While on vacation recently my husband and I took a “selfie” of the two of us with my camera. Afterward, as I looked at the picture…there staring back at me was my mom, my aunt and my grandmother. No, really it was them! I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. Laugh, because it was so funny to see them there on the beach with us. Cry, because I look like them as elderly women.
As I have mentioned in other blogs, all three died from Alzheimer’s and related complications. Sal, my grandmother, was in her late 80’s while Mom and Aunt Donna Rae were in their early 70’s.
My mother witnessed both her mother and sister fade away from Alzheimer’s. Mom and Dad drove from Maine to Pennsylvania regularly while Sal was in the hospital, until her death. After Gram died, they began their sojourn back and forth every weekend to Connecticut to see my aunt. Mom started buying small angel figurines, which she would then bring to her sister. Mom would also write out verses from the book of Psalms and hang or put them around her sister during her last days. Aunt Donna Rae loved the book of Psalms!
Mom watched and knew what Alzheimer’s can do to a person.
Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 15 months before she died. By the time she was told she had this horrible illness she was past the point of understanding. Prior to her diagnosis, Dad and I knew something was wrong. Dad had her repeatedly seeing doctors who said she did not have Alzheimer’s but rather, Primary Progressive Aphasia.
Dave, my husband, and I were with Mom and Dad when their doctor at the Lahey Clinic gave them “the news.” Mom was actually elated to find out she did not have Primary Progressive Aphasia. She never heard or grasped that she had Alzheimer’s. What bliss and grace God extended to her.
Mom was in the habit throughout her ongoing memory loss of saying “When I get better.” Mom thought she was going to get better until the very end. That was her supreme optimism at work. It was because of her sense of hope and faith that Mom was able to bless her family and friends until her death from Alzheimer’s.
I write all of this because I wanted to remind myself and others of how wonderful Mom was. She was cute in personality, she was gracious and loving towards others, she was overflowing in joy, and she was a woman of faith. Mom knew her Savior lived and that he would never leave her. I write this also because I now struggle with my own unknown fate. I know that, like Mom, the days of my life are held in the Lord’s hands, yet I have days in which I ponder “Will I, to come down with this progressive disease against my brain and mind?” It is easier for me to casually joke it off, make fun of it, but just beneath the surface it rests like a bag of stones. It nags at me, telling me to get my own house in order, to let Dave know how I do things, organize the drawers, the closets, the bills and make sure he knows where everything is and how to do all the things, I am charged with doing in our home. What if I wake up one day and I don’t know that I don’t know.
That is Alzheimer’s. You don’t even know that you don’t know.
Mom was all the things I mentioned, but she was also academic, educated, smart and witty. We enjoyed many conversations about Biblical history, prophets and just what is the Trinity, The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit? Does The Holy Spirit reside in our minds? (Romans 8:5-8) How does God speak to us? What must heaven be like? Who is the latest deceiver in the world? How does the Old Testament lead up to the New Testament? What have you found in the Bible today that reveals who God is? Mom and I talked often, mostly about God. We were girls of research and shared discoveries. She was so heavy and deep sometimes I couldn’t follow her. At other times she was so childlike that I couldn’t follow her either. Her kindergarten teacher persona was way over my head!
It is the mind that I fear losing…Surrendering my mind to God is my hardest task. I love to think, to process, to analyze and to know. This is where I begin my reasoning, it is where I recall, remember and deliberately consider God, people and form words of prayer. Yet the intellect can only comprehend the things of God it cannot fully seize them. God is knowable through His Son and through His word and the illumination of The Holy Spirit, but God is still God and greater than anything I could possible fully wrap my perception around. Still, like my mother, I love to set my mind on understanding.
But when it’s all said and done all that matters is that I belong to Christ. He will see me through. I know this because I witnessed Him carry Mom to the very end. In Christ alone… not my mind, not my understanding, not my knowledge, not my consciousness, not my experience…He is the rock, the cornerstone and the fullness in time to the glory of God.
This chick went almost unnoticed by me. It moved so fast, was so tiny and outsmarted my every move. This is a baby Jacana, also known as the "Jesus bird" because these birds look as though they are walking on water. (This picture was taken at a bit of distance)