I remember you!
Today is a dear friend’s birthday though she may have trouble remembering it. She has dementia. This intelligent, eloquent and gifted person who loved to learn and study can no longer even speak in a way that makes sense. All diseases are bad but the loss of memory is the death of relationship and the end of identity and seems worse since they still breathe. I know people who have lost their memories. Some can’t remember facts or people and others have lost even the most basic of abilities.
I know we have very little control over such things because some of it is in our gene pool. We can do things to try to stay alert and keep our minds active but nothing is guaranteed. The aging process and memory issues look quite different for different people. No matter what it looks like we know, as believers, that this is not the end for us. And yet, it is so hard in the middle of it to maintain hope and joy while saying the long goodbye.
When a disease like Alzheimers becomes part of our present reality it seems overwhelming as it is heartbreaking to know that we can never relate to the one who has it as we had in the past. The only place in the Bible that I can think of that deals directly with dementia is in Ecclesiastes 12. Solomon paints a dark word picture of the aging process and the declining of the body and mind. It is not a pretty picture but it can remind us (like everything else) that we have great hope in Christ. And that changes everything.
There is comfort in the gospel. The good news of Jesus is bigger than the “boogey man” (to quote my favorite Veggie Tales lyric). It is stronger than cancer. It is better than the worst injustice. It is still bigger than even this great fear and reality of memory loss. The Israelites were completely overwhelmed as they were getting ready to enter the Promised Land. God called His people to remember all that He has done for them and how He defeated Pharaoh. Throughout scripture we are reminded that God is great and awesome and every time He steps into our world it is to redeem something! We are called over and over again, because we forget, that He is for us. He will be with us. He will meet our needs. He is good. He is for our good. Further, Christ intercedes for us and nothing can ever separate us from His love!
Though I forget, God never will. There is grace for a life with dementia because there is grace for all of us no matter how broken we are or how much we deteriorate. Ministry happens in the context of relationships. It happens in the shadow of suffering. It happens when we aren’t looking and when our faith ebbs and flows. No matter our circumstances God never changes. Our situation never changes His purposes (for us). He works it all for good because that is who He is.
A disease does not change the truth that God is in control, that He made us in His image and still has a purpose of each of us. May God’s disarming, reckless and relentless pursuit of my sweet friend and her family (and each of us) continue to be overflowingly redemptive until we all make it safely home. May she (and each of us) know and remember the unaltered love of a faithful God. While grieving the current loss I rest in the bigger reality of the long hello to come.
Happy Birthday TC. I love you!