Monday, March 9, 2009

Excerpt from Chapter 9, Beautiful in Each Season: Chapter Introduction

When it was time for Mom to move from the house that had been her home for nearly forty years, I packed dozens of her journals into a large container. It took two men to carry it up the steps and into her new home: a box full of prayers and memories. A scientist might have been fascinated to examine Mom's writing to see how complexity of sentence composition and word choice deteriorated as her disease progressed, but I was inspired to chart her steadfast belief in God's love. This chapter is the result.

My mother went with grace into the dependence and infirmity of the disease which will eventually claim her life. As I read her journals I realized that the guidance she left behind is invaluable as a blueprint of how to age gracefully. Although there is no way to know what characteristics may have enabled my mother to continue to experience such peace and contentment even to the mid-stages of Alzheimer's disease, a study of her healthy spiritual habits may give some clues.

However, the alterations of character that occur with Alzheimer's disease have little to do with noble qualities cultivated in prior years—or lack thereof. There are heartbreaking accounts of kind and Christ-centered people who experience complete personality changes, and I know that the anger and violence I have seen other Alzheimer's victims exhibit may yet express themselves in my mother as her condition deteriorates. The specific portion of the brain that is damaged is the physical basis for the individual expression of symptoms. This chapter is not meant to be a set of rules to follow in order to avoid 'ungraceful' aging.

We walk by God's grace and not because of any virtue of our own, and this grace is ours through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Our lives and our deaths are in His hands; "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be," (Psalm 139:16). Do not read this chapter thinking to emulate my mother's healthy spiritual habits and thus to avoid the pain of being a pain to others in old age! The only valid reason for the quest to develop holy life habits is the desire to glorify God.

Taking care of a loved one who is terminally ill causes our perception to telescope to the time when we will face the end of our own lives. This chapter is a challenge to each of us to put into practice those principles of Godly living that will make our brief time on this earth account for something of worth in God's Kingdom.

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