know Someone who has everything we need and more. Caring for ill and aging parents challenges us daily and can stretch us to the breaking point. But, by His power and grace, God will give us everything we need to care for them and live a life that pleases God “through our knowledge of Him who called us” (2 Peter 1:3).

Caring for our aging parents is a joint venture with God

As we abide in Jesus, God’s powerful provision flows through this life-giving connection. The power is Christ in us, working through us to minister to our parents. Caring for our parents is a joint venture with God. As we step out in obedience, God provides the power to fuel our efforts. God doesn’t promise the task will be easy. But He does promise our efforts make a difference.

Today, let’s take a deep breath and settle into the amazing truth that our powerful God willprovide everything we need for this journey. Let us draw close to Jesus and hold tight.

What can you do each day to purposefully stay connected to Jesus? How will abiding in Jesus strengthen you for your God-given task?

Caring for Aging ParentsMore about “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents”

Are you struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? Kathy Howard’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection. AVAILABLE TODAY! 

Order the book now on Amazon, New Hope Publishers, or CBD.

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Do I Love God as Much as My Grandson Loves His Daddy?

My 19-month-old grandson Theo loves his daddy. I know what you’re thinking. All boys love their fathers. And yes, they do. But Theo loves his dad so much he can’t stop talking about it. In fact, I witnessed a scene recently between Theo and my son-in-law that prompted me to wonder if I love God like that.

It was Christmas Eve and all our family had gone to church together at 9am. After church we went to a local coffee shop to visit. My son-in-law Jeremy is on the church staff and had to meet us there a little later.

When Jeremy arrived, Theo ran to him calling “Daddeee, Daddeee, Daddee.” But what got me is what happened next. After Theo climbed in Jeremy’s lap and hugged him, he hopped down and ran to my husband, his grandfather. Theo touched Wayne on the leg, glanced back at Jeremy, then looked up at Wayne and joyfully said “Daddeee.” Then ran back to his father and climbed up in his lap again.

Theo did this 3 or 4 times before he finally settled down in his daddy’s lap. Each time he ran to Wayne, Theo’s “Daddee” included joy, excitement, and just a bit of a question. And all of us sitting there caught it. It was as if Theo wanted to make sure Wayne knew his daddy had arrived.

Theo not only adores his father and wants to be near him, he wants to share the wonder of his father with the other people he loves. As I watched this touching scene, God nudged my heart. I felt Him ask: Do you love me like this? So much you can’t help but tell others about me?

Why Do I Share Jesus?

Honestly, most of the times I’ve shared Jesus with others have been acts of obedience. I tell others because God has commanded us to tell. In recent years, I’ve been praying that God would give me a burden for the lost, that He would give me a heavy awareness of their eternal condition, so I would share out of a desire to help them.

But this is a different, deeper motivation. Do I love God so much I can’t help but share this joy with others? 

I wish I had a video of that day I told you about. I wish you could see the sheer joy on Theo’s face at his father’s arrival and his exuberance at sharing his presence with Wayne. Sadly, I don’t. But I do have another video that will give you a rough idea of Theo’s unbounded love for his dad.

My daughter Kelley took this video one day while Jeremy was out of town. Theo had been missing his daddy and couldn’t stop looking for him and asking about him. His 5-year-old brother tried to explain, but it wasn’t enough for Theo.

What about you? Do you love your Heavenly Father so much that you run to tell others how wonderful He is?

I pray we both grow in our love for God in this New Year. If you want to love God more, add your prayer in the comments! 

If you liked this post, these may be helpful:

 

 

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Where is God when Marriage is Hard?

Marriage is hardMy guest today is Laura Taggart, author of the newly released book “Making Love Last.”

Marriage is hard. Think about it. You and your mate come from different family histories. Different genders mean you think, process, and operate differently. Different personalities create challenges as you try to merge two lives with different ways of thinking and reacting.

Sound like a recipe for disaster? Amazingly God designed it that way. What was He thinking?

Year thirteen of my marriage was excruciatingly painful. My husband was doubting his love for me and not inclined to stay the course. I was disappointed with God for what I perceived as His lack of faithfulness. After all, I had tried the best I knew how to be faithful to Him, to love my husband and raise our children to know Him.

In the midst of my frustration and self-pity, I had a reckoning. What if, in the turmoil, God was doing something in me! What if God was being His good self in the middle of this mess? In that moment, I realized I didn’t want to miss what God had for me. Even in struggle.

I determined to hold onto God no matter what. I began to let go of my own perceptions. My hurt and disappointment began to dissipate. In time, I realized my expectations of my husband stifled his ability to be himself. I wanted my husband to love me my way and he wasn’t cooperating. I had relied on him for the unconditional love that only God can provide.

I began to lean into God more for my needs and trust His love to be enough. As I began to experience the security of God’s love, the fears that fostered high expectations from my husband began to lessen. I relied on God’s strength. My trust in Him grew. I gained confidence in his presence and provision.

“My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield . . . my stronghold.” Psalm 18:12

As my anxiety diminished, I began to live with an open heart, enjoying the present. Rather than concentrating on my needs and my husband’s failures, I began to see the difficulties of our life together as an opportunity for my growth. This was life-altering. Paying more attention to my own unloving ways brought new life into our relationship.

Feeling totally accepted by God – just the way I am – helped me show my husband the same acceptance. When he began to realize my love for him was secure, that my previous high level of expectations were gone, his self-defenses dropped. Then amazing things began to happen. He began to change.

Intimate relationship is powerful. Marriage, our most exposing of all relationships, provides the most transformational opportunity of our lives. I can choose to be my mate’s harshest critic or biggest fan. If I can accept him in his humanness and trust God for what I need, I am more able to be thankful for the gift of my husband and less disappointed by what he isn’t. And I can begin to see God’s goodness in the mess.

Marriage is hard. Back in year thirteen, I couldn’t even imagine the sweet relationship my husband and I enjoy today. If your marriage is hard today, don’t give up! God is working through the hardness to carve out something beautiful!

Laura TaggartLaura Taggart is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author of “Making Love Last: Divorce-Proofing Your Young Marriage” (released July 4, 2017). She has been an Adjunct Professor of Counseling for Fuller Theological Seminary, Northern California Campus. Laura is an international speaker on topics of marriage, parenting, and Christian spirituality.

With one-third of all married couples divorce before their ten-year Making Love Lastanniversary, in “Making Love Last” Taggart offers the wisdom she would share as a counselor with a couple in the early years of marriage. She helps couples examine their true expectations for marriage, provides six action steps for improving the way they relate, and gives them a new picture of what it means to enjoy marriage for a lifetime. Each chapter includes discussion questions for couples or small groups as well as additional questions for personal reflection.

 

 

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Fireflies, Family Fun, and Intelligent Design

Not long after we moved into our new home, we discovered fireflies like to hang out in our backyard at twilight. The sight brought back such good memories of our childhood we wanted to share the experience with our 5-year-old grandson Micah. So last weekend, we invited him to sleepover at Boss and Nana’s house. (Now that we live close, we can do that!)

First, we “had” to let him stay up way past his bedtime. Then we got to sit out back, watch the sunset, and wait for the lightning bugs to make their appearance.

fireflies

Micah wore his pajamas and his rain boots for the firefly escapade. (When he arrived at our house that morning with the thick red rubber boots on his feet I didn’t give it a second thought. After all, it was raining at the time. Later, when we were getting ready to go out to dinner, we found out he didn’t have any other shoes with him. His mom let him pack all by himself.)

Rain boots may not be the best foot wear for the Ponder Steak House, but they happened to be perfect for running around a muddy backyard snagging glowing beetles between your two cupped hands. By the time the “catching” was finished, Micah had collected about a dozen fireflies in his bug house.

Micah wanted to take good care of them and knew they needed food and water to survive. After some quick research we learned more than we thought we needed to know about fireflies. Here’s the top things we found interesting:

  • Fireflies are NOT flies, they are beetles.
  • There are about 2,000 different varieties of fireflies.
  • Fireflies eat bugs, like mosquitos, and nectar.
  • The primary purpose of the fireflies’ light is to attract a mate.
  • The firefly’s glow is a chemical reaction between two substances in the bug’s abdomen. The firefly itself triggers the reaction by regulating the flow of oxygen into it’s abdomen.

Our research triggered two actions. First, we filled a bottle cap with hummingbird food and placed it in the bug house so the fireflies wouldn’t starve before Micah released them at home the next day. (They actually drank it!)

Second, the firefly’s incredible design pointed us straight to the Designer. What a “glowing” example of God’s creativity and power. And He didn’t just create one kind of glowing beetle. He created 2,000! Isn’t our God amazing?!

What have you seen in the world lately that reminded you of the One who made it?!

 

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Let the Church Search Begin

churchFinally! No more boxes! (In the house anyway. The garage does not count.) Pictures even adorn the walls.

Our moving adventure hit full swing three weeks ago today. Now that we are able to function in the house it’s time to begin finding our place in our new community.

In 34 years of marriage, our family has moved 7 times. After unpacking boxes, our first priority has always been to find a new church home. Now it’s that time again. It’s time to find the church God has chosen for us.

Our family does not “church shop.” In fact, I really dislike that term. It implies that believers should look for a church like we look for a new car. That we find the one with all the desirable features. That we chose the one that will serve and suit us best. After all, we want to get the most “bang for our buck.”

But that’s not what the Bible teaches about a believer’s relationship to a local church. Sadly, many of us today have unknowingly allowed our consumer culture to shape our thinking about the church. We look for the church that will meet all our “needs.” Then when it doesn’t we move on down the road to the one with the more dynamic preacher or better youth program or better entertainment value. (For more on church shopping and church “hopping” check out this post and this one.)

I admit, this attitude affects me too. That’s one reason I want to share my “church search” experience with you here.  I pray that the transparency will keep me from falling into that trap.

I want to seek and find the church God has already chosen for us. The church where He already has a place for us to serve. The church where the body needs us and the gifts God has given us.

3 key truths the Bible teaches about a believer’s relationship with God’s church

If this way of thinking about church is “new” to you, maybe these points will help.

  1. God wants me to use the gifts He has given me to serve a local church (1 Corinthians 12:4 and following) – My God-given gifts and talents are not for me. He intends me to use them for the good of other believers – particularly in committed relationship with a local church.
  2. God has a particular spot for me in a particular body (1 Corinthians 12:21-27) – Which church and which place of service is NOT my decision. God has already chosen it. It’s my task to discover His will and obey it.
  3. God works through the local church to grow me up spiritually (Ephesians 4:11-16) – I cannot be everything God intends for me to be without being vitally connected to a local church. God matures me and strengthens my faith within that context. He has designed faith to be a corporate experience. We cannot adequately follow Christ on our own.

I miss our church in Houston. But I am also excited about what God has planned for us here. Over the next few weeks, I plan to share that journey with you and talk more about the church. I’d love for you to share your thoughts with me too!

Are you actively connected to a local church? If not, why not? If so, what led you to that specific church?

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Friends Don’t Divide, They Multiply!

We are moving this week. In fact, the movers are scheduled to arrive this morning. If things go according to plan, there will be two days of packing and loading here in Houston, then we will unload at our new home just north of the Dallas/Ft Worth area on Wednesday.

If you’ve ever moved, you know that carries a lot of implications. New utilities. New doctors. New church. And even some new friends.

What’s wonderful about the friendship thing is that even while you get new local friends, you can keep the ones you move away from. Physical distance does not have to divide friends. Instead a new place means additional friends. Friends don’t divide, they multiply!

 

friends

We have moved seven times during 34 years of marriage. We have made new friends each time. Although we don’t regularly stay in touch with all of them, we still count them as friends. We can easily reconnect. In fact, this has happened multiple times. We may go years without speaking to an old friend, then life brings us together again and we discover the bonds of friendship remain.

friends

And then there are others. Friends we have “carried” with us from one place to the next. Both of us have made the effort needed to stay in regular communication. To work out face-to-face visits. These relationships have actually grown, deepened, over time.

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9, NLT

friends

All these friendships reveal God’s great grace and sweet love to us. He knows we need connections to others. He knows we need others in our lives to encourage, strengthen, exhort, and comfort us. And He knows they in turn need us. He designed us that way. As relational beings. And He created friendship to meet those needs.

friends

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friendProverbs 27:17, NLT

Although it is bittersweet to move away from local friends, I can anticipate the new relationships God has in store for us in our new town. And I pray I may be the friend they need.

How you experienced friendship that survives time and distance? In what ways do you foster these relationships?

 

 

 

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In the Midst of Change, the Best Remains the Same

I feel as though my life is all boxed up, but change is coming…

Literally, our life is in boxes. My husband’s retirement in December started it all. He had planned to work another two years, but when his company offered an early retirement opportunity, we knew it was time. We decided to move our plan forward – to sell our home in Houston and move to the Dallas area where our daughters and their families live.

After the holidays we began working to get the house in top shape. Power wash the driveway. Weed the flower beds. Paint some walls. Then came all the staging work – pack away the family photos, take the animal heads off the walls, and pack up the “extra” decor.

The house officially hit the market April 20th. We really expected it to take a few weeks at least. But we received three offers in the first three days. The biggest problem was we had no where to go. So, we took a quick trip north to find a new home.

We closed on the new place last Wednesday and minor renovations began the next day! The movers come to help us make the actual move next week! All our stuff should be inside the new place by mid-June!

In the meantime, I’m packing. And packing. Selling a few extra things and donating some others. Everything else has been put on the back burner. That includes blogging! But I wanted to work this one in to give you all an update.

Oh, and in the middle of it all, I received a contract from my publisher for a new book! That project is at the top of my list – right under “unpack boxes!” (Watch for more about this later!)

I’m in the midst of a lot of change right now – husband’s retirement, moving away from a church family that I love, selling one home and buying another, changing cities, and moving my elderly parents from Louisiana to Tennessee to be near my brother (that’s a whole other story!) But the best of it all remains the same. My husband has been consistently at my side for almost 34 years. Our family still loves and supports one another.

And, most importantly, my God is the same faithful, all-powerful, gracious Father I’ve always known. He is the same God in Dallas that He is in Houston. Or New York. Or Mozambique. We will find a place among His people in our new home. And He will have work for us to do there. I can’t wait!

 

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A New Chapter Begins

Yesterday my parents said goodbye to friends and paid a final visit to the house they called home for almost 50 years. Today, we begin a two-journey to their new home 700 miles away.

Dad’s health took a nose-dive last summer. Three hospital stays back to back sapped his strength and he ended up in a nursing facility for extended rehab. Since mom cannot stay home alone, she joined him. This arrangement was intended to be very temporary.

Many of you know how difficult it is to watch over someone from a distance. My parents have lived in Shreveport, Louisiana their entire lives. I live in Houston (for another month anyway, but that’s another story.) My brother lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. Our goal – my brother’s and mine – was to move them to Knoxville.

Finally, after months of getting their affairs in order, the journey to Knoxville begins! The bulk of their belongings are already waiting for them in their new home, which is one mile from my brother’s home. My husband Wayne and I, Mom and Dad, two little dogs, and the last of their belongings will caravan in two cars over two days.

Knoxville or bust!


Yesterday was bittersweet. We took mom and dad back to their house for a final visit. The rooms were empty and the walls bare, but the memories were still there. Dad sat in the middle of the den and pointed out features he loved about the den they added four decades ago. Neighbors popped by to say goodbye.

It’s hard to begin again at any age. But Shreveport is the only home my parents have ever known. But they are looking forward and ready for what God has in store.

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