Posts Tagged ‘Alzheimers’

LEGACY 19: The Luxury of Being Able to Choose Legacy

June 6, 2018

I am thankful for the luxury of having time to prepare a legacy, to have the choice, to think about and mull over and meditate on what I’ve done, what I wish I had done, and how I want to be remembered. Not everyone is given that.

I think of the 19-year-old young lady who slipped and plunged several hundred feet over Whitewater Falls just a little over a week ago. She was the 2017 beauty queen of the adjacent county, a dance aficionado who loved teaching young children, and looking forward to going to Clemson from the local technical college. Full of life and joy and vibrancy—and suddenly gone. No chance to look back, to think over what she wanted to leave as a legacy. She did leave one, but sadly through no choice of her own, did not get to leave a greater one.

It’s above my pay grade to know why. God in his infinite wisdom knows why she’s gone and we’re here, still trudging along and thinking about the trudging. But you are, for now, and I am, and I’m glad.

The older I get (approaching 66) the more I feel that life is designed to prepare us for the afterlife. The aches and pains and burdens and sorrows accumulate, and it’s easier to want to leave, to find that better place, to not have those any more. I think of the counsel of Ecclesiastes 12, where beautiful metaphors are used to compare aging to natural phenomena—dimming eyesight like shades pulled down on windows or rain clouds darkening your sky, hair turning white like an almond tree in bloom, “apple-blossom white,” (MESSAGE), teeth as servants stopping grinding, legs like guards trembling, “you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper” (NLT) [I went to bed last night at 7:30, and woke at 2:30 with the idea for this blogpost incipient, and so it’s not even 3:00 a.m. yet!]—see creatively paraphrased versions like Eugene Peterson’s THE MESSAGE or New Living Translation, or ones where it’s spelled out clearly like the Amplified Version.

The point of the comparison, the counsel, is to remember your Creator before it’s too late. When is it too late? Definitely when we’re dead and gone. And Solomon (supposing he is the writer) sees the danger of not having the faculties in old age to remember (e.g., Alzheimer’s or other diseases debilitating to the memory) and of having great regret for all the missed opportunities.

But my pastor, who’s 79, sees this as a time of great opportunity, of being able to look back and look forward and prepare. A time to grow closer to the Lord, to allow him to purge the past of pain by becoming more Present. I like that thought. And I’m learning to luxuriate in it. That is, for me, creating an eternal legacy.

And if I can encourage one other to do the same, I’m on it.

LEGACY 12: THE WORK OF MARRIAGE

May 21, 2018

(Originally written 10/12/14, and updated)

Make no mistake about it: Marriage takes WORK. And having a GOOD marriage takes GREAT work—great both in quantity and quality.

On July 31, 2018, we will celebrate 19 years. My first marriage lasted a FULL (in both senses of the word) 25 years—and would likely be still going if my first wife had not died. So I feel I can speak with some authority on marriage. I may have failed at many things I’ve attempted, but I have made marriage work.

It doesn’t seem logical that marriage should require work—but then again it does. Much of our concept of modern-day Western marriage is based on romantic notions of love that have not historically prevailed. As a result, we have an illusion of marriage that often doesn’t fit reality.

Marriage is a practicality that enables two persons to bond together very disparate personalities. Thus, accommodation is required. Adjustments must be made. Adaptation is necessary.

Longevity requires an unspoken belief in the “till death do us part” part in our depths, whether we realize it or not. Interestingly, it often does require a sort of death along the way—death to our self-will, our habits, our preconceived notions. And if this commitment is not there, the changes we undergo individually will undermine the marriage, and it is destined to fail.

Also, in today’s culture, work is required to resist the swell of public opinion and cultural bias against marriage. Even tax structures in the US discourage marriage. The prevailing opinion seems to be, “Why bother?” Even religious favor is not as popular. It has not always been so. A century ago, social and religious pressure was the only factor keeping some marriages together, but it was strong enough to do just that. Duty was enshrined, and sanctity of marriage was at least believed in if not practiced.

The work required comes in all areas, even the most intimate. Yes, there are rewards, and fun, and good times, and those sustain and propel the work portions. It is not all work and no play, but set your mind to the fact that it does require work, sometimes at the most unexpected times and in ways we hadn’t planned on. Life slams us with sickness, accidents, and more, and sometimes it even becomes the carrying of one by the other for extended periods—I have known several men and women who sustained marriages that made outsiders wonder how and why they felt it worth it, but they kept trudging along like Admiral Peary seeking the North Pole. One such person is my father-in-law. If my mother-in-law had lived till May of 2017, they would have been married 70 years! And the last 11 years or so he stayed focused and committed through her increasingly debilitating Alzheimer’s disease. He is one of my heroes.

No one else besides you can decide whether marriage is indeed worth the investment. A man’s mind is his own. But we do not live in a vacuum—we are definitively influenced by the opinions of others. If we choose marriage, we must surround ourselves with others who agree, who help make it work.

The value of marriage makes it worth the work, but that’s another story.

A Man Called Marshall

July 23, 2012

Yesterday, Sunday, my wife and I were driving down to have lunch with her son, Allen, who is my step-son (though he has become as much a son as my own flesh-and-blood son), and his son, Colt, our 1-year-old grandson. He is in the middle of family and custody issues that rival a soap-opera, and we, of course, get caught in the middle, trying to navigate the treacherous waters that will bring the most benefit for the little tyke, whom we want to have the best family and spiritual heritage possible in the midst of a not-so-pleasant situation. It IS resolving itself some, but it is painful, and we were going to lunch to try to resolve some of most recent eruptions of the issue.

On the drive down, we are talking about a man who paid tribute to his just-deceased father at the start of a long teaching I had been listening to. We have a lot of respect for this particular teacher, having heard him in person a number of times, but this particular video is on YouTube, and has become relatively well-viewed. Out of the blue, my wife says, “I don’t know what I would say at my father’s funeral. I guess if I don’t have anything to say, the best thing would be to simply keep quiet.”

I was appalled. My wife’s father, Marshall, is in his upper 80’s. He has lived all his life in flat farming country in the Midwest. He was a successful farmer, a major officer in a land bank, and still married—they just celebrated 65 years in May. But that is not where I think his greatest success lies. The last 6 years have been probably the most painful of his whole life, watching his wife be slowly stolen from him by the ravages of Alzheimers. Whether out of stubbornness or perseverance (flip-sides of the same coin to me), he resists putting her in a nursing home. In-home care is costing him into 5 figures each year, and is slowly eating away the inheritance he longed to—and was giving some of—to his 3 daughters. He has had to make necessary adjustments—keeping the stove power off because his wife tried to boil water in plastic, having to restrain her in ways that tear his heart out, watching her weep when she gets up on a Thursday morning and dresses for church and cries because she can’t go (it’s not Sunday), seeing her personality disappear out of a body that is like a walking death endured in a thousand indescribable ways. (The blessings of our medical prowess have brought us curses as well, like the Cumaean sibyl of Ovid, able to live forever, but having failed to ask for eternal youth, withering away till we’re trapped in a jar with only a voice left.)

So I said to my wife, “Your dad is a monument. I wish the world could be full of Marshalls.” I went on to describe some of the ways I admire him—a man who at 88 still lives in the same house for half a century, who still makes his own ammo and shoots prairie dogs, who is still able to drive to visit his daughter a thousand miles away, who is proud of how little he has to recycle, who still eats a simple breakfast—the list goes on and on. I said, “If the world had a lot more men like your dad, we wouldn’t be having all the situations like we are going to try to take care of today. I wish there were thousands of men like Marshall.”

She got teary-eyed and said, “Thank you. I appreciate you helping me see that about my dad.” But it’s true: I would gladly be like a man called Marshall, and I wish far more men had models and monuments like that to look up to.