“Never let the sun go down on your anger.” The words from Ephesians ruminated in my head, coupled with a nagging sense of dread as I maneuvered my car out of Mom’s driveway to return to my home that fall day.
"Miracles have happened when God's people come together in
~ Billy Graham ~
Guilt mingled with my tears at the thoughts of leaving with both of us upset. “Lord, I know I left things unsettled between us, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. She’s fighting me at every turn, no matter how hard I try to help.”
I tried to pray, pushing the niggling anxiety over the long trip out of my mind. “Watch over me as I travel home. Protect me and give me a safe trip. I don’t know how Mom would manage in her state of mind if something happened to me.”
As I settled in for the six hour drive, I used the time to rehash the events of the last two weeks…
When the call came that Dad was in the hospital, I knew Mom needed me. Her memory showed evidence of slipping, even though she was only in her late 60’s. I feared she had Alzheimer’s disease and knew she should not be left alone. I took two weeks off from my job as a news writer and traveled from upstate New York to southeastern Pennsylvania. The trip was uneventful in spite of my anxiety about traveling alone.
Though Mom seemed to be managing fine when I arrived, I noticed the telltale signs like her restlessness. She wandered to the kitchen and rummaged in her purse. Then she wandered back into the living room for more conversation.
“Where’s Dad?” she asked, like a tape that kept on rewinding.
“In the hospital.” I tried to be patient each time she brought it up.
“We better get ready to go see him.”
“We can’t go until this evening.”
“Why?” I could hear the agitation in her voice every time the conversation progressed to this point.
“Because the hospital will only let us visit every other day after supper.” It was pointless to explain the rules of the mental health ward over and over. She couldn’t seem to grasp why he was hospitalized.
“You just don’t want to go. I’ll have to go by myself.” She’d huff and wander to the kitchen again, probably looking for her keys which I removed from her purse.
That evening my brother picked us up for the 20 mile trip to the hospital. While Mom visited with Dad, we both agreed it was time to seek medical treatment for her. Since my brother worked during the day, it fell to me to make arrangements for appointments with the local neurologist. The problem wasn’t scheduling the appointment – the doctor was very accommodating. My mom was the problem.
“Why are we going to the doctor?” I heard the agitated tone in her voice and saw the stubborn set of her jaw.
“He wants to see how you’re doing. You have a little trouble remembering sometimes.”
“I don’t need to go. There’s nothing wrong with my memory!” With the Lord’s help, I finally got her there, though she became increasingly angry with me.
The doctor’s questions didn’t help either, as he tried to assess the degree of memory loss. She soon became agitated with him as well. After the exam, he indicated she had evidence of the dreaded dignity-robbing disease and prescribed one of the newer medications on the market to help retard the symptoms. He also set up a brain scan appointment for the following week.
For the rest of the day, she seemed upset with me. “I just don’t understand why you had to take me there.” I didn’t mention the brain scan appointment – I’d cross that bridge when the time came.
During the next visit to the hospital, my brother and I tried to tell Dad about Mom’s condition, but he accused us of interfering. He consistently denied anything more than a little forgetfulness - and everyone has that.
After a few days, Mom did settle down and we had a surprisingly good visit. We looked at old photo albums and talked about family vacations and memories. We visited the craft stores and ate at some of the local restaurants for lunch. I treasured that time with her, knowing it might be the last really good visit we had.
Her brain scan was scheduled the day before I planned to return home. She balked at bathing and dressing for the doctor’s appointment. She fought with me all the way there and even threatened to walk out of the waiting room. Though she submitted to the scan, she alternately cried and shouted at me all the way home.
I couldn’t hold it together anymore. Her attitude and sharp words hurt. I was angry at her diagnosis and upset with her.
“I have to leave, Mom.” I rushed upstairs to pack my bag, Even though I planned to leave the next day, I had to get away before I lost my temper with her completely. My nerves were raw and I hated myself for forcing her to go to the brain scan appointment. I bit back the harsh words churning in my mind.
As I stood at the door with my overnight case in hand, she became penitent and child-like, hugging me with tears in her eyes. “Don’t go. I’m sorry.”
“Bobby will be here to check on you after work and take you to the hospital to see Dad. I have to go back to my job.” It was a lie; I still had the rest of the day and evening to spend with her. I was out of there by lunchtime, on the road heading north.
I wept and prayed, trying to quell the anger and hurt I felt. As I neared home, I felt better. The trip had gone well and nothing had happened. Mom would be all right and I dealt with my feelings enough to go on with life. The sign announcing the Watertown exit appeared ahead.
I was in the far left lane, traveling the speed limit, but sped up to pass the blue van on my right and maneuver into the center lane to prepare for the exit. The van’s driver slowed slightly as a white coupe from the far right crossed into the center lane, cutting very close to the van’s front bumper. I didn’t see the white car and apparently he didn’t see me as he continued over into my lane, now mere inches from the right side of my car.
It all happened so quickly. Unable to react, all I could do was pray, “Jesus help me.” I knew I was going to be pushed into the grassy median strip where the car would roll over and hit a concrete abutment.
“Hold on and drive.” A firm voice commanded as another set of hands gripped mine on the steering wheel. I steered onto the left-hand berm of the road and hoped the other driver would return to the center lane, but he didn’t.
“Take your foot off the gas.” Again the strength of someone else caused me to act. Was it an angel or the Lord Himself? I didn’t know, but I knew I had been miraculously spared. I began to slow down as the other car moved ahead and kept on going, oblivious to the situation he almost caused.
All around me the other traffic slowed down, allowing me to ease over to the right lane and get off at my exit. Though badly shaken, I managed to drive the rest of the 30 miles home, crying and praising God for deliverance.
No, God didn’t perform a miracle and heal her from the disease which robber her of her memories and dignity, but He had miraculously delivered me.
I am so thankful for all the prayers of God's people surrounding me that day. He gave me a second chance to love and help my Mom on her journey through the darkness and confusion of Alzheimer’s.
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