Comments are wonderful — and a response to Sally

The thing that surprised me the most about blogging is the comments. When I blog, I search my mind, my heart or my soul, (or sometimes I just search my photo files) for something to write about. I type it in and hit publish. And then somewhere on this continent, or across an ocean, you read it. And sometimes you respond.

This is wonderful for many reasons. The first one is— just the verbal acknowledgement of a simple comment like, “Good post,” lets me know I’ve been heard. That’s why writers write, to be heard. Acknowledgement. It’s wonderful.

Sometimes you or someone else will go one step further and say, “This happens to me too. I know how you feel.” That lets me know I am not alone. Someone understands. Affirmation. Wonderful and soothing.

I’ve had people give me helpful suggestions, “You might try this,” or “This is how I handle that.” Now the reader cares about what I’m saying and is touching my life. He or she has given me something that I take inside, a new way to think about something, or do something. My life has been changed. Life-expanding. And wonderful.

Many times a reader’s comments will challenge me, sometimes in subtle and diplomatic ways, but occasionally in a very upfront way. The reader has not only heard me, understood me, and cared, the reader is trying to move me.

This happened very recently on my A Matter of Faith post from June 29th. Sally is a blogger I found and continue to follow because of her posts about her mother with Alzheimer’s. She writes a blog called Hot Dogs and Marmalade — Recipes for Life/ Caring for Family aged 7 – 82. Here is an early post she wrote about her mother that you might like — The Twilight Zone.

Sally has a good sense of humor and strong faith in God. She left the following comment on my Matter of Faith post:

Hi Christine — I’ve been thinking about this post of yours for days now.

The thing that jumped out at me was the fact that you viewed your sister Annie as a gift, but not your father’s Alzheimer’s. I think we learn more about God and our faith in God through suffering than any other way. It’s when we pour ourselves out for another that we can see God.

That’s the whole basis of Christianity, a God who left the comforts of heaven to get blisters on his feet as he walked from town to town healing people and giving them hope, and then finally getting nails in his hands as suffered tremendously at the end. It wasn’t fair. But it was love.

My mother’s Alzheimer’s is a gift. It is in caring for her that I better understand the sacredness of life. I think you would say the same about Annie.

Even though I have waited days to respond, I still have a hard time putting words to my faith. It’s my core. It’s my rock. It’s my hope.

Love to you — Sally

Sally saw through all the noise and zoomed in on the basic contradiction I’ve been living with. Annie, with her severe brain damage and complete disability was a gift. My dad with Alzheimer’s and an increasing amount of disability is not. Sally’s right. There is a disconnect here.

I want to say, “Well, the two cases are very different. Annie was always that way. We didn’t lose her to her disability. She was born with it. Annie was always happy and smiling. She was a joy to be around. She wasn’t taken away from us. She was given to us.

“Dad, on the other hand, used to be a strong, intelligent, loving, giving man. Now he barely speaks. We have to watch him lose his abilities one by one. He’s started falling out of bed. He fell out of his chair. He never smiles and he cries often. He is sad to be around. He is being taken away from us one slow step at a time.”

But Sally is very right when she says about her mother, “It is in caring for her that I better understand the sacredness of life. I think you would say the same about Annie.”

True. So very true. It is what made Annie a gift to me. I saw and knew things about life because of her, and because of watching my parents care for her, that I likely never would have known otherwise. I’ve always said, of all the people who have ever touched or influenced my life, Annie is the one who had the greatest influence on my character. It’s true.

But here’s the thing. I’m not sure my parents saw Annie as a gift when she was first diagnosed. I’m sure they didn’t see her disability as a gift at that time. Annie lived for 51 years. Everyone had time to accept and process what was going on. She became recognized as a gift with time.

We’re still neck-deep with pain and grief over Dad. It’s only been a few years since he was diagnosed, and we continue to have to watch him slip away. The grief overwhelms any sense of gift.

Maybe later I will be able to see it that way. I’m just not there right now.

But I want to give a heart-felt thank you to Sally for challenging me, because in my mind I know she is right. It’s my heart that has the problem.

Dad and Annie — 1969

25 thoughts on “Comments are wonderful — and a response to Sally”

  1. Sally is right. And yes it takes time to ‘get there’.

    In Buddhism, we are taught that everyone is a teacher to us. Or can be if we allow it. This is not always and easy ‘pill’ to take. (i know)

    Another time I will tell you of my Aunt who was very much like your sister Annie. 🙂

    Be well and happy, Debra

  2. Sally is indeed a wonderful person, a committed Christian, wise, and right according to her lights.
    Not necessarily right for you.
    However you survive is how you survive.

    Alzheimer’s IS different, you are not wrong about that. It is indeed an agonizing taking away. So live your life, one day at a time, as your own answers evolve.

    1. I think the difference is faith. People of great faith might see it through Sally’s eyes. And aspiring to do so, I think, could only help.

  3. Sacredness of life, or not . . . I would rather die than deteriorate.
    And I feel the same about my parents.

    I would rather say good-bye to them, then watch them deteriorate before my eyes.

    So, no, I do NOT see Alzheimer’s as a “gift.”
    It is a burden that we deal with as best we can.

    1. In other words, I agree completely with the distinction you’ve made and do not see it as a disconnect at all:

      I want to say, “Well, the two cases are very different. Annie was always that way. We didn’t lose her to her disability. She was born with it. Annie was always happy and smiling. She was a joy to be around. She wasn’t taken away from us. She was given to us.

      “Dad, on the other hand, used to be a strong, intelligent, loving, giving man. Now he barely speaks. We have to watch him lose his abilities one by one. He’s started falling out of bed. He fell out of his chair. He never smiles and he cries often. He is sad to be around. He is being taken away from us one slow step at a time.”

      Annie was happy . . . your dad is not.
      Annie loved life and enjoyed being alive . . . your dad is sad because he sees his life drifting away.

      That’s the difference between the gift of life . . . and the burden of Alzheimer’s.

    2. I feel the same way, Nancy. I told my husband, “I’m going to eat exactly what I want and hope I die early of a heart attack.” A much better way to leave this world, in my book.

      I don’t want to discount Sally’s perspective, though. I think it is a powerful way to look at and get through life.

      Right now, we’re just trying to make it through the day.

    3. Of course, it is worth coming to a place of “acceptance” and “inner peace” over the things outside our control.

      In that sense, Alzheimer’s and other diseases can be a “gift” . . . we grow in spirit when we stop “shaking our fist at the sky” and, instead, learn to dance in the rain.

      Peace to you, Christine.

  4. When you respond, you respond with gusto!!! 🙂

    I may need to take some days to respond again, but off the top of my head, I can think of at least four reasons why I consider my mother’s Alzheimer’s is a gift.

    1. Alzheimer’s is a long goodbye, but it is a good bye. Not everyone has that opportunity.

    2. Alzheimer’s has given me the opportunity to give back to my mother. She was a stay-at-home mother who gave up her career to raise my brothers, sister and me. Not everyone has that opportunity.

    3. Alzheimer’s has given me the opportunity to forgive my mother. In her helplessness, I can love her more fully and forgive many of the things I was holding against her. Not everyone has that opportunity.

    4 Alzheimer’s has given me the opportunity to model behavior that I want my children to see. Sometimes, when it’s especially hard with my mother, I remind myself of that, and that in many ways I am doing this for them. Everyone could take that opportunity because the needy are all around us. I just had the opportunity thrown in my lap.

    Thanks for opening up this discussion. I realize that everyone’s situation is different. I wonder if I would feel differently if it were my father afflicted with Alzheimer’s. I kind of doubt it because, other than #3, all the others still apply.

    Faith is so complicated.

    1. I know. Some might say I have a tendency to be over the top. I’m happy about the discussion, though.

      Your list is quite good. You left out the part where it is simply good for our own well-being when we think about and take care of others. It is a good way to rise above our own problems.

      After I read your comment, my dad’s words kept coming back to me about when they first found out about Annie. He told me at the time he thought, She’s the way God gave her to us.

      When Annie died, my dad was already having some trouble getting his thoughts out, but he wrote this down:

      God gave her to us for what time she had
      and with His help we did the best we could.
      Now He’d like to have her back.
      She touched many lives while she was here.

      We had that printed on the back of the prayer cards.

      I guess if we have enough faith, we could look at everything that way. Even my dad’s Alzheimer’s.

  5. Good luck with everything and I’m sure you know that your father on Earth always loves and loved you while your Father in Heaven is waiting for you and your dad with His ultimate “gifts”. I guess you already can see that your sister’s short journey was meant to strengthen you for the long and winding journey….I applaud your courage in bearing your cross.

  6. A really thoughtful, loving post (as always), Christine — I am so happy that you and I exchange comments on one anothers’ blogs! It’s been wonderful to get to know you in this very unexpected and surprising way! Take care friend!

  7. If this were the first dark valley I’d walked through, I wouldn’t already know that God is good. But I do know. And I’m glad I know. There is little in life that anchors us to hope. I’ll keep believing in a good God until my last trek through my last valley. Sally put it well, all that she said.

    I understand how you would be reluctant to call your dad’s Alzheimer’s a gift. I don’t think my hubby feels gifted with this. Yet, he’d never turn from God. He looks at Alzheimer’s as his body wearing out. He’s ready and willing to move out of it when the time comes. He waits patiently. He tells me every now and then that he thinks he’ll be checking out soon. I’m not ready for him to check out. If he does, I’ll be expecting my good God to provide for me. And, I’d expect to see my hubby again someday, not that this expectation makes up for the loss. Loss is loss. And Alzheimer’s is Alzheimer’s. Yet, still, I know that God is good. I wish I could prove it, but you’ll have to find it out for yourself. I won’t be surprised if you eventually do find it out. Blessings to you, Christine…

    1. Thanks, Carol Ann. I guess I must have led everyone to believe I am out of faith. I’m not. I believe in a creator, or God, who is good. I need only to look at the beauty of creation to know this.

      I am more of a fine-weather friend, I guess. Although I am selfish and desperate enough in my times of great need to pray for intervention.

      Life is a real journey, isn’t it? In so many ways.

  8. Beautiful post and a beautiful outlook, Christine. I found it especially touching that you chose to open your mind to Sally’s viewpoint; perhaps one day your heart will follow suit. Just give yourself time and room to make mistakes along the journey. We’ll all get there in the end.

  9. I’ve had the same experience you mentioned since I started a blog earlier this year, Christine. What a wonderful network of people. It’s like a neighborhood where one gets to pick their neighbors.
    I identified with Sally’s mention of having time to say goodbye. I had that with my dad, but not with my mom. The grief was much easier to bear when I experienced it at a slower pace, rather than having the loss thrust upon me suddenly. God’s grace is sufficient, either way.

    1. Thanks for your perspective on this, Sally. I also think it’s good when we have time to say goodbye to our loved ones. Unfortunately, with Alzheimer’s we can be saying goodbye for ten years. That’s a long time to carry this kind of grief.

  10. Its always hard to see the blessings of any illness.. I remember some one saying once why do people need to fall ill.. and someone saying because there needed to be carers as compassion was needed as an experience.. Not always the best answer when its your loved ones who are suffering.. But if you look at Life and our experiences, if we didnt experience the dark days when would we know the Light ones..

    1. You’re right about the light and dark. If we were better creatures we might not have the need for the dark to appreciate the light. But we take things for granted fairly quickly.


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