I won’t even pose the question: the rhetorical one asking how many of you are caring for family members with degrees of memory loss. Two close friends have lost their fathers in recent weeks, and in both instances the loss was preceded by years of cognitive decline. “We lost my dad by inches,” is how one friend put it on Saturday when she called to tell me of her dad’s passing.
So perhaps that’s why I took the time to read a blog today about the privilege – and heartbreak – of caring for a parent with Alzheimers, and that’s where I found the following story that moved me so:
It was a busy morning, approximately 8:30 am, when an elderly gentleman, in his 80′s, arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He stated that he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 am. I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would to able to see him.
I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound. On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.
While taking care of his wound, we began to engage in conversation. I asked him if he had a doctor’s appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I then inquired as to her health. He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer Disease.
As we talked, and I finished dressing his wound, I asked if she would be worried if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now.
I was surprised, and asked him. “And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?”
He smiled as he patted my hand and said. “She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.” – Author Unknown
Don’t you love this?
I was still thinking about this story when I went to my Old Testament class earlier this evening. Chris, our prof, is passionate about historical covenantal theology and the great story of redemption in the biblical accounts. As he lectured, we were reminded of how easily the children of Israel forgot who Yahweh truly was, but he never forgot them.
Whatever our age, many of us suffer from cognitive spiritual impairment. In the press of life’s constant problems we forget who our Father is and all he has done for us in the past. We act as if we don’t know him. But He knows us. We often mistake God’s silence for his absence, yet He’s caring for us even when we are unaware of his presence.
And that’s a fact I hope I never forget.