We sit together in church, my mother holds her Bible – because that is what we do in church. She no longer is able to find her favorite passages nor can she comprehend the Table of Contents that would help her locate, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
Yet she is present, because this is a Sunday and this is what we do every Sunday – no matter what.
The horrid disease of Alzheimer’s cannot take away from us our Sunday traditions – at least…not yet. We will worship, then return home to prepare the family dinner. We will eat together – my siblings and I, the grandchildren and my mother – the matriarch who raised us to appreciate this day. We will talk about the past week and the coming week. Then we will take holy naps and praise the God who gives us work on the other six days.
Yet while we sit in church, I thank God that on this particular day, my mother still comprehends some of what is said and occasionally joins in the songs, especially the old hymns with familiar melodies and safe theology.
I watch her from the corner of my eye. This is the woman who made sure I learned my Sunday school verses. She is the one who drove me to the Good News Club where I fell in love with Jesus. She was the first person I told about my salvation moment, and she rejoiced with me.
I wonder how long she prayed for that moment to become a reality. Did she begin praying on the day she recognized her pregnancy? Or did she wait until I slithered from her womb and screamed my entrance into the world?
How do I reciprocate those prayers now? I pray for God’s mercy and ask for just a bit of clarity, for the dark shadows of Alzheimer;s to leave her alone so that she can worship on this day, one more Sunday.
The pastor asks for introductions of visitors. He knows my mother struggles with memory yet he asks her, forces her to remember. “And who is sitting next to you?” he asks.
Every muscle in my body tenses. What will she say? Will she need to think about it for heart-gripping moments while everyone waits? Will she feel obligated to make up a name for me, the person who looks like a younger version of herself?
Ah, no. She rapidly and clearly answers, “Why, this is my daughter…Rebecca.”
Everyone smiles. My heart leaps with joy, for on this particular Sunday, on this heat-encrusted August day in Oklahoma…my mother still knows who I am.