Thursday, June 19, 2008


Alzheimer's disease is a nasty, nasty disease that seems to be cropping up more and more frequently. Like autism, the causes are unknown, but it doesn't really matter what caused it if you or someone you love is experiencing the symptoms of it. Early alzheimer's can do unspeakable things. I know. I have seen my grandfather-in-law change from a sweet-spirited, kind and gentle man to just a shell of what he once was. And what comes from him is not what his true spirit. I have seen my husband and his family profoundly affected by these changes. My husband is himself a sweet-spirited man, one who has shown his true self to very few people. I am lucky enough to be one of those people, and while it has taken me eight years of marriage to understand that I am barely scratching the surface, at least I know I made a good decision when I decided to marry him, or rather, God made a good decision when he threw us together. So when I see him in anguish and unable to hold it back, or when he wishes that things could be easier and his Papa could be in a better place, I know how deeply to his core that it has shaken him because he normally would not express such sentiments so freely.

Alzheimer's has done many things to my own grandmother, and to protect her privacy and that of my grandfather, you'll have to forgive me if I don't get too specific about who they are. While my grandpa is enamored with technology and the internet, I don't feel it would be respectful of me to shout their business right into your laptop. Some of the things that alzheimer's has done to her have been unkind. Physically, she seems like a miniature of what she once was. Perhaps that's because when you are growing up, the people you love and trust and the places you love and trust seem so much bigger to you. But in the last 5 years, she seems to have aged more quickly than is necessary. It's heartbreaking to sit in church or a living room with family and have to answer the same questions about whose kids are whose, when the baby is due, will said baby be a girl or a boy. You get the idea. And then to hear the story again of how she herself lost five babies either during pregnancy or shortly after they were born; it's tough.

Yesterday, they were blessed with a new house. One that fits them well. The family was there to welcome them home, and for the first time in many months, she seemed herself. She was present, and it was a good day. There were very few flashes of her "bad" moments where she is unaware. To see glimpses of what was once her "all the time" self was also painful. When she sat in a chair and told me, "I love babies. Can I hold her?" I gladly gave baby Scarlet up and took pictures while she held her and played with her and sang to her. It was a sweet time that I will never forget.

As I mentioned previously, alzheimer's has done many things to my grandma, but there is one thing that I have been repeatedly thankful for. In fact, it is something that has resonated in my heart for many months each time that I see my grandma. It has not changed her faith and belief in Jesus. She may not remember what house she is in, or whose baby is whose. It might be tiresome to listen to the same story again, although I would never let on for a million dollars. It is hard to see her try to figure out how the water faucet works or to suddenly look over and see that she is confused about where she is, why she is there, and who is around her. But every time I see my grandma, I see that her faith has not been lost; that it has, strangely, been strengthened. In church about a month ago, I caught a glimpse of her out of the corner of my eye and saw her singing every word to to the contemporary praise and worship songs, I cannot tell you how my heart was warmed and how my own faith in Jesus was fortified. And during service and in quiet moments when it just family, it is more than evident that HE resides within her at her very core. When my grandma is gone, there is no doubt in my mind that she will be in Heaven with Jesus, knowing exactly who she is and where she is at. No doubt she will be looking down on all of us and saying, "Bless them, Lord, bless them."

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