I have had Alzheimer’s touch my life several times over the past years. Three friends and an aunt. Mary was the first. It seemed all of a sudden she looked at me yet didn’t see me. We had been in many Bible studies together. I talked with a mutual friend and was told she has Alzheimer’s. It was progressing fast. Just like that a friend was gone. Next came another friend, Imogene. We also shared Bible studies, shopping and ladies retreats. One Sunday morning she looked and didn’t see me. I knew instantly the look of Alzheimer’s.
Then my sweet aunt Florence. Her’s was a much slower. At the funeral of a cousin, she came up to my sister and me and said she know she knew us but couldn’t remember our names. We told her we are the daughters of your sister, Pearl.
Then there was another Mary. We had an abundance of women named Mary at church. Mary B I met in the first Bible study I was in. We were in quilt club together. We had many talks and times of sharing. In one of our conversation’s I mention my cousin, Calvin who died in his senior year of high school. She was in his class. Mary’s mom had Alzheimer’s and her fear was always being like her mom. After her death I wrote the following poem.
A few very short years later, aunt Florence passed. She was in her 90’s by then. I have listen to friends share about what it was like watching their parent. Their memories go, but our do not. Someone once wanted to know why I sent a birthday card every year to my aunt. She doesn’t know her or even that it’s her birthday. My response was, I know her. I know this is the day of her birth.
All these women had loving families who took patient and loving care. They may have seemed unaware at the time, but I believe somewhere within each, there was a part of their spirit that knew they were being loved.
She looks at me but she does not see,
Her eyes are blank as she stares at me.
The laughter and smiles we once shared,
I always knew just how much she cared.
Bible study lessons and times in prayer,
Times we just enjoyed the laughter.
The quilts and the crafts we made together,
Life we thought could not be any better.
Slowly and painfully we show no tears,
We watch as their memories disappear.
I will remember always lessons taught,
Their memory fades but mine does not.
I will cherish all of my memories,
Their minds are destroyed by a disease.
So many aunts, uncles and friends,
But the love in our hearts never ends.
I wish all their memories could stay,
Alzheimer’s is taking my friend away.
It is beautiful!
You know, I learned something about short-term memory loss when I had a ruptured brain aneurysm occur eight years ago. There are six days which are pretty much a blank for me as I was unable to retain short-term memories during that time. I was not unconscious during that time. I responded to people when they spoke to me. I ate, slept, walked about, etc but for me it was as if none of those things ever happened.
However, there are a few shards of memories scattered about here and there. I have discovered that while they are badly out of sequence, those fragments of memories themselves are accurate enough that my family could tell me exactly when those things happened. Also, later on things would come out of my mouth completely different than what I had intended them to be.
This experience has taught me that while the body may be "disconnected" and unable to communicate properly, it does not mean the person is completely oblivious to what is going on around them. It is difficult to explain but it really is very important that we treat the person just like we always would, whether they respond appropriately or not. You really do not know what they comprehend/remember and what they don't. No one does except God.