Still Learning to Let Go
Sept. 18, 2017 at 10:50 a.m.
Updated Sept. 18, 2017 at 10:50 a.m.
We have enjoyed lots of good times since Byron moved into Buckner Westminster Place Memory Care in early July. The staff always tells me how sweet he is, and several of the women residents always tell me how handsome he is. I agree on both counts. (And ladies, I am watching.)
I visit him daily, usually around lunch or dinner time, so we can share a meal together. Unless he is taking a nap, he is always with the other residents in the big common area. Some are participating in activities, and others are enjoying the camaraderie of being in community. The staff is friendly, caring and fun, and they know just how to minister to each resident according to their individual needs and personalities. (So, they dance with Byron, and of course he loves it!)
When Byron sees me come in, his eyes light up—I treasure that light and love. It is a gift I’ll never take for granted. I find that our love during this season of life is different—simple, accepting, undemanding. As I write this, I am startled to realize what I have just described is unconditional love. A gift of grace. The cares of the world don’t matter. We are fully in the moment when we are together. Since I am no longer Byron’s primary caregiver, we're able to spend more time enjoying each other as husband and wife.
Now that the weather is not quite as hot, we like to walk across the Buckner campus to the trail that runs beside a peaceful lake with sparkling fountains. Walking and enjoying nature together is something we’ve always done. To be able to continue to do this in such a beautiful setting is a wonderful blessing.
Other times, we go to Byron’s room and play CD’s and dance. Dancing is still one of his favorite activities and brings him such joy; it gives him respite from the disease. Even during times when the light is absent from his eyes, dancing brings it back.
Another activity that still brings Byron joy is playing his guitar. It remains his biggest passion. He likes to play along with all kinds of music, but praise CD’s are his favorite. The lyrics inspire and comfort us both. I always make sure to play his special song, “In Christ Alone.” (Months ago, while listening to it for the first time, Byron told me, “I’m listening to what God has for me.”). Even now, I see the rapture in his gaze as he plays.
Before I leave, I help him get comfortable in his recliner so he can take a nap. Or, I take him back to the common area to be with the other residents. I tell him it is time for me to go. He smiles and says, “Okay.” It is both comforting and heartbreaking—joy and grief intertwined. It happens so often in this disease.
These past two weeks have been harder for me because Byron is declining more rapidly. It has triggered a fresh wave of grief and anxiety, and I wonder again if I can endure it. I brace myself and pray as I continue in the very difficult process of learning to let go and trust God.
I still inwardly cringe when I hear people say, “Alzheimer’s is a horrid, living hell,” or other words to that effect.
My two cents: Yes, living with Alzheimer’s is very hard. But I think “horrid, living hell” and similar descriptive words give the disease too much power. They make it sound like God is nowhere to be found in it. Some may say it’s just semantics, but to me it paints a picture of throwing up your hands and saying, “I give up. It’s hopeless.” In effect, you’ve just handed the ball over to the other team and now they are going to run with it.
What about grace? What about faith and hope in God’s provision?
We can choose to follow our feelings and give up, or we can choose to trust God’s promises that he will be with us, even in Alzheimer’s disease.
We can choose to keep the ball.
Alzheimer’s is heartbreaking, but it is not hell.
Alzheimer’s is devastating, but it is not hell.
Hell cannot be where God is; it can only be where God is not.
When we become still and quiet enough to listen, God will remind us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
In Him, we can endure.
“In Christ alone, my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are still, when strivings cease,
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.”
Dancing in Byron's room on his first day at Buckner