I wrote this post several years ago. Marlene, my future former mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s and has now been moved into an Alzheimer’s unit at a skilled nursing center. Her family is learning to cope. Alzheimer’s is a tragic disease. Watching someone you love disappear is just continual layers of grief. The following is a different take on the disease.
Recently my family traveled to the Lake of the Ozarks for a weekend of relaxation and retreat. We joined my wife’s family in a 3 bedroom cottage that stands beside the lake on a tree-covered point of land. Saturday, I was sitting on the back deck listening to the waves lapping on the shore as a cool breeze blew through the leaves. I watched as squirrels, woodpeckers, and assorted water fowl went about their normal activities. While I peacefully sat there, my mother-in-law opened the sliding screen door and joined me in the quietness. In the past, this act would’ve spoiled the mood, for our relationship hasn’t always been an easy one. However, for the past two years, our families have been operating with the knowledge that my mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s. Although this diagnosis wasn’t completely a surprise, it was sobering, none the less. Alzheimer’s has helped our relationship, though. It has torn away memories of harsh words and painful misunderstandings. Details that left our relationship a shallow one at best, with few extended conversations. Our conversation on the porch was good. It was positive. And I believe our relationship is going forward even as it goes backward, to a place before the wounding. I hope she remembers the good things about me longer than the bad. I hope the seeds of mistrust are lost in the haze of forgetfulness. Through my renewed relationship with my mother-in-law, God is showing something of His love to me. For her, it is as if the offending incidents never happened. They have been removed by the disease. For some reason, it feels like she gravitates towards me at family gatherings. This is a strange and unexpected occurrence, and one which I must get used to. God is like that. Knowing all I’ve done to Him. In spite of the times I misunderstood His motives and responded angrily to Him. When His attempts to love me and spare me pain and embarrassment were disregarded and I plunged ahead into the unknown, self-centered jungle of sin. He still creates a beautiful, peaceful place for me to sit down and center myself in the scene of life. He then comes out the back door and sits next to me. He shares the quietness with me. He chooses to forget the past and to restore my soul. God chooses the disease of Alzheimer’s rather than the disease of bitterness. He chooses to forgive my sin, rather than punish it. All He requires is my honesty.