Letting Go: A Caregivers’ Journey with Alzheimer’s
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.
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i have come to believe, against all evidence, that god does really care. i explore the book of ecclesiastes, the lament psalms. i believe that my sometimes ache of empathy, my tears of empathy, is the pity of god, through me. have courage, willem, stand fast, keep writing, and being. i bow before you and your dear wife. fondest regards, dennis and i think that god is great enough to handle our being pissed off! keep on keepin’ on.