While in Nebraska, a doctor diagnosed Pastor Gene with dementia and suggested he leave the ministry. His wife wanted to live closer to family and preferred California, near their oldest son. When a church in that area heard that Pastor Gene was moving to their community they asked him to consider being their minister.
“I’m too forgetful,” Gene said.
“We all forget things; we want you to come,” each board member assured him.
For three more years, Gene served as minister. He remembered God’s Word well and the congregation appreciated his messages. He also visited shut-ins, presided over the board and put out the usual fires between musicians.
One Christmas, the changes in the platform, the added tree and decorations, confused him. He had no idea what to do. Von, Gene’s wife, whispered directions to him, “Stand up…preach now…pray a closing prayer.” That night Gene cried.
“Von, I didn’t know where I was.” They made arrangements for retirement, but Gene continued to drive his car.
One day, I answered the phone and heard the panic in Von’s voice. “Kat, pray. Gene is lost. We have an APB out on him.”
For the next 23 hours, police and neighboring communities searched for Gene. Von called, “A policeman found him on the freeway. He drove until the car ran out of gas. The police took him to a hospital. He’s fine – physically.”
A couple days later I called and Gene answered the phone. I tried to sound cheerful. “Sounds like you had a great trip, Gene.”
“Yes, I did. I left home with $3.00 in my pocket and when I came home, I had $3.00 in my pocket. I was having a good time and didn’t even know it.” He sounded like the old teasing Gene I’d known for years. “You should see the picture they put out for me. It’s pretty good. I should smile more often,” he said.
Later that week, Gene gave Von the car keys. “You can’t believe what a relief that was,” Von told me. “I dreaded telling him he couldn’t drive.”
That incident convinced Gene he should never drive again. It was such a blessing for the family and helped them avoid the drama of taking his keys. “God knows what He is doing,” Von said.
I wonder how many Alzheimer and dementia caregivers question that phrase, “God knows what He is doing.” The journey with Gene stretched Von’s faith, yet she knows God walked beside her, every step of the way.