Saturday, March 29, 2008

Life with Alzheimer's...Conclusion

I wish things could have been different for Daddy and Mom. "If only" seems to be the theme of my thoughts when I consider the last years of their lives. If only Daddy hadn't been so sick he could have cared for Mom as her memory deteriorated and her confusion increased. But Dad's kidney's had failed, his diabetes raged on, he'd battled cancer twice, and he was 83 years old. It just wasn't possible for him to do much more than keep his own body going every day. The job of caring for Mom and their daily needs had to fall to someone else.

Steve and Chrys moved in and for the most part, things settled into a routine. Mom was mad much of the time. Dad complained about Steve's gourmet cooking. Yet it was clear to me that God had a hand in it all. When Daddy miscalculated his insulin and nearly went into a diabetic coma, Steve was there. When Mom angrily ran away from home and walked six miles to Walgreens (which took nearly four hours), Steve was there.

And thanks to Steve, Daddy was able to live his final years in the home he'd built with his own hands, just as he'd always wanted (pictured).
On January 4, 2007 he passed away in the bedroom he'd slept in for more than forty years. Mom, bless her heart, doesn't remember a thing about his passing or his funeral. She wore a confused expression for much of that day. She spoke to people and accepted their condolences. She greeted people she hadn't seen in years, though they had to remind her of who they were. She solemnly accepted the US Flag that had draped Dad's casket when the retired soldiers handed it to her. But through it all she seemed rather lost. Distant. I realize now that she wasn't really there. That she didn't fully grasp what was going on.

Sadly, there are now days when she doesn't remember Dad at all. She assumes she had a husband, but she can't quite remember who he was, even with a picture of him in her hand. Those are heartbreaking days for us, her children. To have shared ones life with another person for fifty-seven years is a beautiful thing. To have it stolen from your memory by a disease is a tragedy beyond imagination.

Life with Alzheimer's Disease is a slow, sad journey down a path no one wants to travel. I know the day is coming when my Mom won't recognize me as her daughter. I don't look forward to it, but I know I have to be prepared for its arrival. And I have to accept the fact that I or my husband may one day suffer from this disease. I may not know my loved ones or remember the life I had with them.

It sounds so hopeless, doesn't it?

It's not.

We have hope--real, true HOPE!--in Jesus Christ, who will restore Mom on the day she meets him in heaven! Daddy is already there, waiting for us to join him. Alzheimer's may have stolen some of Mom's earthly pleasures and peace, but her eternal hope remains alive and well. She accepted Jesus as her Savior long before this disease took over her mind. She lived her life for him as best she could. Her hope won't ever be lost despite her progressing confusion.

Thank you, Jesus!

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