What Alzheimer’s Can Never Take Away

Sweet, familiar faces greet me at the glass screen door. Through tender hugs and peering over beloved shoulders, I begin my search for her. It’s hard to believe this day is here. I’m amazed. Her kids weren’t sure she’d live to see this day. It’s been a rough road lately, I hear. But she’s entered into the hour of her 80th birthday.

17991234_10210741696651658_8583094109327804442_n (11)

The last time I was here, she conversed with me. She won’t be able to today.

I see her. I take in her sweet details from a distance.

She’s so loved. Disease can take so much from a person. People can give up on you, and one can choose to give up on themselves and others, but from where I stand, Alzheimer’s can’t take away your loves. She is curled up on her side, on the couch, cuddled into her pillow and blanket. So much princess pink. Her loyal Maltese blends in to the white cotton pillowcase, taking up more pillow space than my aunt’s precious face is. The beloved caregiver beckons the help of my cousin, the daughter, and they ease her to standing at the walker. The caregiver cups my aunt’s face in her hands and kisses her forehead.

Resized_20170425_122513 - Copy (2)Nove and Izzy (3)

She’s so strong, even in her weakness. Because she’s all heart–all heart that fought for grandkids, that survived cancer, that survived the loss of two beloved children, that survived the loss of a husband, that fought and survived so much more than I’ll ever be privy to. Her fragile fingers grip the walker rails. Because Alzheimer’s can’t take away a fighting spirit. Time after time, her kids wonder if she’s being escorted away into the arms of God, but to everyone’s surprise, He wonderfully escorts her wandering mind and body inch by inch to the table through the hands and feet of Christ. She takes a seat at the queen’s chair, the candles are lit, and everyone gathers around her with love, in love.

17991077_10210741694451603_5114028832893630335_n (5)

She’s so tiny. Always has been. But a recent chest cold pummeled on top of Alzheimer’s leaves her frailer than ever. Her beautiful skin clings to her precious cheekbones. Yet a glow emits from her eyes, as her two remaining daughters sprinkle her face with kisses. She looks, in part, like a ten-year-old with her sweet braids. The room fills with the fragrance of a struck match and a rising melody, happy birthday over her. And the words we know so well since childhood seep from her lips … happy birthday to you. “She’s singing,” I say. “She’s always singing,” says her caregiver, smiling. She is. She sings hymns with her sisters–my mom, my other aunt. One voice begins and hers will blend, like always, because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your treasure. A tiny package containing years of stored-up infinite treasure. Childhood treasure. Leaning-on-the-everlasting-arms kind of treasure.

17991234_10210741696651658_8583094109327804442_n (7)

She’s so determined. She sits there, wobbly. But she will see this through. Her daughter opens the presents before her, for her. Chocolate and more chocolate. Giggles disperse. I think back over my conversation with my cousin, when I’d inquired over what I could possibly get my aunt for her birthday. If time is short and space is limited, what can I give her? “Chocolate,” said her daughter, my cousin. “She can still eat chocolate?” I asked, surprised. After the week she’d had, being so sick … “She sure can.” Would you look at that? My cousin places a slice of cake before her, crackers and Coke. All her favorites. She parts her lips for one tiny bite after bite, one tiny sip after sip, because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your favorites. 

Resized_20170424_193554 (4)

She’s so … Heading home, I ponder my aunt in admiration. I can’t quite put my finger on the situation. My oldest says, “Mom, did you hear what Aunt Novie said when we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ … when we sang ‘and many more’?” My daughter giggles. I glance at her through the rearview mirror. “No. What?” I say. My daughter gasps for air, trying to compose herself. “She asked, ‘There’s going to be more?'” I laugh. That’s exactly right. Because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your humor.

Resized_20170416_185538 (3)

And that’s when I put my finger on it, really put my finger on it–when it seems one doesn’t have a lot to go on, one goes on what they’ve got. Illness can take away much, but some things found in this life can never be removed without authority–love, treasure, a fighting spirit, determination, humor, Coca-Cola, chocolate, and best of all, Jesus. 

FB_IMG_14932595102961 - Copy (7)FB_IMG_14932595055311 - Copy (7)Resized_20161230_164512 (5)


Do you know anyone suffering from a disease like Alzheimer’s? What can you add to the list that can never be taken away? 


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

©Shelli Littleton

Advertisements

When You Are Losing Your Vision

I fuss in the car. “No one can check to see if they have $7 to loan me?” I huff and puff. The girls remain quiet. “I’m going to have to stop for money. Where can I stop? Time is short. I should’ve done this earlier today …” I pull into the gas station, use the ATM machine, and hit the road again.

Arriving at the church, I’m greeted and hugged by my cousin, and I hand over the ticket money.

And I just feel …

I’m trying to make peace.

All 7 of us girls pile into a row of chairs.

Resized_20170309_180217(1)

And the Lord waylays me.

Anthony Evans … front and center. “Come, Lord, like a rushing wind. We are desperate for your presence. Revive us by your Spirit within. We want to see you again … We remember all the great things you have done. We believe that greater things are yet to come. We remember all the great things you have done. We believe that greater things are yet to come.”

My hand lifts into the air. I remember, Lord.

Priscilla Shirer joins in singing with her brother. And then she begins praying over everyone. “Are you going through this …? Raise your hand.”

Fear presses into my wildly pumping heart. I don’t have a choice. I know. My loved ones know. My hand lifts into the air again. Hands reach for me, and prayers cover me. Tears flood my face and drip down to my heart.

“Are you going through this …?” My daughter looks straight at me. Afraid to raise her sweet hand, she sits there, vulnerable, begging and pleading with her eyes …

There is no greater honor than to pray over your child. I reach across my other daughter, take hold of my oldest daughter’s hand, and I present her unspoken requests to God …

Resized_20170309_193213 (3)

Priscilla asks us to get out our Bibles. I flip open the pages. I can’t see. I don’t have my cheaters.

I remember my daily Bible reading from earlier in the week …

“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you doing this?” say, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.”’

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’  They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.  Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

‘Hosanna!’

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’

‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’

‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts.” –Mark 11:1-11

The 3 things that stood out to me were … Go, Find, Untie

Priscilla says, “We all want others to think our lives are perfect. It’s all over Instagram … white couches, white carpet. Who lives like that?” She pauses. “Who fussed at their kids?”

The girls look at me. I look at them. Busted. Busted at the door. We laugh.

“We are dealing with our own leprosy,” she says. “But this is a place to be real. You weren’t cheated; you were chosen.”

My Bible lay open on my lap …. I’m blind to you, Lord. I’d left my broken cheaters at home. A nose-piece is missing, and they sit lopsided on my face. I look at my cousin beside me. Her eyesight is diminishing, as well. And she’d forgotten her Bible in the car. I pull out my phone, opening the large print before me … God’s beautiful Word before me, no matter the form …. I nudge my cousin’s arm.

We will remember.

Oh, Lord, I’m desperate for you.

I’ve come, Lord. I’ve found you. Untie me.

I’m throwing my cloak down for you. You are welcome in this place.

With all my life’s messy, I know I’m not cheated. I’m chosen.

And I want to fuss over you. I want to see you again.

Necessity

Destruction often comes in the middle of the night. While we are absent minded. While we sleep in peace.

Going out that next morning to feed the two sheep, one sheep is without the other. That is unusual. They are always together.

The one is distraught. She stands at the trail-head bleating.

Her heart bleeding.

We know she is signaling trouble. We walk down the trail she has led us to … and we see the other baby lifeless on the ground. Devoured.

My heart and soul fall to the ground in pain. Heart pain. I feel myself collapse into the arms of God, through fear’s temptation of what may lurk.

They had always remained in the barn throughout the night. It was necessity for safety, and it was pure God-Giving instinct. But our neighbors recently acquired a few animalsgoats, donkeyand walking out of safety’s shelter had been tempting. They had no idea the danger that awaited.

We can only assume that a panther, or big cat, took her down [rumors of panther sightings]. There were no prints. The cat may have jumped down from a tree to attack, immediately dragging her into the leaves where we found her. And a few weeks ago, our neighbor’s 50 lb. young goat totally disappeared without a trace. The predator had to be strong to jump their fence with a 50 lb. goat.

Sheep were not made to go it alone. They were made for God-Giving camaraderie. Sandy has been so needy, distraught, distressed, afraid. When I leave her to return to the house, she runs to the fencehopped over it onceruns back and forth looking for someone, anyone, bleats. Her heart is still bleeding. She absolutely can not go it alone. She misses her sister. We miss our Bindi girl, the black sheep of our family.








We seemed to be left with two choices: (1) find her a home with other sheep, or (2) get a new sheep, a new addition to our family. A new sister for her. And that’s what we did.

Meet our newest necessity, Ginny [named after Ginny Weasley].

 

 
We weren’t made to go solo. We weren’t meant to go it alone in this world.

Karalee and Katelyn

Shelli (1 year old) and her sister (3 years old)
 
Freckles and Snowy
 
Hermione and Blue
We were made for God-Giving camaraderie. Sheer necessity. The Lord is our Shepherd, our shelter, our safety. Without Him, we are running to and fro, tossing to and fro, crying, mouths bleating, hearts bleeding … and we are often oblivious. We need Him.


Only devastation awaits outside His safety, His protection. It only takes one foot out to feel the heat of the predator, the breath of death.

Jesus is our shawl of life, wrapping us securely with His love and intention, enabling us to walk out into this life wilderness with an enduring, withstanding heart comfort. No fear. Enabling us to see with eyes wide open amidst the flakes that graze our faces.

The Shepherd searches for us, longs for us, extends Himself to us. Will we enter His gatesHis God Giving, Spirit Giving, Savior Giving, Shelter Giving, Peace Giving, Trust Giving, Faith Giving, Love Giving, Word Giving, Life Giving gatesthis Thanks-Giving?

*****


“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16