I want to remember the "old" Gary.
One of my greatest fears is that when Gary is gone to Heaven, is that I won’t remember how he was in the past. His strong body is wasted away, and there isn’t much left. He looks so different. His muscle wasting has revealed his skeleton, covered only by his skin. His skin is easily bruised, especially on his fore arms where the slightest bump can cause a minor skin tear. His remaining muscles can barely support his own weight and only with two helpers. Shaving is difficult because his cheeks are so sunken. His eyes no longer twinkle with an unspoken private joke. They usually look right past me. His voice is unused. His attempts at speech are lip movement only. His mouth is open all the time, causing his saliva to thicken and his mouth to get dry.
Gary is comfortable and content. Except for meals, he is asleep. His Dr. said that most people with Alzheimer’s at this stage are no longer eating. Because he is a young Alzheimer’s victim, who had a strong body to start with he is doing better than most. Most of his energy is going to digestion, organ support, and the disease itself, and so he is very, very sleepy all day. He sleeps in the recliner from 9:00-2:00 and then back to bed for the rest of the day. Swallowing is getting more challenging so food has to be just the right consistency for him. Many meals are only partially eaten because he falls asleep. It seems the final decline may be right around the corner.
Sometimes I want to scream at the disease…“STOP THIS!” It feels like a powerful train engine, slowly moving forward. My attempts at jumping in front of it to try to hold it back would be useless. Instead I am trying to make it a pleasant ride down the tracks for both of us. I play his favorite hymns, swab his dry mouth with cool water, and remind him of the past with a familiar touch and voice. I try to take care of myself too, with nourishment for my mind, soul and body.
One of the reasons I write a blog and post old photos are to help my heart remember. I saved a recording of Gary’s voice on a voice mail message several years ago. I play it when I want to hear him talking.
I want to remember these Alzheimer's years too.
They are rich. They are precious. In many ways more sweet than the 30 years before dementia came in the door. Gary is still Gary. It’s just that his brain and body are dying. God’s promises are still true. "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Jesus)
I don’t want to forget the sights and sounds of this hard journey. It’s all part of the bond and love in marriage, and joy of serving Christ together. We are on our way to Heaven, both of us. This world is not our home. We’re just passing through mortality and one day will put on immortality. Every part of this life is valuable and worthy to be remembered because the past, present, and future are all connected. I don't want to "discount" the last few years as wasted. I have the privilege of assisting my beloved Gary along his difficult way. Along the way I get to observe some of the amazing things God is doing in our lives.
"But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, 'I believed, therefore I spoke,' we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4)
I want to look forward.
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look NOT at the things which are SEEN, but at the things which are NOT SEEN; for the things which are seen are TEMPORAL, but the things which are not seen are ETERNAL." (2 Corinthians 4:13-18)
For we know that i the earthly tent (body) which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. " (5:1)
Life is a Continuum
It's not that hard to remember his past because it is tied to his present and future.
Past - Gary's sense of humor directed at the important things in his life. Even thoughts of life and death, reflected in this favorite book of his. It's a collection of funny and serious epitaphs.
Present - Now that he is nearing the end of his life, it seems appropriate to think about his life and the seriousness of eternal things.
Future - One day he WILL be in eternity, as we all will.
He had a favorite epitaph in the book, that I heard him tell people about many times. Gary is still with us of course, but I think would be appropriate to share today. He has it highlighted...
May I encourage you...
- Record yourself sharing your testimony so your family will have your voice and story to remember. We wish we done this with Gary.
- Ladies, nurture your relationship with your husband, and learn to follow his lead so you will be able to move confidently through a trial knowing what he'd want you to do. Don't waste the years in complaining about trivia.
- During a trial, no mater how small or large, hang on tenaciously to God, trusting Him, knowing that there are future blessings in store, as well as good surprises along the way.
- Believers, let us learn more about Heaven and think on it often. That is where we will be for eternity. God has much to tell us about it in His word. "...they will see His face..." (Rev 22)
- Unbelievers, think about your future. We don't know the number of our days as a mortal, but everyone will live for eternity in Heaven or Hell. Make sure you give thought to this now when there is time. To read more...