Giving Thanks for Alzheimer’s

November 18, 2011

A Guest Blog By Stephen Woodfin

According to the latest statistics, when Americans sit down for their Thanksgiving Day meal this year about 5.6 million of them will be persons in the throes of Alzheimer’s disease. Another 15 million or so will be directly affected as caregivers, family members, friends, loved ones. In the swirl of events, football games, family stories, turkey and dressing with all the trimmings, for what will these people give thanks?

Will they raise their voices to God and praise him for delivering a cure for the dread disease? No, there is no magic pill, no elixir that will restore precious memories. There is no “fifteen days to the cure” Alzheimer’s diet.

Will they ask whatever gods there may be to transport them back to a time before the advent of Alzheimer’s? No, such things are only the fodder of fantasy novels, far-fetched stories divorced from the harsh realities of life, the longings of human spirits threadbare from years of desperation, heartache and loneliness.

Will they ask the Almighty to pull back the curtain to the innermost parts of their souls so that they might see, feel, taste and hear the world as their loved ones do? No, it is too much to endure, too wide a chasm, too deep a divide.

Should they enter that land, they know there would be no coming back. So what prayer do they offer, what solace can they seek?

The answer is as near as the person who sits next to them, the person with Alzheimer’s who remains a child of God, a person of worth and value. That person hasn’t left them, hasn’t vanished, hasn’t devolved into a shell of her former self. Rather she has only changed, morphed into a new creation, a new continent that beckons them to discover and explore it, not to pass it by in search of ephemeral treasures.

It is for that new person that they will give thanks, thanks for what lies ahead, not piteous rants of remorse for what is gone forever, what is behind them now. As a mother forgets the travail of childbirth when she holds her newborn in her arms, they will look with awe on the faces of their loved ones in the Alzheimer’s world, and they will see them anew for what they are in that moment, persons full of potentiality, persons in whom the fire of life still burns, in whom the light of love radiates.

And when they have given such thanks, the miracle will be among them, not a revelation from afar, but an inner awakening, an awareness that the ones they love have not left them, nor never will.

You can see other Alzheimer’s-related blogs by Stephen Woodfin at Venture Galleries.

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