Thursday, July 24, 2008

she remembers


A little while back we went to spend some time with Josh's little grandma. My time with her always feels bittersweet. The first time I met her she was quick to link her arm in mine and immediately made me comfortable in that grandmotherly tender way. Though I never really got close to her before she began to suffer from Alzheimer's disease.

I can say unequivocally that I hate this disease, anyone who's been touched by it can echo its devastation. There is often a look of utter confusion and fear in her eyes as she has no idea where she is or who we are. Little things we take for granted have become the most troublesome feats, like what to do with a tooth brush or a spoon. It breaks my heart to see her strain for the memories or the words. We all feel a little lost and a bit like a stranger from time to time, but to live in a constant state of disorientation, I can not imagine. So we are sure to say in loud clear voices, "Look at your beautiful grand-daughter Naya." and "so your grandson is four years old now," to help her know she is with her family.

Do we ever anticipate our body or our mind betraying us? One day do you just look down at your veins through paper-thin wrinkled skin and wonder when did this happen? Do we not feel just the same in our hearts as the years pass? With ageing comes so many endings and losses: loss of loved ones, of health, of energy, of clarity. Even with the promise of glory, and as natural as physical deterioration is, I don't think we're ever really ready for it. Our spirits weren't made for endings; they were made for eternity. It is this that makes the most natural process feel so completely un-natural and painful. I didn't mean to sound so dismal; my mind can just get lost in such things.
Betsy is certainly anything but dismal; through so much struggle she still takes so much joy in watching all her little great-grand babies. She may not know their names or gender but she laughs as she reaches for their soft hands and still has that protective mothering instinct whenever she's with them. My hilarious husband can still make her crack up with the most contagious giggle.
I watched her try to sing along as I sang hymns. But perhaps most amazing is that though the most ordinary bits of knowledge fail her she can sit down at her baby grand piano and from somewhere deep in her soul, she can play. Though they may start slow and she couldn't tell you their titles, song after song they come, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", "New York, New York" and various other old-timey classics. She was once an accomplished classical pianist and by some measure of grace despite what she has lost, she can still remember how to play. As I watched her frail fingers grace the keys I thanked God that her passion for music was so embedded into her hard-drive that it now provides a place of peace and familiarity. How powerful music can be in that way and how much more beautiful.

7 comments:

katiek said...

Again, wonderful post, wonderfully written! It is very strange and sad to see someone who was once such a strong personality fade. But that is so touching that she continues to play the piano. What a gift to her, to God and to the family.

How are you all holding up this week? I feel busier than ever! Which I guess is a good thing...

heather said...

Linda,
you write so poignantly.My heart has been feeling some similiar things, more in relation to the approaching time of year. I really liked that first picture. miss you.

Darla said...

What beautiful pictures and once again your way of putting this disease and it's effects into words is genius. I lost my father from the effects of alzheimer's in 2000 at the age of 86. I remember one of his best friends saying that God had left a line of communication open between them. (God and my father) He couldn't read anymore, but his favorite thing was for someone to sit and read the Bible to him.
When I was at their house he would say often, let me know when you're going to read the Bible so you can read out loud to me. I've known no finer example of a Christian. He was my rock. I ditto what you said - I hate this disease!

jen said...

there are so many things my heart feels when i look at these pictures of Grandma. And then I read your words... you really have given a voice to such a tragic time with its sadness and also its little beauties. You are so right about endings... we are not made for these things.

lindy, your writing makes my heart swell, break and then mends it back together again... feels much like this thing called grace... what a beautiful and incredibly delicate thing!

love you so...

mwiegers said...

My grandmother too had alzheimer's and I really didn't know her well before she got worse. I remember her telling me my dress looked pretty 10 times in a row and remember her forgetting, first who we were as grandchildren, and then even who my dad was, her son. She always knew who my grandfather was though. He was her secrutiy and safety. But the one thing she too held onto was music. She always loved to sing in her lovely alto voice and could sing every word to all the old hymns she'd sung all of her life. Her face and person would come to life when she sang, it was such a beautiful gift to her and to us as her family.

Holly said...

Your post made me cry, Linda.
I lost my Daddy to Alz last April, Linda. Like Betsy, he had been a musician & could somehow still manage to sing and play some of his favorite hymns. I knew he had no idea who we all were but every time we would see him, his face would light up. He knew somewhere deep in his soul that he knew us.
Alz has got to be the worst disease in the world.

Holly said...

My name is not Holly. No idea how that got on there.
I'm Susan that teaches down the hall from Josh.