Finding the Light

During Christmas break, I sit in Mom’s house, a mile away from where she now lives in assisted living, an experience away from her new existence within the world of Alzheimer’s.

Shadows play against the wall. Sunset in Oklahoma still wins as my favorite part of the day.

I once climbed my special tree on the family farm, perched alone with my journal in one of my favorite spots, a nest of branches and limbs that held me safely as I watched the turquoise sky that framed the wheat field turn into a frame of orange and red.

Now within Mom’s house, I worship the creator of a new sunset as it changes a taupe wall to a natural painting of shadow on light.shadows of plant

The shadows grow deeper for Mom within her Alzheimer’s world even as they lengthen for my siblings and I. We observe Mom’s confusion and recognize more signs of the coming stages.

Our mother disappears into Alzheimer’s land. Our world changes once again as memory fades and communication alters.

Another 24 hours is spent, and I wonder about my own life, my own calendar of events. How should I live in this new year so that each sunset brings with it a contentment that I lived this day well, that I finished my course with joy and purpose?

How can I live so that when my own shadows lengthen and deepen, the light I have shared will be what is remembered – my legacy to the world for my God?

None of us is certain of our timelines. We can only attempt to do our best, to live and love and work with pride, to complete the tasks before us and honor the One who gives us the energy to work, to live and love.

We can only commit to a stronger and higher calling so that when the sunset comes, we will rejoice in the light that dances at the end of the day.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” –

Shadows of Alzheimer’s

The shadows of the autumn leaves dance across the blinds in my office. I enjoy this extraordinary moment of now. shadows on GW blinds

With the changing of the season, I revel in the colors and textures – reds, oranges, golds – blended with the green leftovers of summer. The crunch of tiny acorns under my walking shoes, a pubescent pine cone that fell too early. Orange pumpkins reign near my almost-gone summer annuals.

These are the sights and sounds of autumn, often referred to as the harvest season.

In the Reverend G books, our brave little minister wonders how to deal with her own shadows of Alzheimer’s – the seasons that come and go, leaving her a bit more confused, a bit closer mentally to her younger self even as her physical body ages. She yearns to share her faith with the residents at Cove Creek yet she can’t quite remember how to speak the Gospel.

In one of my favorite scenes in the third book, Reverend G tries to preach a sermon and jumbles the story in an endearing yet tragic attempt to speak about her faith. What a character she is and how bravely she tries to deal with this disease that has stolen even the memory of ministry from her!

In this season of change, I wonder about my mother, too. How does she deal with the shadows on her plastic blinds in assisted living? Does she remember the changing colors of the trees on the farm? Does she still long for those autumnal moments or have they completely retreated in the Alzheimer-forming plaque that captures her brain?

I so want her to remember this season of autumn for its beauty, the crisp air and the promise of harvest. I long for my mother to recall with joy the way we celebrated with church folks, joined in a giant pot luck and sang, “We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessing.”

I hope Mom still rejoices within that sacred holy of holies inside her soul, that she somehow catches a tune from the past, the aroma of pumpkin pies cooling on the cabinet and the presence of her beloved Hank next to her.

And just in case my genes fail me and throw me also into Alzheimer’s shadows, I will rejoice in the now and enjoy today. I will continue to walk in the crisp air, crunch tiny acorns under my feet and praise God for the colors and textures of autumn.

For how else can we deal with shadows but to look for the remaining light. And how else can we face something as horrific as Alzheimer’s unless we look beyond it to the harvest of heaven.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” –

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.