Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s

Saving Sunshine—Part 1

10 Aug

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26 NASB95).

When they found my brother Jim, we estimated he’d been lying on his floor for at least five days. Considering the sores on his hip, shoulder, and elbow, he hadn’t moved. He was barely breathing. Every chemical, blood, and body fluid measurement was off the charts. If he lived, what would be his mental and physical condition? Hundreds of prayers went up for Jim, even when we couldn’t find words (Romans 8:26).

The doctor later told us, “I thought I was treating a dead man.”

Jim’s two registered Jack Russell Terriers, Hoss and Daisy, had been confined to his back den during those five days. Overturned trash and partiality-eaten paper plates showed their desperation for food. Eventually, they chewed through a heavy paper bag of dry food; a small puddle of water from a leaking toilet seal kept them from dehydration. A month earlier, Daisy had given birth to one male and one female puppy.

Not knowing if Jim would live or die, we had to find homes for the four dogs. I decided to take the little female home with me. I certainly didn’t need another dog, but she might be my last connection to Jim.

For years Jim’s greeting to me had always been, “Hello, Sunshine.” Jim’s future looked dark, so Sunshine seemed a perfect name for this tiny black and white ball of fur. When I told Robin and Regina her name, each had the same response. “Oh, that’s what Uncle Jim called me every time I saw him.” Until that moment, each of us thought we held exclusive rights to that happy name.

Toward the end of two weeks in intensive care, Jim squeezed a hand. His first words were, “Love you.” The sun began to shine again.

Jim spent six more weeks in the hospital. Next came months in a nursing home, assisted living, and finally home. Added to encephalopathy and other diagnosis, tests revealed he had dementia with Lewy bodies, which has symptoms of both Parkinson and Alzheimer’s. He spent his final days in an Alzheimer’s unit, but he never forgot anyone’s name. Although Jim couldn’t discuss his last meal or the TV show he just watched, Sunshine‘s antics provided a source of conversation and reliable memories for him. I’m extremely grateful for the five additional years God gave us with Jim.

Sunshine eventually transitioned from a housedog to a companion for Jax, our oldest birddog. Last spring I began making plans to bring eight-year-old Sunshine back into the house because of Jax’s failing health and age. That wasn’t to be. She darted under the back wheels of George’s pick-up and was killed instantly. We were both devastated.

I’m never sure if I rescued Sunshine or if Sunshine rescued me. She’ll forever be an inseparable part of Jim’s memory. I am sure she brightened many lives with her playfulness and love of people. She left a hole in my heart and about a month after her death, I began asking God if I should get another dog. Next week, I’ll share God’s answer.

Has there ever been a time you just couldn’t find words to pray? Has God ever answered your prayers through a pet? Please share your thoughts.

Twilight Love

20 Jul

photoO God, you have taught me ever since I was young, and I still talk about the miracles you have done. . .Let me live to tell the people of this age what your strength has accomplished, to tell about your power to all who will come (Psalm 71:17–18b GW).

This verse reminds me of Janie. She’s radiant when she speaks of her latest miracle and what God’s power accomplished. Janie turned 75 and married Robert the next day.

Janie and Robert share a history. Robert and Darrell were university buddies, both majored in math and physics. Janie and Darrell married in 1957; Robert and Shirley married in 1958.

The foursome remained friends after college and both men became teachers. After Robert moved to Amarillo, he persuaded Darrell to do the same. When Robert left teaching, he and Shirley lived in many different places including Puerto Rico and Geneva. Darrell and Janie visited in every new location. Sadly, Shirley developed Lupus.

Though the years, the two couples continued to share special times—weddings, cookouts, camping, and more. Robert visited Darrell and Janie after Shirley’s passing in 2004 and called often. When Alzheimer’s ended Darrell’s long goodbye, Robert was a pallbearer.

Shared joy; shared grief.

Janie and Robert had very little contact until 2011 when the extended phone conversations began. During one of these frequent calls, Janie mentioned she’d never flown by herself but was going to fly to Oregon for her second great-grandson’s baptism. Robert immediately said, “I’ll escort you to Oregon.” This was characteristic of Robert who regularly helped friends and strangers alike. Surprised and grateful, Janie accepted his generous offer.

They enjoyed the time together as good friends, never running out of conversational material. Robert made himself useful as they helped prepare for a birthday party. He played with and spoiled both precious little boys. No grandfather could have been more loving and attentive or fitted into the family any better.

They returned home as good friends, but imperceptibly Janie’s feelings for Robert altered during that trip. The long conversations continued and Robert came to visit in January 2013. Three enormous obstacles marred their realization that they cared deeply for each other. Almost five hundred miles separated them. They both had homes, family, friends, and a comfortable lifestyle. Then there was the age thing.

After the phone calls began, Janie’s son told her Robert would “come knocking at her door.” Janie assured him Robert wouldn’t knock and neither would ever move. It was impossible.

However, Janie began saying, “I have a fella.”

The long calls continued. Inevitably, they discussed marriage and found limited pros and abundant cons. Robert persuaded Janie that significance mattered more than quantity; she was delighted to see it his way.

“It just occurred to me,” Janie said, “we’re planning a wedding and we’ve never had a date.” Say no more. Robert drove to Amarillo, asked for a date, and Janie accepted.

I attended Janie’s lingerie shower; a bunch of twenty–year olds couldn’t have giggled more. No bride-to-be could have been more radiant. That glow accompanied Janie down the aisle June 29, 2013 as two families became one.

Robert had the wedding band engraved, “Twilight love is a blessing.” Janie and Robert have lived to tell this generation and the next that God removes all barriers, including distance, circumstances, and age.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT).

Our Hope and Helper

5 May

I’d never heard of dementia with Lewy bodies until my brother, Jim, received that diagnosis about 2006. Victims suffer hallucinations and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Jim died 2010. Later we were saddened when our son-in-law’s mother received the same diagnosis; she already had many other health concerns. Almost two weeks ago, our extended family celebrated her life and grieved the loss of our beloved Linda. Our prayers and tears mingled with people in Boston; West, Texas; and around the world as explosions, disease, war, and famine claimed lives. Sometimes such sadness and discouragement can be overwhelming.

That’s the way Christ’s disciples felt when He spoke of going to the Father. Jesus offered them hope as He promised His Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to help them (and us) live by faith.

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also” (John 14:16–19 NASB).

The Greek word for Holy Spirit is parakletos, which may be translated Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, or Counselor. Parakletos literally means one called alongside to help. God’s love that sent Jesus to the cross and the power that raised Him from the dead is available to all believers. Christ’s death meant agonizing change, lost hope, and broken dreams—feelings most of us have experienced. Because Christ’s Spirit abides with us and in us, we don’t have to be discouraged. We can handle whatever life throws at us with strength, courage, and even joy.

We celebrated Linda’s life with laughter and song as well as tears. The pastor said, “She taught us how to live and how to die. Her husband, Lanny, taught us how to love.” The service was beautiful—bittersweet and sad, yet beautiful. What a legacy and example for their children and grandchildren.

The world also recognized multiple heroic examples that week as first responders’ courage and selflessness amazed us. Our country once again united in support of other suffering Americans. Perhaps you (like my husband and I) renewed your gratitude for life and love, conceding we’re not promised length of days. There is great good on earth, which we can appreciate and celebrate. We also need to do our part in alleviating pain and suffering through prayer, hard work, time, and money.

However, we are all just passing through this world. The Bible promises the best is yet to come. Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1–3 NASB).

And from the Revelation of John we have this promise.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3–4 NASB).

One day we will join Linda, Jim, our parents, and thousands more—all healed, whole, and singing, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power.” What a glorious reunion that will be.