“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 (NIV)
I don’t usually have time to watch many movies, and when I finally get to watch one that isn’t necessarily a movie our whole family will enjoy, it’s usually months or years after it’s been out that I finally view it. That was the case this week. I watched a movie that left me emotionally drained. It was about a woman who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and the decline of her mind, body and relationships as a result.
Since I’m in my 40s and my body isn’t as resilient as it used to be, I have conversations with myself sometimes about would I rather lose my eyesight or my hearing? I really don’t want to lose either, but I’ve tried to figure out which one I could “handle” losing more than the other. I love seeing the faces of my loved ones, reading books, and seeing all the beautiful colors that God displays on a yearly basis, each different every single day. However, I also love music and it moves me to a different level of worshipping my Father. I love hearing my family say, “I love you,” listening to the way the wind and the birds all join together in worship music as only nature can. I love waterfalls, the gentle sound of rain as I fall asleep, or the sound of ocean waves or the innocence of a baby’s laugh.
Maybe that’s why the movie affected me so profoundly. I realized that to lose one’s mind and all the memories made would be far worse than losing my eyesight or hearing. I always knew Alzheimer’s was devastating. We have a history of it in my family genealogy and so while I didn’t witness it firsthand as my grandparents lived many miles away, I was told of the daily struggles my grandmother went through as her husband slowly forgot. There was a couple in a neighborhood I used to live in and although I didn’t know them personally, at times the wife would be sitting in the middle of the road while her elderly husband attempted to coax her to stand up and go home. It was a busy street so not only was it heartbreaking but dangerous as well.
Maybe the movie wouldn’t have been so devastating if the husband’s reaction had been different. He couldn’t deal with his wife’s failing memory and the patience (and love) that she needed. She begged him on multiple occasions to take a year sabbatical to spend with her while she still had her memories and could create new ones. He refused. He took it one step further and chose an advancement of his career and left his wife with his youngest daughter, ironically the one whom had the most combative relationship with her mom of all three siblings. The movie showed that while this child tested the limits the most, she also was the one who was the most patient, loving, and in the end, the most committed to her mom, willing to do “hard,” while the rest of the family disappeared.
My poor husband… I greeted him at the door that day with these words, “I just need you to hold me,” and he did. No questions, no, “Don’t you want to hear about my day?” no explanations needed. We stood in the entryway, him just holding me tightly in his strong embrace, no words needed, and I felt completely loved. Completely accepted. Safe and secure in the love of my family, a contrast to what the woman on the screen was given.
I realize that movie was fiction. It reminded me of the devastation of a disease that robs a person slowly (or quickly) of their memories as well as their ability to perform simple tasks. It also reminded me how truly blessed I am to have married the man God placed in my life and to have three amazing children as well as extended family who love each other fiercely. It reminded me to be more patient with everyone – those in my family whose memories are fading due to age, those in the community whom I don’t know what they are dealing with, and to pray for those whose family’s look more like the woman in the movie than the one God blessed me with.
I’m grateful God allowed me the time to watch that movie. It brought a difficult topic into better focus. It gave visual details of a disease that I had only read about. And it gave me a better understanding of the difficult months my friend dealt with her mother’s neurological decline due to brain cancer and what the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury really look like. It gave me the chance to see… and as a result, to pray with more understanding, for those I call friend.
© Cheri Swalwell 2015