Mike Glenn has been the pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church since 1991, and has led the church to begin a regional ministry called The Middle Tennessee Initiative. He is the author of three books, In Real Time, The Gospel of Yes, and most recently, Coffee with Mom. He also writes on his blog, MikeGlennOnline.com and is a frequent contributor for the Jesus Creed blog on Patheos.com.
He recently joined Carmen to talk about Coffee with Mom: Caring for a Parent with Dementia and how sometimes life takes you places you don’t want to go.
Transcript (begins at 23:21):
Carmen LaBerge: So sometimes life takes you places that you don’t want to go. Every 65 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s. Right now that means that 5.8 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s, and by 2050 that number is going to be 14 million. So right now one in 10 people age 64 and older has Alzheimer’s dementia. Nearly two thirds of them are women. In my family that would be my paternal grandmother, two of my aunts, and a cousin, who all died of this particular disease, which means that in my family Alzheimer’s is a reality generation to generation.
Carmen LaBerge: Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in America and it is frightening. More than 16 million Americans right now are providing unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s. Most of them are not prepared, nor are they adequately resourced to do so, and our churches are not adequately resourced to help. So our next guest, Mike Glenn, is the pastor of the church of 11,000 souls in eight campuses, but when his mom started disappearing day by day back in 2014 through the effects of Alzheimer’s, Mike Glenn was just like any one of us. He’s going to be here next to talk about coffee with Mom.
Jim Garlow: When engaging in the debate over immigration, remember, it’s all about Jesus. This is Jim Garlow. As Christians we want immigrants to embrace American values and understand the distinctly biblical foundations of this nation. But we also want them to come to an awareness that their sins can be forgiven through Jesus’ death on the cross. Virtually every church sends missionaries to other countries. But now the people of those countries are coming to us, which is a blessing in disguise. It’s a wonderful opportunity to express God’s love to them, not only through acts of kindness, but especially through sharing the gospel with them. This could be one of the church’s finest hours if it reaches out to immigrants in our midst, not just to help them assimilate into America, but specifically to help them assimilate into the family of God through a personal of his son Jesus Christ. This is Jim Garlow.
Carmen LaBerge: Thrilled to be joined this morning by Mike Glen, he’s the senior pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee. There’s all kinds of nice things I could say about Mike, but because he’s a pastor in my own community, mostly I just want to say thank you for being the shephed of a flock that not only worships God in spirit and in truth, but makes a real impact in the city of Nashville.
Mike Glenn: Well you’re kind, thank you.
Carmen LaBerge: Yeah, welcome to Mornings with Carmen.
Mike Glenn: I’m glad to be here.
Carmen LaBerge: Yeah, thank you. They can check out Mike’s blog at MikeGlenn, that’s two Ns, Online.com. He also writes frequently at Patheos.com. Today he’s here to talk about a book that is really a departure from what he ordinarily writes about, frankly, and this book is called Coffee With Mom: Caring for a Parent with Dementia. It’s by Mike Glenn, and it’s just out just now, by B&H Publishing.
Mike Glenn: Right.
Carmen LaBerge: So Mike, why Coffee With Mom? Let’s just start with that.
Mike Glenn: When I moved my mom up to live here in Nashville from Huntsville, Alabama 2014, and on my way in to work I would stop in and see her most every morning and have coffee with her. Well my mom’s a piece of work. So I tell her all the time that growing up with her prepared me for life in a Baptist church, because Baptist churches are filled with strong women. And growing up with my mom was the best preparation for that that anybody could ever have. So she would always say something funny or interesting, and I started putting that on social media and it got a huge following. Because a lot of people, we found out, were going through the same thing, and so the book is just a further development of some of those conversations that we had.
Carmen LaBerge: And it’s an incredible window into the experience of having a parent who is not only aging, but suffering from something that, not only do they not understand, but you as the person who loves them best in the whole world, can’t really help them with.
Mike Glenn: Yeah, and never understood it, yeah, right.
Carmen LaBerge: So just talk about walking into that experience. Because you are a person who is used to being in control, at least at some level, and an influencer over things. You shepherd a flock of 11,000 people, so it’s not as if God has set you over a small patch. He has set you over a large patch, that has grown consistently over time under your leadership, and yet each and every day for five years, you are dealing with something that is completely out of your control. Just talk about that in your own walk of discipleship.
Mike Glenn: One of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. And it’s hard for a couple reasons. One, everybody will tell you that that’s not your mom talking to you, that’s the illness, but it looks like your mom. And she talked like my mom, and so some of the things that she said, you tried to keep it separate in your head, but they still hurt, and they still made you angry, because of what this illness was doing to her, and then the way she would react to I. She lost everything gradually day by day, and so you end up grieving day by day. And you take her to the best doctors, we have an incredible medical center here in Nashville, and these are the experts that everybody else reaches out to. And that’s who you’re taking your mom to, and the tell you, “We can slow it down, we can mitigate this or mitigate that, but there’s nothing we can do about it.” And you just try to walk with her as best you can, until the day that the Lord called her home in July of last year.
Carmen LaBerge: So this is a line. Sometimes, and again, this is from Coffee With Mom, Caring for a Parent With Dementia by Mike Glenn, two Ns: Sometimes life takes you places you don’t want to go. And Mike, I got to tell you, when I read that line, I’m reminded of Jesus saying to Peter, “There’s going to be places that you’re going to have to go.” And so I think you and I both know as believers, this is not a journey that anyone is ever expected to walk alone. But talk about the fact that there were some days that it felt lonely.
Mike Glenn: Yeesh. There were times … Because sooner or later, you’re the one who has to make the call. And you can take everybody’s experience opinion, you can take everybody’s insight, but you’re the one who knows your mother better than anybody in the world, and you’re the one who knows what my dad wanted, and you’re the only one that can make that call. And so when you make it, you make it by yourself, and you live with the consequences, good or bad, pretty much by yourself. And so when I would talk to Mom about what I would want to do, she didn’t want to do it. And when you talk to your friends, all of them would have a different experience and a different opinion. And it got down to, here’s who my mom is, here’s what she loves, here’s what I know about her, and here’s what my love for her would require me to do.
Mike Glenn: The interesting thing was, our boys, Jeannie and I have twin boys, they were graduated, they had gotten their career started, they were married, they had children, and Jeannie and I were in a good place. We were going to do some things that we’d wanted to do. And then it became really apparent pretty quick. Friends started calling from Huntsville, said “You got to come take care of your mom, you got to do this.” And so all of a sudden we were in a journey that we didn’t plan on, and it pretty much consumed our lives for about four years.
Carmen LaBerge: So want to talk, when we come back from the break, about this reality of, what you learned actually matters in the end, and this notion that doing the best that you can is all that love requires. That is such a gift to people. And so I want to unpack that when we come back. I’m talking with Mike Glenn. He is the pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee. He is the author of a couple of books, but the most recent one is the one we’re talking about today, and that’s Coffee With Mom, Caring for a Parent With Dementia. You’re listening to Mornings with Carmen, and we’ll be right back.
Carmen LaBerge: Returning to my conversation now with Mike Glenn about his book, Coffee With Mom, Caring for a Parent With Dementia. Mike, this book is such a gift to every person who is walking in a place that they don’t want to walk, with one of the millions of Americans who suffer with dementia. I think it’s important for us to recognize that dementia is really not a specific disease, it’s this overall term that we use to describe a whole group of symptoms. But Alzheimer’s would be the disease that accounts for somewhere between 60 and 80% of all cases of dementia, and that every 65 seconds someone in America developments Alzheimer’s.
Mike Glenn: Right.
Carmen LaBerge: So we are talking about something that touches every American family. There’s no question that everybody who’s listening right now knows someone personally who is suffering in their family with walking this journey. And so Coffee With Mom is really-
Mike Glenn: Yeah, and everybody who loves that person is suffering with it too.
Carmen LaBerge: Yeah, and then by extension, right.
Mike Glenn: So it’s, we have Alzheimer’s. Not she has Alzheimer’s, it’s we have Alzheimer’s.
Carmen LaBerge: And yet every day you’ve got to get up from coffee, you’ve got to leave that room, and you’ve got to go do what you’ve got to do that day, because you’ve got a job to do, and you’ve got a family, and you’ve got responsibilities. And so I want to talk about that in just a minute. Just the counsel to people who are currently in this situation. But let’s back up and let’s talk about what you learned, what actually matters in the end. So Mike Glenn, what actually matters in the end?
Mike Glenn: Here’s what happened to me one day. I was kind of looking at her and I realized, she and I had never had a meeting about, if this happens then here’s what I want you to do. Just like she and I had never had a meeting when I was born. When I was born I didn’t tell her, “Here’s what I expect, here’s what I need from you.” The only thing I expected from Mom, and the only thing I needed from her, was, “I’m trusting you to do the best you can for me. Even when I don’t agree with your decisions, even when you mess up as a mom, I’m going to understand that in that moment you were doing the best that you could for me.” And it hit me, in this moment in Mom’s life, she may not understand everything, she may not agree with every decision I’m making, but the one thing she wants from me is, I have to be able to tell her, “Mom, I did everything I could do in your best interest. I did everything that was best for you.”
Mike Glenn: And at the end of the day, if you can look in the mirror and say, “I loved my mom, I loved my husband, I loved my wife, I loved my brother, sister, the best way I knew how, given everything that was on my plate, I did the best I could,” you’ll be fine. What you can’t live with is, “I wish I had. I wish I had done this, I wish I had done that.” But if you can say, “I did everything I knew to do, out of love for her, out of what was needed for her best,” then you’re okay with that.
Carmen LaBerge: So what you’re describing, Mike, is such a profound role reversal. And you have walked this journey, so you know what this role reversal is like. Talk to people who, right now, they’ve been facing this kind of diagnosis, probably not themselves, but maybe themselves, but they’re certainly facing it in their family. Someone that they love is suffering with dementia. Talk with them about this role reversal, this daily disappearing, and then also affirm that there’s a lot of joy, there are moments of joy and laughter along the way. Because I think that that is part of the hope of this book.
Mike Glenn: One of the best things my wife told me during this thing, she looked at me one day and I was exhausted, I was trying to do everything and keep my same pace, and she said, “You keep trying to live as if nothing has changed, and everything has changed.” So I think if you’re the one sitting with someone you love, and they’re getting this diagnosis, the first thing you have to realize is that from that moment on, everything has changed. Everything about your time, everything about your priorities, everything about your plans, everything has changed. Part of the grief is that you have to give up part of your dream for that part of your life. Now that’s a small thing in the long run, but there is a grief that you need to recognize, that I can’t travel like I wanted to travel, I can’t do this. And there’s a grief to that. And if you speak it you’re okay, if you acknowledge it you’re okay; if you don’t acknowledge it then it can slide into bitterness and resentment, and that’s never helpful.
Mike Glenn: But just understand, your life will now be in response to whatever your patient needs, whether that’s a doctor appointment, whether that’s an event at the place where they’re living. Did they get cross with somebody there? Mom became a kleptomaniac toward the end of her life, and everything that wasn’t nailed down, she stole, she took back to her room. So the little decorative things that you have around the house, little potted plants and stuff, little figurines, she took all those back to her room. And so I would have to go in her room and say, “I want to go show this to the boys,” or, “I want to take this and save this.” She’d say, “Okay, I want you to have it.” And I would take it out to the staff and go, “I don’t know where this goes, but this was in Mom’s room.”
Mike Glenn: So the priorities of taking care of yourself, of getting the rest you need, of getting the exercise you need, of staying in your spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study, meeting with other brothers and sisters who can encourage you, those things you can’t neglect. But by the time you do that, there’s not a whole lot of time for anything else, and that’s just part of the journey right now.
Carmen LaBerge: So Mike, I want to conclude our conversation with this. And again friends, the book is Coffee With Mom, Caring for a Parent With Dementia. It’s just been released, and you can find it, and I would highly recommend it, not only for you, but that you share it with folks who are walking this walk right now with a parent who has dementia, or a grandparent who has dementia. It will help you understand what is happening, and it will also give you great hope. Mike, we’ve talked about the fact that there’s so many parts of this that, you’re literally alone. But this is not a journey that you walked alone, nor is it a journey that either you or I would recommend anyone try to walk alone. You walk this journey in tremendous community.
Mike Glenn: Yes.
Carmen LaBerge: I just want to give you the opportunity to say something here to the people who served you and your mom at Morning Pointe, to your congregation, to your wife. Who are the people who you need in this experience, and how do you invite them in?
Mike Glenn: Oh gosh. I couldn’t have done it without Jeannie. I was fortunate that I married a nurse, she understood the medical side of it, but she was also the voice of sanity. Because you get emotional, and you want to try to do the impossible for your mom. And she was the one who would say, “Here are our options, and here’s what’s realistic. You’re doing a good job, just stay with it. The church loved my mom like she was royalty, and when she would walk in they would come get her, they would take her to lunch, they would take her on outings, and I would never be able to thank this church for what they did for my mom. The people at Morning Pointe loved my mom like they belonged to her.
Mike Glenn: You hear people say this all the time, “I wouldn’t change anything, I wouldn’t have traded it, as hard as it was.” There were some moments of incredible beauty that I would not have had, and I would never give you back. My mom was a gifted musician, and one of the quirks of this disease is, she never lost her music. I mean to the last week of her life, she could play the piano and play it well. And I realized one day when she was playing that that was the way she prayed. She was at a different piano, she was at a different place, but these words, or these songs, that she played … I grew up Southern Baptist, so Pass Me Not Oh Gentle Savior was always an invitation hymn. That was always what you sang at the end of the service. But when you’re watching a woman who’s dealing with Alzheimer’s, who’s lost her husband, lost her home, her family, and she’s at a family and she’s playing Pass Me Not Oh Gentle Savior, Hear My Humble Cry, I will never hear that song the same way.
Mike Glenn: I was able to sit with her and remind her of stories, and we would laugh, and I would hold her hands and I would ask her about Dad. She would tell me about when they first met and fell in love, and I got all of those stories, and all that laughter, and I would not give it back to you for all the money in China.
Carmen LaBerge: Mike Glenn, thank you. Thank you so much.
Mike Glenn: Thank you, Carmen.
Carmen LaBerge: Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for the book. Thank you for who you are as a pastor and a husband and a dad and a granddad.
Mike Glenn: Yeah, thank you.
Carmen LaBerge: So friends, check it out. It’s Coffee With Mom: Caring for a Parent With Dementia. Mike Glenn, two Ns, is the author. You can check Mike out at MikeGlennOnline.com. You’re listening to Mornings With Carmen. We’ll be right back.
Carmen LaBerge: Okay, so here’s the really exciting news for those of you who just heard my conversation with Mike Glenn about Coffee With Mom. We have five copies to give away. I didn’t know that when I was talking to Mike, but I know it now, and so if you are a person who said throughout that interview, “I need that book,” or, “I have a friend who needs that book,” we want to hear from you. You can text your name, your physical address, your email address, to me at 877 933 2484. You can send me that same information, again your name, your physical mailing address, your email address, to Carmen@MyFaithRadio.com, if you’d like to enter our drawing for one of the five copies we have of Coffee With Mom. Let me give you those numbers again: 877 933 2484 is the number you want to text your name, your physical address, and your email address. And you can also send me that same information at Carmen@MyFaithRadio.com if you would like to enter to win one of the copies that we have here in studio, of Coffee With Mom.
Carmen LaBerge: A big shoutout and thanks to our friends over at B&H Publishing. The book actually doesn’t go … It’s not actually released in bookstores until tomorrow, so today was a really fun day to get to talk to Mike, and share this book with you and the millions of others who are facing this challenge in their families, and certainly in our communities and in our churches today. So again, Coffee With Mom by Mike Glenn. And I’ve got copies available. If you want to enter to win, you can text me at 877 933 2484, or email me: Carmen@MyFaithRadio.com. We’ll be right back.
Carmen LaBerge: Thanks for listening to this podcast of Mornings With Carmen LaBerge from Faith Radio. If you haven’t, you can subscribe to automatically receive the podcast through iTunes or the Google Play music app. That way you never miss an episode. It’s also available any time at MyFaithRadio.com.
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