By Molly Law, Crosswalk.com
When my mother was first diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s, she humorously sang a parody to “Who Are You?” by The Who, also consequently the theme song to her favorite show, CSI, but sang, “Who Am I?” instead. She always says, “You’ve got to have fun with it, right?” I always, in turn, gave her a begrudging smile because there was nothing funny about this diagnosis.
On the other hand, I always love to see her laugh and have fun, because those moments that were once at the very core of her being, are becoming a rare commodity as an entity named Alzheimer’s takes hold of her.
Alzheimer’s is something that takes over and changes the very core of an individual. There is nothing biblical to define what happens when Alzheimer’s progresses — it just changes someone’s entire makeup of who they are from past to future. In one agonizingly long process, it takes hold and doesn’t seem to let go.
You slowly forget, along with its patient, the person they used to be because day-by-day you are coaxed into a false reality — that the person right in front of you is still the same person before Alzheimer’s took residence, until one day they ask you who you are. Suddenly, you are thrown out of a place of lulled complacency, and in your shock, you say, “Mom, I’m your daughter, remember?”
In the beginning, my mother had resilience in the face of her diagnosis that was commendable. She was always in high spirits about life that I found hard to grasp for myself. She never let Alzheimer’s define her or dictate her quality of life.
In the midst of moving her out of the only house my sisters and I had ever known, she told me that this process made her Alzheimer’s diagnosis feel very real. She said, “I hardly ever feel like there’s something wrong with me or that I have Alzheimer’s but having to move in with my mother constantly reminds me of it.” Her voice broke in the middle of it, and that is when I realized she, like all of us, was facing the cruel reality of what this truly meant going forward.
1. A Prayer When They Are First Diagnosed
Dear Lord, my world feels like it has been turned upside down. A terribly hopeless feeling has consumed me. The person I once knew, the person I know, will not be who I have known and loved. Everything will be taken away from them. Everything that has made them who they are will be gone.
Lord, I know my thoughts are jumping to worst-case scenarios, but that is where I am, and I pray you’ll bring me comfort and understanding as to what this new reality will be like. Help me to take it one day at a time. Be with my parent who is mourning their own mortality and memory. Be with my siblings, who like me, are unraveling in the face of an unknown future. The first day is the hardest, be with us as we navigate the days after what feels like the worst day of our lives.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
2. A Prayer When Short-Term Memory Begins to Fade
Dearest Lord, thank you for being with us these many months as we navigated a new life for my mother — for my father. Thank you for being with us through the many doctor’s appointments, new medication, new living arrangements. They were hard, but we had a goal to achieve, something to keep us busy.
Today, they forgot, not five minutes after, something I confided in them — something I have been going through, and I only trusted them with this information. Growing up, they were my best friend and confidant. They would remember what pained me and what I was passionate about, but now they are starting to forget, and I feel not only that I am losing them, but a part of me as well.
God, I pray that even in the midst of this small loss, I am also gaining valuable time. Time with them seems to have grown more important and I am more grateful for a time where they still remember the past, they still remember who they are, me, and what is truly important. I pray that I will focus on the present-good and not the future-bad.
3. A Prayer When Long-Term Memory Begins to Fade
Dear Lord, I was beginning to handle the fact that my parent couldn’t remember where they left their phone, seconds after it was in their hand. I could handle when I needed to dispense their medicines because they got the day of the week mixed up, but when they forgot how old I was when I first learned to ride a bike, a memory so dear to both of us, I regressed.
I didn’t let them in on my internal pain or worry, but instead, gently reminded them with so much grace and understanding that they started to remember again. I got a taste of what is to come, and it frightened me, God. Please be with them if they begin to be frightened or unsure. Give me the strength to comfort and console when that happens. I pray they can hold onto who they are a bit longer.
4. A Prayer When They Begin to Fade
Dearest Lord, thank you for keeping them intact this long. Thank you that the dreaded day — when they don’t know who I am, when they forget my name — is not here yet. I pray that day never comes, that a cure, healing, anything is coming. For you are a God of miracles, who can do anything according to your will.
If that day comes, if that is in your will for my parent, I pray that I am prepared, that I am not alone, that they do not feel alone or scared. I pray you’ll give us both strength and comfort at that moment. I pray just as fast as they slipped away that they will come back and know their identity and their family who loves them dearly.
I know we are not there quite yet, and I pray we may never be there, but until we are, I pray we do not take this time for granted — that we soak up every memory, every time they laugh, every time they say my name. Even though they have told the same story a thousand times, I pray not to be annoyed, but to cherish that story, knowing there might be a day when I will no longer hear it.
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock (Psalm 27:4-5).
5. A Prayer for Healing
Dear God, I know anything is possible for you. I know you have the power to heal. I believe in miracles. I also know your ways are higher than mine. I know my parent loves you and will one day be with you in heaven. If nothing else, that gives me all the peace and solace in the world. Whatever happens, whether you choose to heal them, if there is a cure in their lifetime, I know it is your will that has been done and your love is in and through us.
Thank you, Lord, for my parent — my mother, my father — thank you for their life with my family and me. Thank you for this time I have with them. Thank you for being with us through this very difficult time.
There are no words to describe this grief. Grieving in intervals of layers lost until they are ultimately gone, but I’m thankful that at the time, they’ll be with you in paradise.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
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Molly Law is the Editor of Christianity.com. She has a Master of Arts in Publishing Studies from the University of Stirling UK, where she studied and lived for a year in Scotland. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Professional Writing and a minor in Biblical Studies from Gardner-Webb University. Her editorial career includes Senior Editor of a bimonthly magazine for the American Correctional Association, Editorial Assistant at Luath Press in Edinburgh, and Freelance Journalist for the News Virginian. She enjoys reading 18th-century British Literature, creative writing, and traveling.