When my mother was first diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s, she humorously sang a parody of “Who are you?” from The Who, hence also the theme song for their favorite show CSI, but sang “Who Am I?” instead. She always says, “You have to have fun with it, don’t you?” I, on the other hand, always gave her a grudging smile, because there was nothing funny about this diagnosis.
On the other hand, I always love to see them laugh and have fun because those moments that were once in the heart of their being become a rare commodity when a being called Alzheimer’s takes hold of them.
Alzheimer’s is something that takes over and changes the core of an individual. There is nothing biblical to define what happens as Alzheimer’s disease progresses – it just changes a person’s entire identity from the past to the future. In an excruciatingly long process, it takes hold and doesn’t seem to let go.
Slowly you and your patient forget who they once were because day after day you are lured into a false reality – that the person in front of you is still the same person before Alzheimer’s arrived, until one day they ask you , Who are you. Suddenly you are thrown out of a place of lulled complacency and in your shock you say, “Mom, I am your daughter, do you remember?”
In the beginning, my mother had a commendable resilience to her diagnosis. She was always elated about the life I found hard to capture for myself. She never let Alzheimer’s define her or dictate her quality of life.
When she moved out of the only house my sisters and I had ever known, she told me that the process made her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s feel very real. She said, “I almost never have the feeling that something is wrong with me or that I have Alzheimer’s, but the fact that I have to move in with my mother is a constant reminder to me.” Her voice broke in the middle and I realized that they, like all of us, faced the cruel reality of what it really meant.
1. A prayer at the first diagnosis
Dear Lord, my world feels like it’s been turned upside down. A terribly hopeless feeling consumed me. The person I once knew, the person I know will not be who I have known and loved. Everything is taken away from them. Everything that made them what they are will go away.
Lord I know my thoughts jump to the worst case scenarios, but there I am and I pray that you will bring me comfort and understanding of what this new reality will be like. Help me take it one day at a time. Be with my parents who mourn their own mortality and memories. Be with my siblings who, like me, are dissolving in the face of an unknown future. The first day is the hardest, be with us as we tackle the days after what feels like the worst day of our lives.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercy and the God of all consolation, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort people in all troubles with the consolation that we ourselves receive from God (Ex Corinthians 1: 3-4).
2. A prayer when short-term memory begins to fade
Dearest Lord, thank you for being with us for so many months while we led a new life for my mother – for my father. Thank you for being with us through the many doctor’s appointments, new medications and new forms of living. They were tough, but we had a goal to accomplish, something that kept us busy.
Today, less than five minutes later, they forgot something I confided in them – something I went through and I only confided in them this information. When I was growing up, they were my best friend and confidante. They would remember what hurt me and what I was passionate about, but now they’re starting to forget and I feel like I’m not only losing them, but a part of myself as well.
God, I pray that even amid this small loss I will gain precious time. The time with them seems to have become more important and I am more grateful for a time when they still remember the past, they still remember who they are, me and what is really important. I pray that I focus on the good of the present rather than the bad of the future.
Because I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
3. A prayer when long-term memory begins to fade
Dear God, I started dealing with the fact that my parents couldn’t remember where they left their phone seconds after it was in their hand. I could handle when I had to hand out their medication because they messed up the day of the week, but when they forgot how old I was, when I first learned to ride a bike, a memory we both cared so dearly I took a step backwards.
I did not let them in on my inner pain or worries, but instead gently reminded them with so much grace and understanding that they began to remember again. I got a taste of what was to come and it terrified me, God. Please be with them if they become afraid or insecure. Give me the strength to comfort and comfort when this happens. I pray that you can hold on to who you are a little longer.
For I am the Lord your God, who takes your right hand and says to you: Do not be afraid; I will help you (Isaiah 41:13).
4. A prayer when they begin to fade
Dearest sir, thank you for keeping it intact for so long. Thank you that the dreaded day – if you don’t know who I am, if you forget my name – has not yet come. I pray that there will never be a day that a cure, a cure, anything will come. Because you are a god of miracles who can do everything according to your will.
When that day comes, if it is in your will for my parents, I pray that I am prepared, that I am not alone, that they will not feel alone or be afraid. I pray that you will give us both strength and comfort right now. As soon as you have withdrawn, I pray that you will come back and know your identity and family, whom you dearly love.
I know we’re not quite there yet, and I pray that we may never be there, but until we are, I pray that we don’t take this time for granted – that we soak up every memory, every time when you laugh every time you say my name. Even though they have told the same story a thousand times, I pray not to be upset but to appreciate this story as I know there may be a day when I will not hear it again.
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I am looking for: to stay in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to marvel at the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For on the day of trouble he will keep me in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his hut and sit me high on a rock (Psalm 27: 4-5).
5. A prayer for healing
Dear God, I know that anything is possible for you. I know you have the power to heal. I believe in wonder. I also know that your ways are higher than mine. I know my parents love you and one day they will be with you in heaven. Last but not least, that gives me all the peace and comfort in the world. Whatever happens, whether you choose to heal her, whether there is a healing in her life, I know your will has been done and your love is in and through us.
Thank you Lord for my parents – my mother, my father – thank you for living with my family and me. Thank you for this time I have with you. Thank you for being with us at this very difficult time.
There are no words to describe this grief. Mourn at intervals of lost shifts until they are finally gone, but I am grateful that at this point they will be with you in Paradise.
“Because my thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not my ways,” says the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts (Isaiah 55: 8-9).
Jesus answered him: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
For further reading:
Why doesn’t God heal everyone?
Does time really heal all wounds?
Can God Heal a Broken Heart?
Why does the Lord give and take away?
Photo credit: © iStock / Getty Images Plus / evgenyatamanenko
Molly Law is the editor of Christentum.com. She holds a Master of Arts in Publishing Studies from the University of Stirling UK, where she studied and lived in Scotland for a year. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Professional Writing and a minor in Biblical Studies from Gardner-Webb University. Her editorial career includes managing editor of a bimonthly magazine for the American Correctional Association, assistant editor at Luath Press in Edinburgh and freelance journalist for the News Virginian. She enjoys reading, creative and traveling British literature.