Thursday, July 24, 2008
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.