'Remind me who I am'
Dec. 4, 2015 at 11:36 a.m.
Updated Dec. 4, 2015 at 11:36 a.m.
Author and theologian Frederick Buechner said all of his stories begin with a lump in his throat.
This one began that way, too.
Since I was not supposed to drive very far after my surgery, a driver from a medical transport service was scheduled to take Byron to Dallas for his monthly drug infusion. I was okay with the idea…until the day before. Then it hit me – I was about to let a complete stranger be in charge of and drive my husband with Alzheimer’s disease to Dallas for the day.
How could I do that? Byron has always had me, friends or family with him – never someone he didn’t know. All these worries began to cross my mind: Would he feel lost or scared after the driver picked him up? Would the driver take good care of him? Would he talk to Byron on the trip and treat him as a person of value, or would he treat him as if he were transporting a piece of luggage? That was my main fear, and it would break my heart.
I called the clinical trial director and cried over the phone. “I don’t think I can let him do it,” I said. She promised me she'd make sure Byron would be with a caring person, and even had the scheduler at the medical transport company call me. “Casey will be his driver,” the scheduler said. "He’s very outgoing and will take great care of your husband.” She told me they would call me when they got to the facility, and would also call me when they left so I would know what time to expect him home. (In other words, yes – they were going to hold my hand the whole way.)
The next morning Casey showed up at the front door, smiling and jovial, and he and Byron joked as they walked out to his car. I stopped worrying. When Byron was dropped off later that afternoon, I asked him how everything went. “It was good,” he said. “We were just two guys talking, you know” Casey gave Byron the gift of feeling "normal” again – just "one of the guys."
Before the next infusion, I decided I would type Byron up a “personal facts” list to take with him – things he now mostly can't remember about himself. That way he could talk to Casey without worrying he would forget things like where he grew up, went to college, what he was good at and how many grandsons he has.
I wasn’t sure how he would feel about such a the list but I decided to give it a try. I entitled it, "11 Important Facts About Byron" (people don’t do lists of “10 Things…” anymore; now it’s always an odd number). Then I casually handed it to him as I walked into the kitchen. “Here are some things you can talk to Casey about the next time he picks you up for your infusion, if you want to,” I said.
I was startled and happy to see his eyes light up as he read about himself. He reread the list several times before finally putting it in his pocket for safekeeping. I had no idea how comforting and affirming it would be; carrying it with him would remind him of who he is and always will be.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.”
As I wrote these words, I realized it’s not just people with Alzheimer’s who benefit from being reminded who they are. We all need to be reminded – not only who we are but whose we are. The Bible is God's list for us.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
Isaiah 43:1-3 (NIV)