“Your father has Alzheimers” – that was the diagnosis given to us several years ago. The weight of that statement struck our hearts with dread and a heaviness of grief as we processed that this man we loved would lose his connection with us and with the world around him.
As we left that appointment, I had a couple of minutes alone with my father and asked him if he understood what the doctor had said? He replied, “Most of it.” I then asked him how he felt about the diagnosis. I will never forget his reply to me. “I will accept whatever God has for me.”
My beloved father, now nearing his 91st birthday. A faithful cross-cultural servant. A talented surgeon. One who helped to usher new life into the world. Who worked with leprosy patients touching them when others considered them untouchable. The well-loved community doctor – the one who performed life saving surgeries and prayed with his patients. As a young family serving cross-culturally ourselves back in Taiwan, we were introduced not by our own names, but as Dr. West’s daughter and son-in-law.
Now this man who was in charge of operating rooms and saving lives is relegated to this disease where all connections with the present and the past are quickly fading. It appears that he no longer remembers that he spent his life working and serving in Asia.
We recently moved Dad into a Memory Care unit because he no longer can remember where his room is or whether he ate breakfast. He cannot remember who came to visit or the fact that his wife recently went home to heaven. Most days he knows me, and I am thankful for that moment.
A description of John Newton in his later years resonates with me in describing my Dad’s current condition. “Newton’s mind could be compared to a malfunctioning but still operating lighthouse that punctuated long periods of darkness with irregular but illuminating flashes of light.” (John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Jonathan Aitken)
In the fog of this disease, my dad’s life long daily habits of reading the Word, Scripture memory and prayer remain a part of his life. Although it appears that the connections are dim, Dad continues to be connected to his heavenly Father.
Recently, I found myself again facing the difficult task of telling my dad goodbye as it was time for us to return overseas. I was struggling with leaving him in such a vulnerable state.
He was resting on his bed when I went to say goodbye to him. I told him that I would be heading back to East Asia the next day. He opened his eyes with a look of surprise and then proceeded to ask me in Mandarin, “Wei shemma – Why?” I had not heard him speak in Chinese for several years and fumbled to reply back to him in Chinese, “Yin wei Shen….Because the Lord….” I paused, thinking for a moment about what to say next. Dad then continued in Mandarin, “Because the Lord has prepared the way for you.”
That unexpected moment of clarity truly was an “illuminating flash of light”! Not only was it a connection with my dad, but also with my Heavenly Father. I was overwhelmed by the gentle, kind confirmation from the Lord that HE had indeed prepared the way for me to return to East Asia with the blessing of my Dad and that HE had also prepared and provided the way for my Dad in the Memory Care Unit.
God promises to never leave or forsake his children. He remains connected to us even when it seems we are in a fog. His love is steadfast and the plans of His heart are for our good and for His glory.
He showed His faithfulness in the past by providing enough manna to sustain the children of Israel – one day at a time. Our same God does that for us as well, one day at a time, as we connect with Him and gather our daily sustenance from Him.
What are some of your favorite ways to gather your daily sustenance from Him?
How have you see God provide enough manna for one day for you?