Today I’m learning about loving strangers. It started out as a typical day with my parents. I gave mom a bath. She howled and cried. I got her dressed and she said the process was stupid and that she hated it. I read the mail to my dad (he’s legally blind), scheduled a doctor’s appointment for mom, ordered some vitamins for dad, cleaned out the cupboard under the bathroom sinks when I found a leak, and then did some more cleaning and vacuuming.
As I was going out the door Dad thanked me sincerely and Mom cheerfully asked, “Are you Eva Miller?” (Eva was her maid-of-honor almost sixty years ago.)
“No, Mom, I’m not Eva.”
“Oh, you’re not Eva?”
This got me thinking what a labor of love Alzheimer’s is. I’m not saying this for myself; I have it so easy compared to most. My dad is the primary care giver. And his mind is strong and he tells me often things like, “Words can’t describe how grateful I am for you.” I’m getting thanked and appreciated.
But I started thinking, what about all the care givers, who are dealing with a loved one on their own? Who sacrificially give up their own lives, or much of it, to care for someone who is angry with them and unappreciative? Who probably get yelled at and sometimes even abused for trying to help? Who give all their energy to someone who can’t even remember their name?
Then this passage from Matthew 25: 34-36 and 40 came to mind…
“…then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’… ….”Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ “
All of these things literally apply to Alzheimer’s patients, as they lose the ability to care for themselves and become prisoners in their own homes or care facilities or beds, needing help with food, drinks, clothes and medical care. But the one that stands out to me now is, “I was a stranger and you took me in.”
A person with Alzheimer’s, in a very real sense, may become a stranger. Their personalities change, sometimes drastically. They lose the shared memories and the knowledge of where they are and who they are with. Even in the home my mom has lived in for more than fifty years; she doesn’t know where she is. She wants to “go home.” She is a stranger in a strange land. She is my precious, much loved mama—and yet she’s a stranger, too.
But we are called to “take in” the stranger….to meet their needs, to make them feel welcome, to offer acceptance and friendship and love. What an honor and blessing we have, to know that as we humbly care for the beloved stranger in our lives, we are actually caring for Jesus. And when no one else sees, He does. And when no one else appreciates it, He does. And when no one says thank you, we are assured He will.