Two days after my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I was scheduled to be a caregiver at a healing seminar. During caregiver orientation, I smiled at new faces, outwardly composed, inwardly sad and tired, trying to breathe in strength.
We were almost finished when someone said we’d go around the circle, all of us saying one word to describe how we were feeling.
Dang. Fake it? Everyone used words like excited, expectant, peaceful, hopeful. I could bluff. Except for the promise I’d made to myself ten years before to stop pretending.
My turn. “I feel … weak.” Tears flow.
Others move to my side, pray, wait. “How do you feel now?”
“My stomach is trembling.”
More prayer. More waiting. Peace comes.
The next day, the leader of the intercessory team lets me know that she cared for her dad during his Alzheimer’s journey … God’s banner over me during the seminar will be kindness … she will pray for me with understanding … and then: “You will find treasure in the midst of the journey.”
My breath catches. I hurry to my seat to write that down.
Near the end of the day, the teacher leading the seminar asks to pray with me. His mom has Alzheimer’s, too. No idea what he prayed, except this: “May Nita and her family find treasures along the way.”
I sob. And recognize God’s invitation to embark on a treasure hunt.
When I confided the treasure hunt invitation later to a friend, she said she already knew what the first treasure was: “You will walk this journey with an intact, loving family. Your caring will bring you even closer.”
I didn’t know three years ago how much that would be true. But I was reminded of that first treasure again recently.
Mom had begun tearing her hair out. Literally. Totally frustrated by her inability to style her hair in a way that disguises the bald spot at the crown of her head, she would comb and comb, spray and spray.
Then when her hand mirror revealed the return of the pesky bald spot, she would comb and comb again, yanking out the heavily sprayed hair that the comb wouldn’t slide through. Dad’s pleas for her to stop were sometimes honored but then forgotten a few moments later.
When Dad invited me to take his place with Mom at the hairdresser to do some problem solving, I texted my sisters for suggestions on a new style. The messages and photos flew back and forth before, during, and after Mom’s haircut. In the end, Mom was happy because her bald spot was disguised. And we were all happy because Mom looked “more like herself” again.
That texting thread has continued. Sisters who love each other dearly but haven’t managed a lot of communication between holiday family gatherings are texting about this and that. And it feels really great to connect more often.
That very first treasure of a caring family drawn closer is still unfolding, still shining.
Sometimes, walking Mom’s journey with Alzheimer’s is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The train car carrying Mom bears the brunt of the destructive impact. The cars carrying the rest of us jackknife around her derailed car and suffer their own dents and twisting.
And sometimes, by the grace of God’s good invitation, it is like a treasure hunt.
Photo Credit: Nita Landis
Nita Landis loves laughing on rollercoasters, savoring ginger chews, and lifting her face to light rain. She finds joy in offering spiritual direction, healing care, and words that shed light and give life.