NOTE: For some reason I keep getting a huge blank space between paragraphs. Please continue to scroll down past these spaces. The article ends with me asking you to pray for us. Sorry about this, I have corrected the problem four times and it keeps popping back up. + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
In part one, I wrote about the fear and discomfort that people have about walking in the dark. People don’t like walking in the dark because of the very real potential for injury. I said that this is true both literally and figuratively. I included the stories of Peter Marshall who, while taking a shortcut one dark evening, almost fell into an abandoned Limestone quarry and Dr. Phil whose office manager was keeping him in the dark while she embezzled thousands of dollars. I then shared my frustration about how being a caregiver was like walking in the dark.
A dear friend from Owosso, Michigan, who was a caregiver to her husband who had dementia, wrote to me about walking alone, after dark in Detroit. She wrote, “Your experience, in the dark in the woods reminds me of the time when I moved to Detroit, in the mid-fifties, after graduating from High School. This was quite a change for a girl who grew up on the farm. I worked for Davidson Brothers, in the corporate office of Federal Department stores. It was fun getting to know new people. We were young and carefree. Everyday a few of us would go out for lunch, eat too much and get back to work, sleepy from the food. One day, one of my coworkers asked me to go to dinner with her, at a restaurant near Woodward Ave. Since neither one of us had a car we would have to walk to the restaurant and then to my aunt’s house, where I was staying. However, she said if I would join her for dinner, she would walk me home because it would be dark. It sounded like fun, so I said, “Sure, I’ll go”. When we were finished with dinner, we walked down 6 Mile toward Oakland Avenue where I was staying. We were about a mile from my Aunt’s house when suddenly she said to me, “I’m not going to walk the rest of the way with you.” Off she went leaving me alone in the big city at night. Even though Detroit was a modern city, at that time there were no streetlights, in that part of town. I was frightened looking behind every bush, tree and glancing behind me often. (I don’t know why I thought I would be safer having her with me.) Finally spotting my aunt’s house, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was otherwise not afraid in the dark. I fact I loved being outside at night looking up at the stars.” I included Janet’s story because it seems that us caregivers are in a similar position.
When you get married you expect to go through life together sharing the adventures that come your way. Harriet and I enjoyed many of the same things; going out to dinner, to a movie, dancing, etc. Janet, and her new friend, had a fun evening together and she assumed that they would be together until they were in a safe place. YOU can imagine the fear that washed over Janet when she realized that she was alone, in a strange neighborhood, after dark. In the same way, Harriet and I were going through life together and suddenly, Harriet is gone, and I am alone, and it feels very dark. You might protest, You’re not alone!! Harriet is still with you. While it is true that Harriet is physically with me, her personality has changed dramatically. In fact, I can think of three major changes in the past eight years. If the disease progresses for Harriet in the way it has for other people, I expect at least one more big change; the worst change of all. Harriet is very sweet with a very expressive face. The next change seems to be one where she will appear to be indifferent to other people and have little or no expression on her face at any time for any reason. When she broke her arm last September, she was like this for about seven hours, thank God, she bounced back. Sadly, that day is coming, we just don’t know when and so, we continue to walk in the dark one step at a time.
In, Walking in the dark, part one, I spoke about taking one day a at time. After I posted, I read a wonderful blog by Cindy Odell entitled, Once More: One Thing at a Time. Cindy has FTD and she was the Caregiver for her husband who had Alzheimer’s, until his death last November. Cindy is an amazing woman but the idea of taking One Day at a Time is overwhelming. She says, ”If you have been reading my blog for a while now, I am sure you are familiar with my mantra of ”One thing at a time!” when I started to feel overwhelmed I kept saying that over and over. It worked. I could not make repairs myself like I would have pre-FTD, but I got it done.” You can read her blog at http://ftdnoflowers.blogspot.com I like this idea better than one day at a time.
Whether you take one thing at a time or one day at a time, you need closure at the end of that time. If you don’t find some way to release all the stress, hurts, pain, and insults of the time just past, they will suck the hope out of your heart and plunge you into despair. The way I get rid of the negativity is prayer. Prayer is not magic; it’s not presto-change-oh and all my negative feelings are gone. It’s more like medicine, which works only if I take it every day. I have been taking antidepressants for the past twenty years. I still have days where I feel down. If I decided that the medicine Isn’t working and stop taking it, I will soon be too depressed to get out of bed.
One reason prayer works is that it helps me stay focused. If I get angry and frustrated or feel rejected because Harriet has no interest in romance I go to the Lord in Prayer. As I pray, I get past my feelings and recall that FTD causes brain damage. Once I am there, it is easier to let it go and move on. That does not mean that I am happy, or ever will be, that we will never again be lovers, but it does mean that my negative feelings are brought under control.
The second reason that prayer works is because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and is alive. That means that when I pray, I’m not just speaking into thin air. Rather, I am praying to someone who will help me through any situation.
Peter Marshall was a man of prayer. The morning of the day that he was going to walk across the moors in the dark, you can be sure he had prayed for the Lord’s will to be done in his life. It is extremely rare for even the most devout believer to hear an audible voice of an angel, the Lord, or God. (Usually those who hear a disembodied audible voice are mentally ill.) Peter Marshall life was saved because God answered his prayer in such an unusual way.
Dr. Phil is also a man of prayer. Do you find it odd that his phone has only malfunctioned one time, and that was when Theresa was confessing embezzling, from Dr. Phil, to her husband? Personally, I think it was answered prayer. Both cases remind of the teaching of Jesus; “All things are possible with God.”
I’m also convinced that God was watching out for these two men; God had their backs. You may recall that when I was thinking and praying about retirement, I asked the Lord, “Now what? What will I do with my life after leaving the ministry?” Unlike Peter Marshall, I’ve never heard God speaking to me audibly. He almost always speaks to me through a word of knowledge. That is, I pray about something, ask God for wisdom, and I know what God wants me to do. When I prayed about what I should do after retirement, I was absolutely sure the answer was, Write and Take Care of Harriet. Harriet has always been very independent woman and resented what she considered to be my “Smothering” her. Now that we have the diagnosis of FTD the idea of taking care of Harriet makes perfect sense and it gives me comfort that God knew about this years before any of us did.
What is true for Harriet and me is also true for you. I don’t think God caused this but long before the first symptoms or the diagnosis was given, God knew about it. Personally, I Hate this Dementia. Like all of you, this was not how I pictured Harriet and I spending our retirement years. But, in spite of that, when I remember that God has our back, it gives me strength and hope.
Jesus promised that he would never leave us or forsake us but would be with us always to the end of time. Saint Paul echoes this idea when he writes, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: NRSVCE.
I often wonder where God is at in all of this. Why Doesn’t God heal Harriet? If God but speaks the word this FTD will seem like a bad dream and become nothing more than a memory. However, I also know that such healings are extremely rare, and usually God gives us the strength to go through this terrible time, rather than to pluck us out of it.
I can walk in the dark because Jesus, who is the light of the world, is walking with me. Jesus gives me strength for each moment, one thing, one day, at a time.
God bless, strengthen, empower, and comfort you, as you walk with Jesus through this dark place and time. Next week I will finish this series about walking in the dark.
Please continue to pray for us and be sure that we are praying for you.