Years ago, a member of my support group remarked: “There’s only one direction this disease goes.”
It was a little jarring to hear, but he was right. Those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s live with a terminal disease that has no cure.
While the direction of the disease is predictable, its movements along the way are something else entirely. Like shifting fog, there is a rising and descending, places of clearing followed by a return of thick haze. We have no warning of its movements, no way of knowing when a cloud will cover what was once easily seen.
It was October 2017 and we had returned home after an appointment with the eye doctor. Dale walked into the living room and said, “There’s something wrong with me.” I said, “I know. You have two diseases: Alzheimer’s disease and glaucoma.” I briefly explained each one. I realized by his emotional tone that it was the Alzheimer’s disease that was suddenly “news” to him. He said somberly, “I never thought it would do it.” I said, “I know. None of us did.”
For seven years, Dale had been in full awareness of his condition. At some imperceptible point, a cloud had descended on that knowledge and he was experiencing the news as if for the first time.
We sat together for a long time, mostly in silence, my arm around Dale, and our dog Lucky Day on our laps. I reminded him how brave he was to participate in the clinical trial. I told him how he helps people in our community every day with his warmth, humor, and compassion. He said several times, “Well, it is what it is.” I affirmed this with statements about living each day well, doing the best we can. Finally, he said, “Well, I’ve had a good life.” I agreed. Then he said, “I’ve helped people.” I affirmed that, too, and told him he was still helping people.
As my heart was breaking for him, it also felt like the chasm created by the disease was bridged. It was as if Dale had suddenly stepped out of the fog into a clearing and I could see him. We stayed in this place together for more than four hours.
Then as silently as it appeared, the clearing was gone.
I could see it in Dale’s face as we walked around the pond in our community later that afternoon. The weight of sadness brought by the news had been lifted. And a new clearing appeared, the kind that arises from the heart, disease or no disease. Dale began talking about the close calls we have had but that God has saved us. “Thank God,” he said, and then, “God is best!”
Amen, Dale. Amen.
I’d begun a rather overcast Saturday and then saw this latest post. Thank you, Norma, for reminding me too that the way does clear for each of us, even if for a time, when we can be aware again of God’s presence in our lives. Thinking of the times Dale and you have stepped into my path to make the way brighter, Faye
Thank you, Faye. Likewise! Your care throughout this journey has lifted our hearts.
Thank you for sharing this window into your life. Both of you have shown what unconditional love and fortitude while dealing with this disease that takes away. Much love to both of you -Rena
Thank you, Rena. I appreciate your reading and sharing this journey with us.
An interesting duality in life is accepting reality, feeling the pain, noting the darkness; and yet; having faith that this is not eternal, that Heaven is eternal, and darkness can not survive in the light of God’s love. I feel for your pain, admire your knowledge and strength, and am glad that ‘this too shall pass’. Whether in this life, or in the life to come, I believe in healing. I shall again enjoy Dale’s prayers and insights. We mourn the day, but smile toward tomorrow. May God Bless us ALL, Love Always, your brother Dean
Thank you, Dean, for your inspiring and comforting words. Yes, may God bless us all. Love you!
I have never met you or your husband, but was introduced to your writing by Bishop Ken Carder. Ken was our pastor many years ago and performed our marriage some 45 years ago. We have long loved him, Linda and their girls. In reading and following Ken over the years we have watched his love and strength in caring for Linda and in his writings he mentioned your own blog. I wanted you to know how much I have enjoyed it. I so appreciate the honesty and poignancy with which you write and the love and hope expressed in each posting. I know it is a blessing to so many and simply wanted to thank you for sharing it.
Thank you, Glenna! I’m honored that you read and appreciate what I write. Yes, living in the same community with the Carders and getting to know that family has been a blessing to us. I continue to draw inspiration from their loving care of Linda as I care for Dale.