I drove Dorris home after church today. We took the usual route, and she asked the usual questions about where we were and where she lived.
Dorris: Why don’t I recognize where we are? Did I hit my head?
Kim: No, you did not hit your head. You have Alzheimer’s.
Dorris: I don’t like that word “Alzheimer’s.” It is often bandied about and used where it doesn’t belong. Now I guess I will have to accept that it belongs to me.
We were unusually quiet the rest of the drive.
Dementia is cruel. It leaves its victim in a constant state of anxious confusion. Thankfully, my mother-in-law, is comfortable with asking important questions over and over, again. I answer them as if I have never heard them before because I know that this will reduce her anxiety - if even just for a moment. Sometimes she will inform me that she will probably ask me the same question more times before she’s done. I always reassure her that repeating a question is just fine as long as it is a question I can answer. We laugh and I make her promise not to ask me about string theory, which inevitably makes her ask “what is string theory?”
Dementia takes away memories; it takes away the comfort of knowing where you are, where you are going, and who is taking you there. Dementia takes so much, but it often leaves behind the realization that the disease is present. Dorris doesn’t remember that she cannot balance when she walks, but she remembers what Alzheimer’s is and what it means for her future.
I gave a children’s message at church today on the topic of life. We discussed several pictures to determine which was “alive” and which was “not alive.” We agreed about the snowman,
but there was some discussion about the picture of Olaf.
I showed them a picture of a baby in the womb.
We talked about how babies get food before they are born and then had to stop ourselves from lifting up our shirts and dresses to see our belly buttons.
I shared the sad news that some people do not see the baby in the womb as being “alive.” Science tells us that this baby has life, but many do not count this life as having value.
What about Dorris’ life? Does her life have value? In some countries, she could be euthanized at her request. Physician aided death is legal in five states here in the U.S. In Belgium, it is legal to end the life of a terminally ill child. That is, so long as the parents show they are capable of making a good decision regarding the life of their child.
Yes, the world is full of pain and misery and we want to see this pain end. How is death a good decision?
If it is acceptable to end the life of an unwanted unborn child, how long will it be until we use the same rationalization to end the life of a born child? Or, the life of a severely injured adult? Or, the life of someone in emotional pain and misery? When will we start to feel comfortable ending the life of people like Dorris who can no longer remember or make sense of their world?
This is the verse we read for the children’s message:
And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. (I John 2:25, ESV)
God loves life. He loves the life of a newborn baby. He loves the life of an elderly person lost in her memories. He loves the life of a terminally ill child, parent, or sibling. He loves a long healthy life. He loves a long life of pain and misery, because He loves those who suffer. He loves the joyful and He loves the dejected and depressed.
God does not want misery for His children. He wants life.
He grants us eternal life through the saving work of His Son, and through the faith given us by the Spirit. We will live forever with Him in heaven.
But, eternal life goes both ways. God loved us before we were born. From before the beginning of Earthly time, God knew us, and loved us.