Fading into the Twilight

(Note: I first posted this on another blog (now defunct) a little over three years ago. My mother passed away last summer, a victim of Alzheimer’s disease. She would have been 83 this month. I’m re-posting this in her memory and, perhaps, to give some help to others who are dealing with Alzheimer’s. We love you, Mom, and we’re glad you are now well and whole in the presence of God.)

Originally posted January 2006 –

My mother has Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a puzzling and frustrating illness for her and for my Dad and for my family. It is unlike any other malady I know.

Three years ago we were all blisssfully unaware that Mom had a problem. Oh, sure, she was forgetful, but who isn’t when they are approaching their 80th year. Then, two and a half years ago, she disappeared after leaving her hairdresser on a sunny and warm October day. We found her 9 hours later, but a part of Mom was gone forever.

Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that strikes people for no apparent reason and with no real warning. It can debilitate a person quickly or over the course of several years. So far, there is no cure, no prevention, no theraphy to stop its onslaught. It is a killer with no clear face. You can’t cut it out with surgery, bombard it with radiation, or poison it with drugs. No special diets or vitamins will cure it. To be sure, there are some helpful drugs like Aricept that can slow it, but it’s like a snowball rolling down a hill – starting small, but gathering size and momentum. The speed of demise varies, but it comes all the same.

Mom is in what is considered the “middle stage” of Alzheimers. She can still eat, dress herself, and take care of most personal needs without assistance. About 70% of the time she has “good days” where she knows her family and has a strong connection with reality. About 30% of the time, she does not believe that Dad is her husband. On those days, he is the “other” Herman, a friend who has come to help around the house. She does not fear him on those days, nor does she treat him badly. Yet it hurts Dad to be forgotten after 55 years of marriage. He knows she can’t help it, but it hurts, nonetheless. And it will get worse. I’ve noticed that she on occassion forgets me. She hides it well, but it comes through in conversations with her. Oddly enough, she has never forgotten my wife or three children, who she has not known as long (obviously) as my father or me.

We cherish the good days and hope the not-so-good days will not increase. But they will. Maybe not this week or this month, but ultimately Alzheimer’s will rob Mom of her memory, her personality, her ability to communicate or care for herself, and ultimately, it will rob her of her life. She is like the fading light of twilight. She is still there, but you know her time is limited.

So what do we do? We love her, we care for her, we help Dad as best as we can. She’s Mom and she’s still a person of worth, created in the image of God, though living in a fallen world. The Bible says we are to “honor our father and mother.” God is using this time to teach us something significant about honoring parents. The easy thing would be to give up. To institutionalize her. To euthanize her. At least that seems to be the trend in much of the world – and in the state of Oregon (another post, another time perhaps). God does not call us to easy things. He calls us to important things – things that are too big for us but not too big for Him. I get weary hearing the platitude that “God will never put anything on you that you can’t handle.” Rubbish! If we could handle it, we wouldn’t need God.

I don’t write this to sound noble or that God has made it easy. I’m not noble. There are days I feel sad, mad and frustrated – with Mom, with Dad, and yes, with God. But I know He knows what’s going on and that He truly cares. I know He loves Mom and has a wonderful provision for her, both in heaven and now. I and my family have an opportunity to be a blessing to her and to Dad a they have been to us for many years. I wish we could bless her some other way in other circumstances, but that is not to be. I am learning to appreciate how hard it is to be a caregiver. Yet I am also learning that it is a wonderful opportunity to serve, to love, to be family. God says he makes “all things work together for good to those that love Him, to those that are called according to His purpose.” Mom loves God. Even with Alzheimer’s she prays the most beautiful prayers you have ever heard. It’s humbling and awesome at the same time to hear her pray. God will work it all for good. I don’t understand how, nor do I have to understand exactly, but He will. It is a learning experience – a hard lesson – that God allows us to experience suffering (and most of it not physical) so that we may rely more fully on Him when our strength and emotions falter. And He is faithful. In the midst of the sadness, the grieving for the loss of one who is still here, there is peace. There is hope. There is love.

It is enough.

Explore posts in the same categories: Family, Sickness, Suffering

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3 Comments on “Fading into the Twilight”

  1. antlike Says:

    Very well said, John. God is our only strength and hope. Your blog encouraged me.

  2. antlike Says:

    I clicked on “link to this permanent URL” from your own site, but don’t see that it did at my blog http://jarti.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/blessed-indeed/#comments

    Regardless, your words encouraged my heart, even if I couldn’t share them with my readers. Thanks.


    • Thank you for reading and your kind comments. I’m sorry the link did not work. It’s the standard WordPress button that is automatically generated with each post.

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