Dementia seems so arbitrary. After watching it progress in Mama’s life over ten years now, I’m surprised that it can still surprise me.
And yet it does.
Monday was Mama’s birthday. I brought her homemade cake and lit candles and we sang to her. I got no reaction. Not a word. Not even a raised eyebrow or a hint of a smile.
Later in the evening, my daughter said, “Grandma, it’s your birthday.”
And Mama calmly answered, “I know.”
A few days later, Mama had massage therapy and music therapy at the same time. I usually just watch Dad’s face as he takes joy in the music, because Mama usually sleeps through it all. But this time Mama looked right at Dad, while Becky sang Let Me Call You Sweetheart, and Mama smiled!
Becky told Dad, who can’t see Mama because of his blindness, that Mom was smiling at him. And oh how his chin quivered and his eyes misted and then how my eyes watered. And Mama stayed alert and awake for the rest of the music and looked cheerful and smiled and seemed to join in with the pleasure of the day.
Today, the hospice nurse practitioner came to see if Mama still qualifies for services. And though Mom is typically quiet and mellow in the morning these days, today she was agitated and yelling. But the nurse practitioner mentioned how nice she looked. And our regular hospice nurse, Terri, said, “I think pink is her color.” I agreed, thinking Mama looked so pretty in her pink dress with her white hair brushed back from her face.
After the nurses left, I told Mama, “You’re so pretty.”
And she answered, “Yeah, I try.”
And I think how much her reactions fluctuate. And how startling it can be that though Mom doesn’t know her own name anymore, she can still quickly reply with fitting or witty words at times. Even though other times she says nothing at all.
Dementia still surprises me. Mama uses the word crazy often. She said something about it today and a caregiver asked, “Do you think I’m crazy?”
And Mama calmly replied, “Probably not.”
Dementia is a wild ride with sharp curves and sweet mountain highs and gloomy valley lows. And the thing that keeps me from just crashing is God’s grace.
I was in one of those gloomy valley’s this week and shared some concerns with our understanding nurse, Terri. I told her, “Life is hard. And then it gets harder. At least the end of the story is good though. At least we have heaven.”
And she spoke words of wisdom, learned perhaps through her own valley times. I wish I’d written down her words, so this isn’t a perfect quote, but basically she said, “God gives us grace each day. Sometimes He seems stingy or slow, but He gives us grace enough.” She spoke with a smile and with the gentle authority of someone who knows she speaks truth. And her words sung courage to my heart.
And I know she is right.
Dementia is arbitrary. The surprises keep coming. We never know what the next day, next hour, or next minute may startle us with. Maybe it will make us laugh. Or maybe it will make us weep. Often it will be heartbreaking. Sometimes breathtaking.
But this we can know. God is with His children. All who trust in Jesus and follow Him can know that He will give grace. Grace enough. For every day. Always.
And the end of the story will be amazing!
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)