Finding Hope at Christmas

Especially at Christmas, caregivers and families feel the sting of Alzheimer’s and dementia. We hang ornaments and remember past Decembers when our loved ones decorated the tree, sang Christmas carols and laughed while opening presents.christmas_baubles_and_candles

Smells from the kitchen spike memories of Christmas cookies, cinnamon and nutmeg, that special family recipe for peppernuts.

Yet now – everything has changed. Our loved one sits quietly in a chair, unaware of smells and colorful lights, breathing in and out, communicating with no one.

It is the passage of time and the ache of what this disease can do.

Somehow, we must look for joy by searching for its source.

Think back on Christmases past and be grateful for the memories and the legacy preserved within family.

Treasure the presence of your loved one, even though he or she seems mentally far away.

Remember that Christmas is about a baby in a manger who became the Savior on the cross. Someday, in eternity, all Alzheimer’s genes will be nonexistent. No disease there. No memory loss. No sadness.

Be grateful for these moments together, because you, too, are creating a legacy for the generations to come.

Sing a Christmas carol together. Music connections are the last part of the brain to die. You can still communicate with your loved one through music.

With all the excitement and chaos of opening presents, be alert for anxiety in your loved one. He or she may need to return to assisted living long before all the Christmas activities are finished.

Find your own joy in being with family. Each day is a gift. Each time we get together, we make memories. Even if the day is difficult for you, treasure it.

Several years ago, my sister Kris – who is a talented poet – wrote these words:


            “While striding on life’s pathway, fill up your days with cheer

Just laugh at rainbows, small or great, to banish every fear.

Hold tight to what life offers, content with all you do

For all adventures help create the treasure that is you.”


Remember that seasons end, and the season of Alzheimer’s will also end with the death of your loved one. So try to enjoy your time together and know that somewhere deep inside, Mom or Dad, Sister or Brother dearly loves you and wishes you a Merry Christmas.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

 

 

Why?

God has never answered my question, and I seriously doubt that he will. However, he is kind enough to let me rage against him, scribble in my journal and cry out my frustrations.

“Why have you let Alzheimer’s take over my mother’s brain? I still need her.”

I want her to tell me how to live with vitality and fun in my sixties like she did.

I want her in my life, not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. I want her to tell me how she dealt with the circumstances of her life and how she remained strong as Dad’s caregiver through ten long and bitter years.

I miss how she used to sing “I Wonder as I Wander” at Christmas while she rolled out spicy peppernuts on the kitchen counter. That was the only phrase she knew of that song, so I laughed as she repeated it over and over.

Every Christmas, I hear that echo as I roll out my own peppernuts and miss her all over again. In this Alzheimer’s state of physical health and mental decline, she no longer sings – unless someone starts one of the old hymns that triggers a memory.

I want to know how we are supposed to accept age with joy when we have no divine models for it.

Jesus, after all, died young. He was only in his thirties and he stayed dead only three days. How would he have aged if he lived into his eighties? How would he have dealt with his mother Mary if she forgot how to tie her shoes, how to cook his favorite meals or even – heaven forbid – forgot his name?

Was that even possible?

We are supposed to exercise, read, play board games and work in order to stay mentally alert. My mother did all of those things with regularity and discipline, so why didn’t that formula work for her?

Will it work for me?

In my novel, Reverend G often repeats the phrase, “The question may be ‘Why,’ but the answer is ‘Who.’”Why-Who quote

Even though I wrote those words and believed them when Reverend G said them, today and in this particular stage of my mother’s Alzheimer’s journey – I want to know more.

I believe God knows and he doesn’t have to tell me, but somehow I need to keep asking the question.

I know I’m supposed to trust him. Even while my soul is torn by the rejection every time Mom forgets what my son and I do, even when I feel guilty as I drive away from the assisted living – somehow I’m supposed to trust that God knows why and it’s going to be okay.

Maybe I believe that someday – he’ll answer.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1