Monday, May 17, 2010
1:43 p.m. Today's project was to drive to Orange on this this dark, misty morning to see Steve's brother Larry, an advanced Alzheimer's patient, and now a resident of a Christian board and care home. A family member had told me that if Steve wanted to see Larry, we'd better go down there this week. So Steve and I talked about it a few days ago, and Steve felt ready and prepared for the visit. The difficulty lies in that Steve also has Alzheimer's, so it isn't too far a leap for him to project himself 3 years ahead and "see" himself in his older brother's position. When I had talked with him before about visiting, Steve said, "I'd like to remember Larry in his recliner at home, enjoying visitors." Thankfully, he had a change of mind.
The home is located on a very quiet cul-de-sac in Orange, and has no sign on the door. Before I had Steve get out, I ran up to the door and rang the bell. The operator, Carmen, was very warm and welcoming as I introduced myself and my husband. "Oh yes! Steve, the youngest one! He's the only one I haven't met!" [All of the other siblings still live in Orange where they grew up.] The house is a lovely ranch style, spotlessly clean, and filled with delicious cooking aromas.
Larry was sitting in a reclining chair between neatly made up twin beds, watching TBN, the Christian tv station. I noticed that's the only station on in the house. He was overjoyed to see Steve, and we sat down for a nice 45 minute visit. I showed him the video I'd made on my cell phone last night of our home fellowship worshipping together, and photos of the kids. Larry's so funny when he sees our baby Steven's bodybuilding picture, because he always makes Popeye arms and grunts like he's lifting weights!
We noticed a constant shaking of Larry's right arm; he kind of slaps it on his thigh, where his caretaker has placed a rolled-up hand towel. And he jerks not real violently, but very suddenly and often. In fact, Steve said at one point, "Let me ask you something: how long have you had the jerking? Because I get that, too." (And I even have that every once in a great while as my body is settling down to sleep at night...maybe it's not actually rare for the average person.) As expected, Larry couldn't give an answer, though he did put a couple of words together many times during our visit, at one time muttering, "This is the pits!" He nodded at the mention of Kriss' and Heather's weddings, which he had attended, and we had a nice chuckle over Larry's Angels t-shirt--he has always been a fan.
Steve then pointed out some mountain peaks on the tv screen, and reminded his brother of the trip they made with two friends to Colorado in his old yellow truck and camper. "Looks like the Rockies!" we all agreed. In fact, Steve spoke smoothly and at length; he initiated lots of conversation, and was completely relaxed while speaking with his brother, like he is with me when it's just the two of us! He really rose to the occasion, and the fact that Larry looked healthy and was so happy to see him gave him confidence--he could take the lead in their interaction. Peaceful, undisturbed one-on-one visiting: that's Steve's strength right now. Isaiah 30:15b, where God speaks to Israel of their return to Him, is also a touching verse for me in light of what I was honored to witness today: "In quietness and confidence is your strength."
We totally felt the prayers of scores of the Facebook friends I had asked to keep our visit lifted up to God...the Holy Spirit was there, especially when we laid hands on Larry and Steve prayed for him. An "amen" of agreement was all that was needed at the end!!
When we got back in the car, I asked Steve what he was feeling. "Hope." I was thinking, wow, I wasn't expecting that! "Hope for what?" I questioned in a neutral tone, holding my breath. "Maybe I'm healing. I mean, Larry and I are totally different." And they are. Steve forgets what to do, but when reminded, and helped with the logical steps, can do whatever he needs to do. But Larry has lost control of his muscles and physical reactions. Yet internally, neither of their major organs are compromised, as with cancer or heart disease. Additionally, Steve stays very physically strong and fit.
Scripture tells us that there is a battle for each of us between the internal person and the outward shell of our bodies! The Apostle Paul, a victim of much persecution and physcial affliction, brings this up in 2 Corinthians 4:16:
We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
When I think of those people whose daily life consists only of what is right in front of their faces, things that are "seen," I realize that they have no hope, nothing past themselves in this life. Imagine basing your hopes on this temporary existence, which could end in the next minute! The believer looks far beyond today, or even twenty years from now, all the way to eternity, to sharing our real lives, that "inward man," our eternal soul, with Christ forever.
Steve and Larry don't know what's next for them in their disease; but I don't know what's next for me either--and neither do you! But we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and His promise of eternal life is all the future we need to know.