I was reading my Bible yesterday, and a phrase has stuck with me. Jeremiah 15:19, in the New King James Version, reads, “…If you take out the precious from the vile…”
I’m not looking right now at what the passage is actually saying in context and proper interpretation. I’m just saying this group of words hit me. And keeps coming back to mind.
I think because the words describe my experience with Alzheimer’s in some ways. There are vile, awful, heart-wrenching things caused by the disease. Anyone who has loved someone with AD knows what I’m talking about here. I have lived through the shock of having my own sweet mother yell and swear at me and shout that she hates me and wants to kill me. She has hit me and bitten me. And even more tragic to my heart, she has forgotten who I am. Vile stuff to be sure.
But there are also precious, poignant things that I’ve experienced on this journey with Mama. It feels strange to say they are because of the disease — I’m sure I would have made amazing memories with Mama if she was healthy. Yet, there is some element of truth that I feel closer to Mom because of the disease.
Maybe because she has needed me so much more than she would have if she was strong. I have bathed her and spoon fed her and changed her and cuddled her. I have sung to her and read to her and brought her to the doctor and dentist. I have tried to comfort her when she’s been upset. I have cried over the changes in her and her losses. I have cheered her victories.
Maybe I feel closer because I treasure the words, touches and moments more because I know they are dwindling. Maybe human nature can’t truly appreciate something until they know they are losing it.
I read a Charles Spurgeon devotional today, Morning and Evening, and his words reminded me of this, too. “There must be shades in the picture to bring out the beauty of the lights.”
Please understand I’m not saying I’m glad my mom has Alzheimer’s. No, no, no! It grieves me that she’s sick. I’ve been living ten years now mourning Mama as we gradually lose her. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I’m just saying, since we appear to be stuck with the disease until God does a miracle and/or He gives the medical world a cure, that it helps me to look for the precious among the vile.
When I just think about the things Mama can’t do anymore my heart breaks. But when I say to myself, This is hard, but God will give us the grace to get through it, and I focus on the things I can be grateful for and try to savor the sweet moments, I can have courage to face the rest of this journey. One day at a time.
So I will soak in the cuddles, the smiles, the words of love occasionally spoken, the funny quirky things Mama says, and every time Mama randomly says my name. I will be thankful for each gentle touch or pat she blesses me with and for each time she opens her eyes and looks at me. I will gather the tender times to my heart and treasure them always.
I understand what you are saying. Even though the disease my mom is going through is horrible, I still see so many of God’s blessings in the situation. He has brought so many caring people into our lives, and this entire situation has brought my brother and I closer to Dad and especially to each other. How loving is our Father to send us blessings in the middle of the storms!
Thank you, Mary Lou. I’m sorry about your mom. And I’m so thankful you see God’s blessings in the storms! God is with us and works good even out of very difficult situations.
I found your caregiving blog on here and I had to comment and tell you thank you for your raw words and sharing your heart. My name is Bre and my husband and I have spent the first 2 years of our marriage caring for my dad. He’s battling Stage IV cancer and life is so difficult sometimes. Your blog post reminds me that there’s beauty in every season, even in the suffering. I used to manage an Alzheimer’s unit in a skilled nursing facility, and AD is an awful disease. I get your pain. I understand that horrible sinking feeling when she doesn’t remember to call you by name. But you are right, the Lord has purpose to our pain. He will show us beauty in the ashes. Blessings!
Thank you for taking the time to send such a thoughtful comment, Bre. I’m so sorry your dad has cancer! That must be an especially difficult time to care for someone when you are newly married, too. I’m glad to hear you have the Lord with you. He is our comfort and strength! May He continue to bless you as you care for your dad and live out His purposes for your life. ~Cheryl
Thank you so much for this article. Though I am not at all glad that this is something you have to go through with your mother and wish that this horrible disease would become nonexistent, it’s comforting to not feel alone in this. My grandmother who has dementia (we’re not sure of which kind) lives with my parents and I, and has on multiple occasions hit, kicked, and scratched me. But I think the part that affects me the most is constantly feeling on edge because of what she might say. You’ve given some exact examples of what mine has said, and I’m sure you can easily imagine the other things that she has said as well. I know that it’s the disease and not her, but are there any tips that you have for coping when these things are being said to you? All I tend to do is walk away, because I know arguing or talking back doesn’t help anyone. But at the same time I feel as though there is something more that I can do, or at least to keep myself from constantly tensing when she speaks. It’s something that I’m continually trying to work on, but if there are any methods you used in these moments that you’d be willing to share, I would be so grateful. Thank you for your openness and willingness to share in your journey with your mother!
I’m so sorry, kgrance, that you are going through this with your grandmother. It is shocking and hard to see experience someone we love being mean and even violent with us, even when we know it’s the disease and not them. It has helped me sometimes to think of my mom’s calling out hurtful things as a baby crying. I think they get to a point where they aren’t thinking rationally and can’t express themselves and are just so frustrated it comes out as these angry displays. When I can remember it is just how she communicates her emotions and needs now, it’s not about me– it helps some. Also, I think walking away is a valid option,too. Because you’re right, arguing or talking back doesn’t help. Whatever they are experiencing is there reality at the moment, even though it may not be true. Praying, writing out my feelings, spending time with family and friends can also be helpful. The Alzheimer’s Association has a helpline you can call 24/7 even if you just need a sympathetic ear. May God bless you and strengthen you as you minister to your grandmother! ~Cheryl