Inside the birthday card from my mom was a check for twenty dollars. But as I read the card and looked at the check, I noticed something surprising and terrible. Almost immediately, I beat my fists on the kitchen counter and began to sob.
Mom had tried to sign her name on the check, but obviously crossed out her name and rewrote it, then printed her initials to indicate the change. I knew this was no mistake, no slipping of the fingers or pen. It was another sign of regression – another step down into the pit of Alzheimer’s.
I remembered how my dad, slipping into dementia, sat at the table and practiced the alphabet. Already forgetting how to sign his name, he started at the beginning – relearning how to write his a b c’s. It was heart-breaking to watch this grown man try to concentrate and make simple letters.
Now we faced the same situation. Mom struggled to write her name, scratched it out and tried again to create the signature she had carried for a lifetime.
It was a reminder that the time bomb of Alzheimer’s ticks away and each change signifies another stage of this dreaded disease.
So how can I find hope, knowing the downward spiral we are traveling?
I find hope in the one place where it is constantly nurtured and harvested – the book of Psalms. “When I am old and gray, O God, you will not forsake me, until I have shown your strength to this generation and your power to everyone that is to come” (Psalm 71:18).
Even though Mom’s brain betrays her and her fingers with their memorized motions forsake her – God is still evident in her life. He’s in her smile when she sees me come through the door. He’s the Comforter when she forgets someone’s name and solves the problem by saying, “Hi there, Kid.” He’s present when she stares into space and repeats the same questions over and over. He’s omniscient, knowing the timeline of her life and how many days are left.
God still shows his strength through my mom because when I see the regression, I am forced to acknowledge his powerful presence. Somehow the God who owns our hearts will see us through this horrific disease. Somehow he will create a way for us to cope and help us exhibit a strong yet tender grace throughout the next stages of the disease.
I am sad yes, but even within the sorrow – I find hope because I know God will not forsake us. He will be with us throughout this journey and beyond. Mom may not be able to sign her full name, but Someone – who has recorded every hair on her head – will never forget her name. And he will hold all of us in the palm of his mighty hand as we continue to find our hope in him.
©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo