About ten this morning I was standing at the sink washing dishes when I heard the back door knob turn. I looked, expecting to see a grandchild, but instead an unfamiliar woman was opening the door and entering the house. At first I thought she had come to the wrong house and she would turn around when she saw that she didn't know me. Then I saw the expression of fear on her face and she began to mumble something about a man in her house who was trying to hurt her--she had escaped. I have seen that confused, fearful look in another's face and I recognized the signs of dementia. She begged me to close and lock my back door and to get somewhere the man couldn't see us or he would hurt me too.
I began to try to calm her fears and reassure her, knowing I was being logical and in her mind logic doesn't make sense anymore. Fortunately, she had a purse with her and I asked if she had a wallet that might tell me how I could call someone and let them know she was safe and with me. She gave me her checkbook that had both her name and address and the name of her daughter. I had determined that she was connected to the house just up the street on the corner, but that apparently was a part of her confusion. She wasn't sure where she lives now and there was a merging of the man she feared and her husband. I found her daughter in the phone book, called and identified myself,and gave a brief, but guarded, description of what was happening. I didn't want to say anything that would cause the woman not to trust me. The daughter arrived in about fifteen minutes to get her mother and demonstrated much love, kindness and patience as she helped her down the front steps and into her car. Apparently, the lady's husband had gone to the store, leaving his wife by herself and hallucinations became reality, forcing her to flee.
When I realized I was dealing with dementia, it took me back. Our mom was diagnosed with dementia in the early nineties and lived with it until Christmas of 1996. We witnessed confusion and frustration, experienced hallucinations and struggled with trying to know the best way to help both her and Dad. I never saw the extreme fear in Mom that the lady this morning had, but she seemed to confuse her knowledge of the Tom she loved so dearly and the Tom who was her care partner. All of those memories kicked in and were helpful--though the remembering was painful.
Mom was the smartest, most in control, kindest person and it was tough to watch her slip away. She was one of my staunchest supporters when I entered seminary and would have Dad get me on the phone in the afternoons so she could talk to me about the Greek and Hebrew I was taking. She had had a long career teaching Latin and Humanities and perked up when we'd discuss the languages. In the end, dementia destoyed her mind and her earthly body. The memories of Mom and of a special uncle who also died with dementia were overwhelming, but so useful when confronted with others who have similar illnesses and those who give them care.
The morning experience is a living illustration of how God provides for our needs. Tomorrow I'm beginning a series on leadership and the first topic is "Equipping the Chosen." After looking at how God equipped Jeremiah, Amos and the little boy with the lunch that fed 5000+ for their tasks, I plan to talk about how, as God's children, we are never called without being totally equipped. I believe that one of the ways we are made ready for what is immediately before us is to commit every minute of every day to God when the day begins. We never know who will be in the grocery checkout line with us or who will appear at our back door. We do know, however, that when we trust God, He will equip us.