“We are praying for you and Jan”
“I don’t know what it’s like to have a spouse with Alzheimer’s, but we want you to know that we are with you.”
Truly, we are so thankful for the vast amount of support we have from all around the United States and from a few other countries as well. To be without friends like we have is to be alone. Alone is not good. My forever family strengthens me and supports us both.
But I have to tell you, our life together is not falling apart. Not everything is bad.
Sure, I go through periods of sadness and fear. And sometimes those feelings are fierce – sometimes they almost overwhelm me – but not all of the time…not even most of the time.
For the most part, we are having a blast together. Our relationship has never been better – never been more cohesive. The unity in our home is almost at a stage of perfection. We laugh more. We joke more. We cuddle on the couch and watch old westerns. And even when I do feel overwhelmed, there is still a prevailing sense of peace and joy that just can’t be explained.
For one thing, Jan is a hoot. She hardly gives Alzheimer’s a second thought.
“Who is this Alzhiemer guy, anyhow? Did he invent it? If so, I don’t like him.”
She’s joking, of course. But she does have a little of what I call the “Scarlett O’Hara syndrome” (“After all, tomorrow is another day.”). She tells me all the time that she doesn’t worry about things she can’t change. Good philosophy, by the way.
And me? I like to tell her friends lies about her. Well, they aren’t actually lies if I know ahead of time that no one is going to believe them, right?
For example, I told the college girl who cleans our house every week that I must have help because I was finding my underwear in the silverware drawer. She does misplace stuff, but it’s never gotten to that point. Besides, my underwear won’t fit in the same drawer as the silverware – not even one pair. And everyone knows it.
Yes, it’s a strange journey we are on together. Incredibly, I’ve found great comfort in the midst of it – in the notion that God has gifted me with forty three years with this incredible woman of faith – a woman who has dedicated her life to training her children to love God with all their hearts – a woman who has committed herself to me in spite of all my annoying and unseemly character flaws – a woman who has always delighted in leading other women to deeper faith.
But more than that, he has given me an opportunity to prove myself as a husband in a way that I had failed to do when I was younger. I am increasingly responsible for meeting more and more of her needs. He is teaching me to serve her without any expectation of return on my investment other than the fact that she is worthy of anything I do for her. She doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of utility. I do it all. I have become, in a very real sense, her servant.
God’s pretty awesome that way. He saved me once – and he sanctified me once. But he’s still sanctifying me – changing me – molding me into the image of his son. He’s teaching me to serve like I never have – like I never even wanted to. Serving others is not in my nature – nor yours, for that matter. But it’s my will that he’s breaking and showing me HIS plan for me. It’s not the same as mine.
He’s humbling me. He’s disciplining me to find out what is important and to pursue it – to find out what is not important and to abandon it.
If you know me, you might think that he’s still got a lot of work to do, and you would be correct. I’m still a loser if the standard is perfection. But I marvel at how much he’s already done in me. I long for more knowing that it may hurt to be disciplined by God.
The thing is, as I look back over my life, I can’t remember one single change in my walk with him that didn’t follow some level of pain. But if my goal is to be Christ-like, I have to anticipate suffering on some level because what he wants to form in me is the polar opposite of who I am. It’s like cancer treatment or surgery or something. In this case, the end justifies the means. It’s worth it because of who I am becoming. No one wants to go through it, but if it brings about something of far greater worth than what I had before…what I was before, it’s worth it to me.
Yes, I am a long way from being a finished product. Shoot, I may be in the raw material stage of development, I don’t know.
What I do know is that without a steadfast and abiding hope in the Resurrection of Jesus, my life would be meaningless. If I didn’t know that God has his hand right in the middle of all this with a plan for us that is beyond my ability to comprehend, I couldn’t travel this road.
I’m more grateful than ever that God is turning my head away from the impermanence of this realm (which is destined to perish with age) and teaching me to fix my eyes on Jesus.
And that is who and what I want to be – a man traveling down this bumpy road with my eyes firmly fixed on the one who died and was raised for me. That’s enough.