Today would have been my mother’s eighty-fifth birthday if she hadn’t succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease last March. She passed away peacefully, in the company of her husband of sixty-three years, and in the arms of Jesus.
Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, because it steals its victim’s story. In the ten years Mom suffered from the disease, it wormed the story of her life away bit by bit.
It started with forgetting little things, like how to make cookies, and progressed to forgetting people, places, and events.
Early on, it stole her words. She lost the ability to read, to follow conversations, to construct sentences, and then to form words.
Because she couldn’t follow conversations, she closed in on herself. She couldn’t anticipate events, so lived in a constant state of agitation. Anything out of place in the house was a cause of worry. Visits from friends and family were tiring and short.
When she started having seizures, Dad made the very difficult decision to move her to full-time care in an institution. The adjustment was hard.
Alzheimer’s stole her ability to walk, to move herself in her wheel chair, to sit without the aid of supports and straps, and finally to sit at all. Her muscles grew rigid and unyielding. She lost the ability to make facial expressions.
Finally, she lost the ability to communicate with others, except in the most primitive ways. The last phrase she used regularly was “I love you,” and was always said to her caregivers.
Mom’s story was buried in the ravages of the disease.
But the one thing the disease couldn’t snatch away was God’s story. Because we don’t hold onto God with our own abilities and will, God holds on to us.
The last time I visited Mom was just over a year ago. She was bedridden and spent most of her day in a semi-conscious state. But Dad would play a CD of hymns for her during his visits. As I sang the hymns to her, she “sang” along in the only voice she had left – a tuneless hum. But she knew the messages in the hymns.
As we reached the last verse of one hymn, Mom looked into my eyes for the first time that visit and clutched my hand.
I said, “It’s true, Mom. It’s all true.”
She smiled, as well as she could, and her eyes closed once more.
God kept His story alive in her heart. And because He did, I know we need not fear for anything that might unfold in our own stories.
All the way my Savior leads me –
O the fullness of his love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
in my Father’s house above:
When my spirit, clothed, immortal,
wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way!
Oh, blessed assurance!