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Horne: Giving thanks in Alzheimer's disease

Dec. 1, 2017 at 11:10 p.m.

It's been five months since I made the heart-wrenching decision to move Byron into Buckner Westminster Place Memory Care. It has proven to be the right choice for us without a shadow of doubt.

I remain so thankful for the gift of community God has given us at Buckner and am very grateful Byron is in such a caring and loving environment. I have come to know the staff well and they are amazing. I love watching them interact with and care for the residents so patiently and lovingly. Theirs is not a job but a ministry of serving.

There is much tenderness and beauty in Byron's community. I am grateful for how the residents love and support each other. They know each other's strengths and difficulties and make allowances. They comfort and help each other. They are people who smile and laugh as well as feel sadness and joy. They are the same people they have always been on the inside.

If you want to see what unconditional love looks like — a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things — then drop by to visit Buckner Memory Care. You will find husbands, wives and family members who come on a regular basis to be with their loved ones. They may or may not be able to converse much with them, depending on the stage of the disease. That doesn't matter, though, because their communication and love is expressed through being present to them, and not necessarily through words. They are simply being with each other, and sometimes there is no greater gift. Being present is saying, "I love you unconditionally, and you matter to me." When I am present to Byron and he is content, that is pure joy. Just sitting together, being instead of doing.

The more Byron's disease progresses, the more golden the moments we spend together. It's like nothing else matters now — we are down to the marrow, the essence. Everything else has been stripped away. When the light shines from his eyes and he tells me "I love you," well, you can't beat that.

With Alzheimer's, moments are all Byron has and all we have together. I've learned to look for what brings a smile and light to his eyes, and that's what we do. We may listen to music, dance, play catch, play the guitar, go for a walk or just sit and be. It is not in my power to give him a great day, but it is in my power to give him happy, joy-filled moments. He most likely won't remember them, but the contentment and good feelings they give him will linger.

We made the vow "for better or worse" almost 41 years ago. This is the remarkable thing: We have experienced some of the deepest joys, greatest blessings and most amazing glimpses of God's grace in "worse." Who would have ever guessed this could happen? Our God is faithful. We pray the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren through this trial will be one of trusting God, giving thanks, choosing joy, having faith, hoping, loving, enduring and running with patience the race that is set before them.

Thanks be to Him for the gift of His miraculous grace that turns water into wine in the magnified, joy-infused moments He gives us each day.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

— Dorothy Horne's book, "Glimpses of Grace: Walking in Hope through Alzheimer's and Ordinary Days," is available in paperback or Kindle at Find her blog, Glimpses of Grace, at and dorothyhorne



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