A Loving God

Letting Go: A Caregiver’s Journey

Day 196

After Molly went into the memory care unit, I had a real sense that my life was over.  It had certainly lost its purpose.  I didn’t see any way forward.

And I thought the stars had aligned against us in a profound way.  We were good people.  We made some mistakes, but, on the whole, we did most everything right.  We loved each other.  We adopted our three kids and raised them with the love they never had before they came to us.  We worked hard.  We cared about our students, especially, and made every effort to help them.  I was even an honest real estate dealer (I don’t recommend it if you want to make a living.)

So why all the bad stuff: my cancer, Molly’s Alzheimer’s, D.J.’s mental illness?

What seemed clear is that a loving God couldn’t be involved.  So, there were two possibilities: either God was distant and didn’t care, or God just didn’t exist.  I vacillated between the two positions.  But mostly I was plain angry with God.

I talked about this in my Twelve Step meetings, and my sponsor had a suggestion.  He and his wife had taken A Course in Miracles.  He explained that in the Course one learned about a God of Love.  One also learned that our pain and suffering, indeed, the body and the whole physical world were but illusions.  God held us in the love in which he created us, and our eternal selves were destined to be reunited with our Creator in Love and Light.

For whatever reason, the idea of being with people who believed in a God of Love seemed appealing, and I signed up for the Course.

It has led to a major shift in my perspective to where I can at least see the possibility that the following is true:  Molly’s Alzheimer’s affects only her body, which is a material shell for her true spiritual self.  Her true self is all right.  God is taking care of her, and she will be peaceful and joyful with God in eternity.

I certainly want to believe that this is true.  It is a lot better than where I started.  It also lets me off the hook.  If Molly’s disease is meaningless compared to her spiritual life, then what I did or didn’t do for her didn’t matter.  God is in charge, and God is taking good care of her.  I don’t have to worry or feel guilty.

I also have a new network of support in the ACIM group.  It’s an interesting mix.  We talk about philosophy and theology.  We talk about various forms of healing: physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual.  We talk about spiritual experiences; insights; and small, everyday miracles.

It is cathartic.  It is comforting.  It is stimulating.  My original purpose in joining the group turns out to be true: it is good for me to be around people who believe in a God of Love.

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Mad at God

Letting Go: A Caregivers’ Journey with Alzheimer’s

Day 127

Alzheimer’s, like alcoholism, is a disease that affects both the patient and the caregiver in every way:  physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.

When it comes to the latter, my reaction to the disease has been pretty straightforward.  I was mad at God, the Creator, Master of the Universe.  I thought it was terribly unjust that a beautiful, loving, intelligent woman should be so afflicted.  That a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford with a Ph.D. from Princeton should no longer be able to write her own name.  What is the lesson to be learned from such suffering?  What a waste.

But this raises a problem.  If I’m mad at God, then God knows I’m mad at Him, and I’m going to get punished for the sin of anger.  That engenders fear and anxiety, which can block out all other feelings—even positive ones.  So, it’s an uncomfortable place to be.

And that’s exactly where I found myself in the weeks after I took Molly to the memory care facility.  Whenever anyone mentioned Molly’s spirit or God’s plan, I couldn’t take comfort in it.  I was just pissed off.

Four months later, I’ve come to some acceptance of Molly’s condition.  Part of the development of my thinking and feeling comes from many years’ experience with twelve-step programs.  Steps two and three, in particular, are God steps.  Three reads “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”

I can say that I’m willing to believe now that God is not out to get me or punish me through Molly.  But I have trouble with “turning our lives over to the care of God.”

Does God, the Creator of the Universe, really care about Molly and me?  Most of the time, it doesn’t seem at all likely.

The twelve steps are intentionally written in the past tense.  They articulate the actual experiences of real people who have gone through the process they describe. So, some people who have been where I am have come to believe in a caring God.  That means I can too.  It may take time, maybe a lot of time.  But there is Hope.