The question of how to show the ones we care for that we love them is a mystery to many—most?—caregivers.
In the last post, I offered one answer to the question: continue to show your love in familiar ways and trust that your loved one knows. He or she just KNOWS. We don’t understand how, but we believe it’s true, nonetheless.
A rather unsatisfying answer, perhaps, but if you’ve been a caregiver for a while, you’re prepared to believe. You’ve seen enough to know that there are things all caregivers must take on faith, and this is one of them: maintain your familiar messages of love, and the one you care for will know.
I used to imagine my mother’s mind as a room full of shelves: some small, holding small items; some larger, holding large items. Alzheimer’s had dimmed the lights in that storage room, so when Mom went there looking for something, she couldn’t always read the tags on the boxes stacked on the shelves.
I imagined she saw nothing through her eyes but one of those pictures that make no sense unless you pull your eyes out of focus and stare at just the right spot. I decided her words were jumbled like pieces of a million puzzles; she couldn’t look through all of them to come up with even two that worked together.
But although it seemed the darkness in her mind had spread now to her whole world, there were still rare times when she was clearly aware of what and or who was around her. Often that awareness turned to anger. Her eyes, no longer empty, flashed with it. Her words, no longer jumbled, could convey the anger clearly–simply, but clearly.
“No! No, you! Go away!”
And sometimes her voice was loud, but plaintive: “I want to go home.”
Which box had lit up to spark her emotion? And where did the light come from? Where did the anger reside that it could return so fast and hot? Where was the notion of “home” stored? And what flash of light had illuminated the box of her desire? I witnessed it: even after all awareness seemed lost, anger could return and be expressed. The soul’s yearning for home could stir again, and words could be found to ask one more time.
That’s how I knew: at random times, lights can still shine in a mind dimmed by Alzheimer’s. When Mom turned her face away as I offered her medication; when, eyes soft and lips parted, she held her hand out toward a baby we saw in the store; when she pointed at a squirrel sitting on the lawn—she showed that sometimes she still recognized familiar things.
And if she could know those things, she could know that I loved her.
- …times when I smiled at her and asked, “How are you, Bunky?”
- …times when I danced across the kitchen floor singing,“Ja-da, ja-da,jing jing jing!”
- …times when I lifted her stiff legs onto her bed, covered her with a pink-flowered sheet, and, after a kiss, told her, “Nighty-night, One-That-Borneded Me!”
- …times when the silly things of yesterdays could light up our today.
Mom’s face would relax into soft wrinkles and her glazed eyes would shine for a second. Sometimes I really hit the jackpot—she remembered how to turn her lips into a smile.
It could only be that, down in the storeroom, a huge box on the largest shelf had begun to glow. The light had to come from within. I couldn’t explain it and didn’t try. It was enough that Mom knew I loved her and was able to show me.
Keep showing your love in the old familiar ways, and be ready to catch a flash of remembering in the one you care for. Maybe just a sparkle or a momentary shimmer, maybe a glow that comes and quickly goes—watch for it! It appears at random times, and it’s almost always fleeting, but if you catch it, you can keep it safe in your own warehouse. It will be there for you to pull out even on the darkest days. It’ll help you keep believing.
Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed…nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20 NKJV)
Father, we thank you for the miracles you work in our loved ones. Thank you for encouraging all of us, for helping us see with certainty that You are with us, every day, bringing us Your gifts of faith, hope, and love.