Lessons from Alzheimer's
By Beverly Murrelle
I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2 NKJV)
Alzheimer's in one's family plays havoc with life; but so do broken relationships. So does death. So do terrible accidents. So does war. The list is never-ending. At some point, all of us will go through our own jungle.
Each soul walks through times of wilderness. Situations rise up to confuse our minds and blur our visions. I'm learning that when we respond negatively to our not-so-good predicaments, self-pity can suck us dry. This causes our lives to stagnate into low visibility, or seemingly endless darkness.
It's easy to create a volcano when everything in our path appears dim. As life continues teaching me this truth, I'm aware that dwelling on the problem can draw me into heaviness. It can zap my energy.
My mom and dad are living in darkness now, created by the devastating effects of Alzheimer's. If I let it, this delivers to me, an only child, darkness unlike any I have experienced. Sometimes my mind jumps into tempting my soul with defeat, but thankfully I continue to learn that I can find light when I seek it.
In times of wellbeing, I fill my reservoirs with a bit of brightness by exercising, eating right, and reaching out to others. Friends are priceless—my saving grace (at home, at work, and on the Internet).
No longer do I take friendships for granted, thinking that they will always be there for me. Rather, I strive to be there for those who need me, and in doing so, I reap the benefits of love's energy.
The hard fact of reality is that life sends us zingers. It is up to us to inhale the goodness of life by taking the opportunity to seek it out. For relief from future nightmares of reality, I'm commissioned to ward off zingers that may become overwhelming. I'm called to find the positive, no matter how small.
Unequivocal factors of life appear every day, coming with each new season ... each new situation. The silver lining is there. We sense it when we swallow that first sip of morning coffee; when we notice the startling brilliance in the first daffodil of spring; or, when we become thrilled with the new fallen snow of winter, to name but a few.
There was a time when I allowed these incredible wonders to pass me by without taking notice. Little did I know that Alzheimer's disease would teach me more about life than I am capable of sharing.
So what have I learned so far? Today one may ask, "What do you do with these incredible small influences in life of which you speak?"
I escort my parents to the morning pot of coffee and watch them greet the treasure of a new day with their first enjoyable sip. I stroll with them to the window and show them the first beautiful snow of winter. I walk beside my parents into the yard so they can see and pick their first daffodil of spring.
And where is the joy? It returns tenfold when Mom and Dad's faces transform from sadness into two beautiful, geriatric grins ... so beautiful that yellow teeth go unnoticed.
Ah, yes ... my parents' disease of Alzheimer's is teaching me more than I ever learned in a classroom. It is teaching me what to do and what not to do in my own life.
Time is incredibly more precious and priceless than I had ever before imagined. My journey goes on, with one of two questions I can ask myself at day's end.
Will that question be, How low did I stoop into self-pity today?
Or, will it be, How far have I stepped into making this day one that I can call precious?
Alzheimer's has taught me that my question is not about the disease. It is not about my parents. Nor is it about my friends. At the end of the day, the question is about me, and how I have dealt with life's zingers.
As stated in my favorite poem, Desiderata, "strive to be happy." It doesn't say, "except under certain circumstances." I will keep striving, and I hope you will, too. We all deserve to grab onto a touch of life's love, don't you think? God does. That's why He sends it.
Ah, yes, love's in there somewhere. We just have to find it, even if it's in a snowflake or a daffodil.
Beverley Murrelle says that the loves of her life are her family, her friends and her terrier. She enjoys writing, reading, walking, painting and music. If you would like to write to Beverley, you can do so through the Letters page of this magazine.