Last weekend I stopped at a neighbor’s garage sale—not just to shop, but also to touch base with her. We chatted awhile and then I inquired about her mother’s health. Her face reflected her sadness as she stated, “Mom has Alzheimer’s. Although her body is healthy, we had to move her into a memory care unit for her own safety. She’s mad at us for taking her car and ‘stealing’ her things. Many of the knickknacks on sale are hers. Her room is too small to fit it all in.”
She continued, “Mom’s going through the typical stages of the disease. Right now she’s angry and demanding we bring her car back. It’s so difficult to see her this way. Mom’s a gentle person by nature. However, I still see glimpses of my real mother when I smile at her and she smiles back with her sweet smile.” Even as I empathize with her, I feel sad, knowing it’s going to get worse.
My youngest brother who was born with Down Syndrome also has Alzheimer’s. Most of his life he was high functioning, even learning to read a bit and write some simple words. He was blessed with a great memory for songs and people’s names. He loves music and while he knows many secular songs, he prefers Christian music. Jon has an innate sense of rhythm, and when he was younger he had his own drum set. Every Christmas he played “The Little Drummer Boy” at church on his drum, accompanied by my sister or me.
As a teenager, he would go on bike rides and sometimes be gone for hours. Even though my parents were nervous, they knew God (and occasionally the local police) would get him home safely.
I understand my neighbor’s sadness because I see my brother is losing his ability to remember and his courage is being replaced by fear. Recently he called me by my aunt’s name. When I corrected him, he smiled and said, “Yes—sister.”
I hope we have more good times to look forward to with Jon. It comforts me to know he believes in Jesus and someday when he leaves this life, he’ll be welcomed home by His friend who will make him whole.
My neighbor has this same assurance for her mother. I purchased one of her mother’s beautiful coffee mugs with a scenic country church, nestled in a mountain valley, painted on it. This peaceful setting reminds me of God’s promise in Joshua 1:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Jesus will never forget our loved ones, even if they no longer remember His name, or ours.