By Jenny Shinsky
“Don’t step on a crack,” she said.
“Why not,” I asked.
“Because you will break your mother’s back,” she said.
I turned to her. “But you’re my mom,” I said and she laughed.
My mom and I go through this bit quite often. She always laughs when I feign surprise and exclaim that she is my mom. I love to see her laugh and smile. It makes me happy – but yet sad. You see my mom suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
She tells people I am her daughter but I’m not sure she knows what that means. Does she know that she gave birth to me? Does she know how she shaped and molded me to become the woman I am today or is the word “daughter” just a label she associates me with?
When she was first diagnosed, it seemed unreal. Sure she was forgetting things more than normal but she still knew the names and birthdays of her children. She could still have a conversation with relatives about the good old days and she still knew when my dad would sneak outside to smoke a cigarette. In fact, until that day at the doctor’s office, she was still driving.
It wasn’t until a few months later that I fully understood the reality of her disease. It was the Fourth of July and I was talking to friends at a picnic. My mom walked over and introduced herself to them. At first I thought she was joking but it soon became apparent she really did not know who they were.
These were my dearest and closest friends that I have known since childhood. They spent many days and nights at my house and participated in family activities and outings. She thought of them as her own.
The doctor told me that she would have good days and bad days. He did not tell me that I, too, would have good days and bad days. I grieved when she no longer knew my friends and again when she could no longer use the stove. I grieve each time her illness reaches a new stage and I see her decline.
With the grace of God, I have learned to accept my mother’s illness and embrace both the good and bad days.
Psalm 23:4 (NIV) says
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
My mom and I are walking through a dark valley at this time in our lives but we are not alone. She does not remember as much as she once did, but she has never forgotten her love for the Lord. She knows she is a daughter of the King who is also her great comforter.
Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
As God holds us up in his righteous right hand, he teaches me to live in the moment and cherish the small things like my mother’s laugh or the silly joke she always shares about breaking your mothers back.
On some days, mom cannot string together a full sentence, but she always has a smile on her face. That smile comes from her love of God who shines through her and reflects on everyone she meets.
Jenny Shinsky is a writer and bible study leader who is called to serve in women’s ministry through teaching and writing. She calls your attention to our awesome God while living with every day struggles.
You can read more about Jenny at http://jennyshinsky.com