It’s funny how certain things can trigger something in you and have you in tears within seconds.
i was trying to clean up my closet a bit yesterday (which translated, means that I had to do something, because we could barely walk in!) and as I was picking up random things off the floor, I came across a small photo album.
it was one of those thin, flip-through albums like you’d get with your order at Walgreens or somewhere. As I turned the album over, I was not prepared to see my dad’s face through the opening on the cover.
not only was it my dad’s face, but it was a picture of him late into his journey with Alzheimer’s, and he looked about 20 years older than he was, which at the time, was 60.
Upon first glance, seeing the picture took my breath away. And quite honestly, it was all I could do not to cry.
i quickly flipped through the album before putting it away, and I was completely shook up.
i was confused by my reaction, especially since my dad’s been gone now for nearly four years.
but there was something about that picture that hit me like a ton of bricks. It was almost as if I’d forgotten how much Alzheimer’s had changed my dad, not just mentally, but physically as well.
alzhiemers is an ugly disease, and I remember well the nine devastating years that we walked through with my sweet dad.
i still remember the day my mom called me in October of 2002, and told me that my dad had been walked off the job and was encouraged to go see a doctor before they would consider letting him come back to work.
apparently, dad had been having issues with his memory at work for quite some time, and the other guys he’d worked with had been trying to cover for my dad by filling in where he messed up.
within weeks of that day, our suspicions were confirmed, and dad was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s….at 53 years of age.
the years following his diagnosis were devastating to say the least.
watching my strong, “able to do anything” father wrestle with the reality that he couldn’t do even the simplest of tasks anymore, was awful.
and watching my sweet mom become his care taker and have to care for him almost as if he were a small child was often more than I could bare.
five years into the disease came the day we feared and hoped would never come—the day we had to move my then 57 year-old dad into a nursing home.
i can’t even begin to tell you what that day was like. I felt as though a part of me died that day, and I couldn’t begin to accept the idea of a nursing home being my dad’s new permanent home.
the nursing home staff asked that we please wait at least two weeks before coming back to visit my dad, allowing him time to adjust and accept his new surroundings.
i’ll never forget that first time we went back to visit him, exactly two weeks later. We saw him from a distance, walking the halls and talking with people as he passed them.
and then he saw us. he stood there for a moment, as if he was trying to figure out if it was really us, and then, with tears falling down his face, he ran to us.
he hugged my mom first, crying the whole time, and saying over and over again that he didn’t think we were ever coming back.
the Alzheimer’s seemed to progress more quickly than we had hoped, and within two years of being in the nursing home, dad had aged about 20 years, and was no longer able to communicate with us.
visiting him was like visiting an empty shell of who he used to be. It was as if he were lost inside of his body and couldn’t find his way back to us.
every visit was like another good-bye, because we seemed to have lost more of him between each visit.
during our visits, all I could do was sit next to him and hold his hand; feeling the warmth of his skin was a reminder to me that he was still in there somewhere.
in October of 2011, exactly four years after going into the nursing home, my dad finally went home to be with Jesus.
that’s all he ever really wanted, was to be with his Maker and to worship at the throne of God night and day, without end.
alzheimers was a journey unlike any I’ve ever known.
i experienced anger, frustration, grief, and more sorrow than I ever thought possible.
there were times, early on in the disease that I was angry with God. I would beg and plead with God to take the Alzheimer’s away and to give us back my dad, but He didn’t.
through the nine years of this disease, I fought and wrestled with the reality that it may not be God’s will for my dad to be healed this side of Heaven.
it took a long time for me to accept that reality, and to come to terms with the fact that God is still a good God, even when he doesn’t stop the hurt.
i’ve often considered writing a book about my journey through my dad’s Alzheimer’s, and often times I feel as though God is prompting me to do just that.
i learned so much about God in those nine years, things that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
and most importantly, I learned that God is faithful, and his ways are good, even when they don’t coincide with mine. Ultimately, God is good and true to his Word, and his ways are better than mine.