Drifting: A Look at Parenting and Alzheimer’s Disease

A teenage girl with grandmother at home, hugging.

Linda Lawrence

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles written by Ms. Linda Lawrence that addresses the challenges and blessings in caring for an aging parent.

Mom’s pinched face and fidgeting fingers catch my attention as I pass her sitting on a dining room chair, her back upright, gazing at nothing. I backtrack, kneel down beside her, and look up into her face. “Mom, what’s the matter? I can see something is worrying you.”

It’s been three years since Mom’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Her faith in God’s love and His care for her had given her a deep measure of peace and acceptance up to this point. Although never a self-confident woman, she bravely tries to present a good face.

However, pain-filled eyes now turn towards me. She moves her lips and then closes them – eyes avoiding mine momentarily – then looks sadly at me again.

“Please talk to me, Mom. I know something is troubling you.”

Finally her words surface. “I’m drifting…” Her hands flutter over her heart. Mom goes on in a murmured, almost tear-filled tone, “I feel like a ship without a sail.”

Amazed at this unexpected ability to articulate her feelings, I say, “Oh, Mom, I’m so sorry. That’s what Alzheimer’s does. I wish I could help you.”

My heartache must show in my eyes because Mom says, “I don’t want to be a burden to you, dear. I know I have to do this alone.” She bravely tries to smile. Her lower lip quivers.

“I know, Mom, but there are other boats within calling distance. I don’t have a sail in my boat to give you, but I can still come alongside you. We can talk at least, and keep up each other’s spirits. I want to know what you’re feeling. One day I may be adrift too.”

“The ocean is so deep and so wide,” she cries faintly.

“Yes, Mom, just like God’s love. Remember the hymn, O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus – ‘vast, unmeasured, boundless, free. Like a mighty ocean in its fullness over me.’” I sing the words to this powerful melody that rolls like ocean waves.

“Mom, can you rest remembering His love is ‘underneath you and all around you’… that you’re being carried in ‘the current of God’s love’?”

“Oh, honey, teach that song to me.”

And I do. I’m in awe of the power of the current of God’s love for both of us.

Later, she asks me again to teach her the song. I give her the hymnal, but her mind drifts and cannot track the end of one line to the beginning of another. I type out the words in large print, hoping they will comfort her.

Yes, she is drifting, but it’s an upward drift. Her attention and interest in this world continue to fade. The TV has little drawing power. A book remains unopened on her lap. But her eyes close, and her lips silently move as she prepares her heart to begin the long, slow drift towards the next life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda Lawrence is retired and resides with her husband, Carl, in Corvallis, Oregon.

Drifting (Part 1 of Series by Linda Lawrence)
Hug Your Mother (Part 2 of Series by Linda Lawrence)
How Can I Be A Caregiver? (Part 3 of Series by Linda Lawrence)
Alzheimer’s Became a Blessing? (Part 4 of Series by Linda Lawrence)
Treasured (Part 5 of Series by Linda Lawrence)
The Shepherd Restores a Soul (Part 6 of Series by Linda Lawrence)


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