Alzheimer Shadows

She devoted the major part of 15 years caring for my dad. As he slipped into the silent world of dementia, Mom sat on his lap and spoonfed him. She sipped from their joint coffee cup, then shared some of the brew with the love of her life. Every day, every 36-hour day, she fed him, turned him, bathed him and asked God to heal him. Then her prayer concluded with one Selah, “Oh, God. Please don’t let me get Alzheimer’s.”

Five years after we buried Dad, her memory started to slip. We noticed it in segments – the same questions asked over and over, the loss of time and space, the forgetting of familiar faces. Incredibly, the diagnosis hounded us. How could it be that both parents were afflicted with diseases of the mind? Was it the farm chemicals we used to ensure a harvest year after year? Was it nutrition – too many carbs and not enough fresh veggies? Or was it just the roll of the die and some part of God’s plan for the genetics of our family?

I’ve wondered if King David’s parents disappeared into the shadows. Psalm 27:10 records a sad lament from the sensitive heart of this giant-killer, “Although my father and my mother have forsaken me, yet the Lord will take me up (adopt me as his child).”

Forsaken, forgotten, cached back in time to some memory before the present. That is the scrapbook my mother now lives. We children who swelled her belly and slithered from her womb try to help, but she sees us as the enemy. She doesn’t understand that we want to help her by taking away the car keys and the wallet, by limiting her trusting heart that opens the door to every stranger.

This woman who read voraciously, worked long hours as a nurse and balanced her checkbook to the penny now forgets when I call. She throws away my notes, then tells the neighbors I no longer care. She has forsaken me, just as my father did – though neither of them wanted to.

As I watch Mom disappear into this horrendous valley, my only comfort is that Jesus understands. He was forsaken, too, one horrible moment on the cross. His father God turned away from the sin that surrounded the beloved son; my sin, your sin, the world’s sin. Christ knew what it felt like to be rejected and forgotten – if only for a period of time. He understands how I feel at the gradual loss of my mother – this wretched forsaking.

The only respite for my soul is knowing that Christ never forgets who I am.


5 Ways to Approach Mother’s Day – Part 5

The Mother Who Forgets

On this Mother’s Day, one woman stands in the forefront of my heart. My own mother who put up with morning sickness, adolescent questions and teenage angst so that I could grow up. This was the woman who worked extra hours to pay for my piano lessons. Although tired from a twelve-hour workday, this mother attended every recital, cheered me through every softball game and applauded every dramatic performance. Mom sewed new clothes to help me fit in with my peers. She saved from every paycheck to make sure I would graduate from college without debt. She drove me to the library each week and helped me check out stacks of books; then cheered my first published article.

This is also the woman who now forgets when I call and loses the cards I send. Alzheimer’s slowly and brutally takes my mother away from me.

During Easter weekend, I wrapped her Mother’s Day present and left it with my sister. She’ll give it to Mom, but then it will mysteriously disappear or some invisible person will steal it. One of the horrid symptoms of Alzheimer’s is paranoia, and my mother oozes with it. Mom will forget that I gave her a gift, and she will wonder why I forgot.

On Mother’s Day, I will call Mom and once again tell her that I love her. She will forget that I called, but I need to do it anyway – for my sake, if not for hers. Someday she will not be able to answer the phone. I grieve her gradual disappearance, because I know how precious it is to be a mother. I am certain that somewhere deep inside, she also hates the woman she has become.

Life changes so quickly, and every day is precious. From the desire to conceive to the longing to remember, mothers wrap themselves around our hearts. No matter how old we become, no matter how many miles separate us – that love never lets us go.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the incredible women out there – whoever you are and whatever season you are in. Treasure each day and the loved ones who surround you. Memorize their faces and cache their voices in your heart. Then pray to God that you never forget.