Friday, January 30, 2009

I visited a man last night who was friends of my parents and our neighbor many, many years ago. He was in an assisted living care facility; the ripe old age of 88. It was nice to catch up on memories of past years. I recounted the time that I was in our front yard and was tossing up a baseball and hitting it and how one of my errant hits went through one of his windows. We laughed as I talked of how upset my mom was who, after telling me not to hit the baseball in the front yard, was watching me the whole time through the front window. We talked of more things, his time in the army during WWII, his work at Meijer and at Keeler Brass, his house and the neighborhood that we used to live in. He spoke of his boys; what they were doing and where they were living.

I then asked about how he was doing since his wife passed away. His comment to me was "she is still with me; she is not well, but is still with me". This struck me odd, because I thought that I remembered that his wife had died just a few weeks before. My bad, I told myself: a social faux pas that I hoped did not insult him too much. He then began to reminisce about his wife, Gerry, and their 66 years together. "She is a wonderful woman; best wife in the world. I was so lucky to have a wife like her. She was awesome." He spoke of her in alternating present and past tenses, addiing to my confusion about whether she was alive or not. He spoke of how he visited her "most everyday; she is in a big room on the second floor and spends most of her time in bed." "She is not well", he stated, "doesn't get out of bed, but yesterday when I visited her, she took my hand and chided me for not spending more time near her". He then continued to tell of how she was in his room until recently, when the attendants decided that it would be best to move her because she was up 3-4 times per night. He was confused as to how they got her to the second floor; "stairs or they must have an elevator" he said, but he really couldn't understand how it happened.

The odd thing is that this was a single story building, so I knew that something had happened to Gerry and that she had most likely passed on like I remembered. After telling this story 8 or 10 times and telling me how much he missed her and loved her, I realized that his short term memory was gone and that Alzheimers was setting in. I was grieved in my heart that this was happening to this man who was still very physically capable of getting around.

I write all this to give this one thought - it was incredible to me that his love relationship with his wife made such a profound impact on him, that his mind would not let her go. He had created a fantasy of her being upstairs, of her being able to talk to him in loving or scolding tones, of him being able to hold her hand, of him being able to see her and be in her presence "almost every day". The power of love between this man and his wife would not allow him to separate reality from fantasy. I know that the Alzheimers played an active role in his repeating the story over and over again, but he kept repeating THIS STORY, not a story about what he had for lunch today; not repeating a story about he TV set; EVERYTHING he spoke of related back to his wife. Seeing the power that the love of his wife and the pain of separation from her had on him overwhelmed me and caused me to weep.

As I was driving home, I began to think of how much God must love us. Not that God has Alzheimers at all, but if this man was so altered by his love for his wife, how does the infinite love that God has for me affect Him? Better yet, how should I be affected by my love for God? Should I be so altered that if I were to have Alzheimers I would speak over and over again of the love that I have for my Savior and the love that He has for me? This is my passion - to be so moved with the love of God for me that I speak over and over of Him. Convicting and moving all at the same time.........

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