Life with Lill…dementia lesson

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Even on her best days she doesn’t remember my name, but she knows my familiar face. Her eyes light up with understanding when I tell her I’m her oldest granddaughter. She says, I’m a sweetheart. I smile and think, if she only knew.

But today is not one of those days.

I know from the minute she awakes. She holds her head in both hands trying to figure out why her body is slowly beginning to work but her mind won’t follow. With a shake of her head she tries to jostle the memories and thoughts back into place. Her pursed lips tell me more than her words ever will. Am I dreaming? Is this real? Where am I? How’d I get here? And the biggest question of all though she keeps the it at bay.

Who are you?

Our morning continues with breakfast and a little bird watching. She slowly eats her cereal and drinks sweet coffee. As she turns her back to me, I get what she’s not saying. What she refuses to ask because even on her worst days she’s hesitant to be rude or completely honest with a stranger. Only I’m not a stranger.

I’m the little girl who followed her around working in the yard and gathering eggs during summer break. I’m the middle schooler she came to watch sing on stage at the spring show. The college freshman who lived with her for the first semester. I’m the mother of three of her great grandchildren, and the one she taught to make kolaches.

Today, she doesn’t remember.

Her questioning eyes drift my way. Who are you? Do you know I can’t remember one thing? How did I wake up in this place? What happened? Did I hit my head or suffer a stroke? My mind’s not working, do you know? 

Frightening questions follow. Did you do this to me? Is it safe to ask? Why does she want me to take this medicine? I better just keep my mouth shut and go along with her.

Today, the silence is anxious.

In the silence I recognize my living not enough is a spiritual dementia of sorts. It wipes away my memory of who God is and who I am in Him. On my worst days I wonder just like my grandmother. Can I trust you? Do you truly want what’s best for me? Will you leave me alone to figure this all out.

And even more frightening. Do you know who I really am? That something in me is not working?  If you knew the real me, would you still love me, still think I’m enough?

She stood and walked away from me today. Retreating to a place where she might get her mind off things. She doesn’t remember who I am or who we are to each other. There are days I do the same. I look for some distraction to get my mind off my not enough. I get caught up in the doing because I’ve forgotten who God is and more importantly who we are to each other.

Not long ago, on a good day, as I put socks on her feet she says, “One day when we get there. Well I’m gonna get there first, but later you’ll come too. When you get there I’ll be waiting for you.” I hold back tears and smile big. Because the day she greets me on the other side and remembers exactly who I am will be like no other. Until then I’m content to be with her, to love her whether she knows me or not.

It’s a beautiful picture of how God loves me in the midst of my own spiritual dementia. My forgetting doesn’t make my not enough true. It only means there’s more unfolding to do, and in the meantime God is content to be with me. My remembering or forgetting doesn’t determine His love for me. He just does.

And today that’s more than enough.

One Comment on “Life with Lill…dementia lesson

  1. Oh, Stacy, I do understand. This is such a hard time and we wonder why our loved ones have to go through this…& it hurts to know we are unable to make them okay.
    The words you have written are beautiful. I had to read it twice.
    Thank you for being the wonderful person you are. Your grandmother is blessed to have a loving family, as you all are to have her.


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