Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Saturday, March 27, 2010

C: A Matter of the Heart

He [Jesus] answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'’" Luke 10:27 (NIV)

So, Jesus, do whearte have a “heart” AND a “soul” AND a “mind?”    Could it be that we could love the Lord with our minds but not our hearts?  Yes, I think this happens all the time.  Maybe most of the time.

Could it be that we could love Him deeply in  our souls but not realize it in our minds? 

Are these separate components but which combine to make us a whole?

The verse above has been on my mind recently because, of all things, Alzheimer’s Disease.  We lost my father-in-law to Alzheimer’s not quite three years ago.  How vividly I recall the devotion of MIL to his needs; watching his fear and confusion as he began to forget; the surrealism of having him turn to me, his daughter-in-law for nearly forty years, asking, “So, do you and your husband have any children?”  His memory just began to seep away.forgetting

V’s mother is now in the struggle, and I know that soon V will share with you about that. 

But what has started me really thinking about this is a story from a friend of my sister.

“B” is a lovely retired nurse practitioner; I had the pleasure of meeting her a couple of years ago because she needed some legal preparation for the darkness coming over her from Alzheimer’s.  From what I hear (and from what you are about to hear), B does, indeed, love the Lord in her heart and soul.  And she loves her neighbor as herself.

At the time I met B, she was living with her daughter and son-in-law.  Since that time, the darkness has deepened, as we knew it would.  B’s family found her a place in a facility which could care for her the twenty-four hours a day she now requires.

Just this week I received word that B’s family had been asked to take her back home.  The nursing home, although it is equipped to handle Alzheimer’s patients, cannot keep her.  B continually tries to “treat” the other residences, messing with their IV’s, pushing them in their wheelchairs.  nursehatTry as they might, the nursing home staff cannot persuade B that it is they who care for these residents, that she needs to rest, they  have it under control.  B cannot help herself, so she cannot stay.

This means that B’s daughter and son-in-law must, instead, provide the care.  How?  They both work.  This is a hard place, and I will pray for them, watching to see how this last act of the play unfolds.

I told my mother-in-law this story.  She recalled for me another woman, also a nurse, who was in the nursing home where my father-in-law lived out his last few weeks.  This woman, too, cared for the other residfolding clothesents, although not in a way that would endanger them medically, like in B’s case.  This nurse would go into each patient’s room and straighten it up, opening the drawers and folding clothing neatly, putting it back in place.  She never took anything, she never made any disturbance.  She just spent  her days taking care of others in the only way she still could.

This has made me think about what has been driving B as she persisted in her “nursing.”  The cynic might say it was long years of habit or the fact that her identity is so wrapped up in “being” a nurse.

I am not a neurologist or a psychologist.  I have no scientific basis for this; only by observation and my instinct. 

I believe that as one of these components—the mind—fades, there are left the others.  That the heart and the soul remain and they are able to shine through, unencumbered by the facades the mind causes us to put up for others.

When my father-in-law really began to fail, he became very childlike, trailing after MIL everywhere she went.  She often likened it to a having toddler.  He would bring her little gifts, much like a child might bring Mom a dandelion, presenting it as if it were a rose. 

If you have read MIL’s blog, Immigrant Daughter, you will know that Father-in-Law was an abandoned child who grew up with no one in his life, shuttled from alzheimer'sstampharsh foster home to harsh foster home.  It seems to me that as his mind began to recede, the need for the security he had missed as a child and harbored in his heart always began to come to the forefront.

As for B, I believe it was her heart; that even though her mind is gone, that heart of hers shines through.  It is in her  heart to care for the needs of others.

And, that is a beautiful, marvelous thing. 

It was my son who observed this morning as we talked about this that our minds/our intellects cause us to calculate and adapt to the expectations of others, often covering up the fears or the needs or the gifts that are harbored in our hearts. 

Just something to think about.  Maybe sort of a little bit of a silver lining (boy, I say that haltingly) to a dreadful disease.  C.


Protege said...

Very contemplative post about grave issues in life. Grave, but unfortunately inevitable for all of us in one way or another.
Although I need not to worry about my parents yet, they do live far away in another country and sometimes thoughts about the issues you you describe here enter my mind and make me worry...
Have a lovely weekend,

Debbie said...

My mom died with Alzheimer's some years ago. I certainly have compassion on any family going through this experience. My mom sang hymns. When all else was gone, even her ability to move around, she would softly sing hymns. One day I was looking at my vegetative mom and I just said, "do you still believe Jesus cares?" And to my astonishment, she answered and said, "if He didn't, I couldn't bear this."
Under all the layers of the disease, little pieces of the person shine through occasionally.
The heartbreaking thing is, it's not often and it fades quickly.

Pondside said...

What a thought provoking, yet tender post. I too believe that when alzheimers steals the mind, what's left can sometimes be the most beautiful and essential traces of the person that was. Why else do people remember songs, or how to play piano? How hard for 'B's family, but how lovely to know that the part of her that nurtured is still alive.

Vee said...

Poignant and challenging to even ponder this morning. How sad for your friend and her husband to now find themselves caring for a parent with so many needs. Rather like the incorrigible child who gets the boot from daycare. Tough stuff. Sometimes these silver linings come with long strings.

Farmchick said...

Wonderful post. My grandmother is currently struggling with this issue. It is heartbreaking.

Noni at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

This has been a hot topic in my small circle of closest friends for the past month. One of the finest, and I do mean finest, Christian women we knew hung herself the first of this month. She and her husband had just returned from a wonderful trip to Colorado. The photo they used in the obituary was from the weekend... smiles, hair blowing in the breeze. They were the couple everyone else aspires to be. She had been struggling with a diagnosis of dementia and a growing forgetfullness over the course of the past two years. She left letters... she did not want to be a burden to her family or friends... She wanted to leave while she still had "herself". It is a tough, tough situation. I believe with all my heart her choice was to protect her family... at the same time, the pain... well, it is tough.

So, we have all been discussing this situation... it is so scary. So scary. I feel for this family you wrote of... I believe, like you, B is following her heart... May God bless her and her family...

Immigrant Daughter said...

lost it again so here it goes for the 2nd time. That was a touching tribute to C your FIL. I remember well and especially missed helping him make a Palm Cross

laurie @ bargain hunting said...

Such a lovely post. It is so difficult to turn this horrible disease into something with a silver lining, but you did it and made it a great read. So many people are having to live with family members with this disease. It is so hard on those who are the care takers, but I am always thankful that the one who is sick does not usually realize it, as they live in their own blissful world. Great post! laurie

addhumorandfaith said...

Touching, thought-provoking words, C. I have said a prayer for B. and her family -- a hard time to go through.

herbertjo said...

Hmmm. I have loved ones who are affected by dementia and/or mental illness. I am starting to believe that we are not just our thoughts. I would love to know who are we really?

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