Forgotten Voices' Mission:

"Demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by equipping local churches in southern Africa to meet the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in their communities."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

8/20: My Grandma, Alzheimer's & Africa

Last week, I went and visited my grandmother, who lives about 20 min from me in a special assisted living facility for adults with Alzheimer's. I went with my parents and Aunt.

When we visit her, we can never anticipate what the visit will be like.... will she be happy? angry? scared? elated? With Alzheimer's you just never know.

On this particular visit, she was awesome! It was the best one I've had with her since she was diagnosed about 3 years ago. While her condition has worsened and her mood swings are severe, she was in rare form that visit - even if she didn't know who I was at all.

We spoke of rowing around the peak on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (where she is from) and clam digging by her family farm. We spoke of my new 1st anniversary. With great joy, she expressed how thankful she was that I had met someone who loves the Lord and me. We spoke about what we could do if only she could escape this "hotel" and check out. We decided we would dance the night away and enjoy life together. We discussed old friends and relatives, most of whom I have never heard of. We can never be sure, as many of her memories she is able to recall now come from before any of us were born.

My grandmother, despite this state, taught me something really important on that visit. No matter whether my grandmother is angry or elated, she always references the Lord and what He has done in her life. Medical people that I talk to about Alzheimer's tell me that the tank of memories she draws from help determine the things she talks about...therefore, how she spent her time and the values she placed on various seasons of her life have created the memories she now reflects on in these tough years of Alzheimer's.

At the end of every night, no matter her mood, my grandmother ALWAYS reads her Bible. Despite the fact that we had just conversed for nearly an hour, we had really only had covered 5 topics and had those conversations over and over. Her memory was weak, but get this...

When it came time to say goodbye and for her to sleep, we got out her Bible. I was asked to read her favorite Psalm: Psalm 121. Without pause, my grandmother recited word for word every line in the Psalm. I read it through once and it calmed her down. I read it through again and it seemed to give her added peace. Over her lifetime, she had clearly drawn upon that Psalm and it filled her tank, now allowing her to draw on peace.

It struck me how many similarities there are for my grandmother and our friends in Africa, as well as for you and me. I'm often amazed how our friends in Africa are able to exemplify faith in God when all around them they seem to face so many more challenges than we do - I mean the real challenges - like whether their kid will live or die. Whether they will be able to eat. Whether they have or will ever have clean water again.

But then I see their Bibles - nearly torn apart by all the wear and use. Then I open up mine that I've had for some time and see how new it is compared to theirs. Then... I cease wondering where their faith comes from.

My grandmother, Florence, is so special to me, as was my grandfather, Roy, who passed away a few years ago. Nearly every time I saw them, our time would close something like this - "Ryan, God has given you so many gifts and I'm thankful you follow the Lord. But remember how much there is to learn about the Lord and learn to follow Him more and more each day."

Those words were lived out by my grandma and are still today, just like our friends in Africa. My challenge to you and myself today is to ask what we will draw from the tanks of memories - what comes naturally to us when our minds begin to fail. Will it be the peace of scripture or the things that I feel often distract me from the important matters of life?

I too often forget to follow my grandparents' advice and I forget where my strength should come from. I forget to love the Lord with all my heart and allow God to transform and renew my soul...filling my tank...with His awesome truths of peace, love and faith.

Today - I was thinking about my grandma and I wanted you to meet her too.

With love and praying that your souls would be filled with the peace of God,
Remembering you and the love our Lord has for you,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what a special tribute to your grandmother! she sounds like a very special person and so do you.
dawn(a friend of your aunt esther)