I am here today to thank the nurses and staff of Brighton Gardens and to testify of the grace, goodness and mercy of the Lord…even in death. Especially in death.
Alzheimer’s was not a road that my mother Gayle ever wanted to go down. Her sister Joyce died from Alzheimer’s following a prolonged battle. My mother saw it first hand. Up close and personal and knew it well. It was her single greatest fear. I didn’t want to go down that road either.
But God frequently has a different plan and directs our steps onto a path much different than that which we would have chosen for ourselves. Thus began our journey with Alzheimer’s six years ago. It was a long time coming…but Gayle’s death was sudden.
As Gayle’s health rapidly declined and her death was immanent I felt as if we both had a divine appointment with death. One of us would be getting on that train and one of us would remain. As I sat by her bedside, prayed and I asked God what He wanted to teach me in these circumstances.
What I learned…was that God may take me into to the fire…but He is right there with me. Though the flames may burn hot and threaten to consume me…He’s standing there with me. He won’t leave me there, but instead He is faithful to bring me through.
I am so grateful that when my mother Gayle was facing death…we could turn to the One who conquered death. Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…I will fear no evil. Why? Because Thou art with me. I don’t have to be afraid or alone…because God is with me. He will never leave, nor forsake me.
I learned that when I recognize my circumstances are far beyond me…and I come to the end of myself, I can surrender to God. It’s there in the surrender and dependence upon God that I find His peace.
I’m glad that my mother and I didn’t have to walk down that path alone. God also brought others to help us along the way. Some of those people are sitting here today. To the nurses and staff of Brighton Gardens…I offer my humble and heartfelt thanks. Thank you for caring for our mother during the most vulnerable time of her life. God used you to love her and care for her.
The day my mother died, I talked to my brother to share the news that she had passed away. When he spoke he was remembering how bright and accomplished Gayle was…all that she had achieved in her life. It seemed so odd…to hear that. Everything that he mentioned was pre-Alzheimer’s….her intellect, her educational and vocational accomplishments…her family, her health and pride in keeping herself fit. All of it came to naught. Just about everything that she had or had achieved had been taken from her by this ugly disease called Alzheimer’s.
Was it in Alzheimer’s that she found that which is of lasting importance and can never be taken away?
Pre Alzheimer’s…my mom was never an affection person. She never said I love you…nor gave hugs and kisses. I’m not sure if that was because she was part of a generation that was more private…or if she bore scars passed down by her family.
It wasn’t until Alzheimer’s that my mother learned to be affectionate. She wasn’t embarrassed about how she looked if she gave someone a hug or a kiss or what they might say if she held their hand. It was in Alzheimer’s that she learned to say, “I love you”.
I learned don’t wait to say I love you. Don’t wait until someone is dying or leaving to share the most wonderful thing in the world…love. We don’t know when the last opportunity to express our love will come. Don’t wait! Don’t miss it…because it may not come around again.
God granted my mother a relatively cheery disposition. Even when she was willful and uncooperative….she did so with a smile on her face. It was that smiling defiant face that greeted my sister Denise and me in the emergency room when Gayle decided to escape to Las Vegas.
It was in Gayle’s dying days that I began to see how God had used this woman…who had lost everything in her life…to touch people’s lives. With her cheery and funny character…and her openly affectionate ways….she touched people. Perhaps it was in Alzheimer’s that Gayle accomplished the most important thing….because she touched people in her happiness and with love.
When I talked to my brother, he said he wouldn’t be able to come to see Gayle. He loved her too much and that it would nearly kill him to see her like this. That it would be too hard. Indeed it was too hard. Guess what…it should be. But when we obey God…it’s all right…it becomes a new kind of normal.
I had to ask myself…do I let something that is too hard or hurtful keep me from doing the right thing?
“Love suffers long and is kind; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
I need to examine myself in light of God’s word. Is my love longsuffering? Does my love endure all things? Does my love fail? Is my love other centered…or self centered? When my love fails…I’m acting on my own strength, power and wisdom. Instead I can turn to God….and watch Him enable me to act with a love towards others…even when it’s hard and it hurts.
It’s from the depths of my heart that I thank the people that work at Brighton Gardens for what you did for my mom. For being there for her, caring for and loving her.
Thank you Denise for finding Brighton. Thank you for being there…especially during our frequent flyer emergency room visits. Pete…Travis…Reed and Alyssa…thank you for your family’s help each time we had to get Gayle moved. Thank you Gregg for helping oversee Gayle’s finances.
Thank you Kindred’s audio ministry and prayer ministry and congregation…for being a rock of support. Thank you to those of you who came to see my mom. For being willing to come see Gayle in her last days…to ensure that she heard about Jesus.
I thank you God…for being with Gayle and me as we walked a difficult road. Thank you for never leaving, nor forsaking us…and for Your merciful, gracious provisions along the way.
Thank you Chris for being a rock of support during this time…and pointing me back to the Rock Who is higher than I. Thank you for praying with us, crying with us and laughing with us. Thanks for putting up with a sometimes crazy woman.
The last words that I whispered to my mother when I left late Monday night were, “Yes Jesus!” Those are some good last words. Great words…great because I know that salvation is found in no other name, in heaven and earth than Jesus Christ our Lord. It’s in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross….that I can have a hope that I may one day see my mother Gayle again. Hope because I know that our sin debt was paid in full…and is applied to all who call upon the name of the Lord. Yes Jesus!
I pray that you too have that peace, hope and assurance that is found in Jesus Christ. Yes Jesus…today is the day of salvation.