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)
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.
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. Try 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 residents, 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 harsh 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.