August 14, 2022
It was one year ago that Art and I moved my dad from assisted living into memory care. We honestly thought he was dying. He had been in a steady decline all year, but that summer he took a dive. It was excruciating to see him go through such dramatic change in a matter of months. Somehow he beat the odds, but this summer his decline accelerated. He is skin and bones now, without muscle or balance, and he keeps falling. This has caused many bumps and bruises, but he hasn’t given up. His face still lights up when he sees me, and he asks what I’ve been up to and "how is the family?"
Although I have learned a lot about Alzheimer’s in the past 8 years, I still have so many questions. How much awareness does he have about his condition? What does it feel like? I keep my communication clear and simple: “I love you, Dad. I’m here.” He smiles. “I love you, too.” We can't carry on a conversation any more, but we can express our love.
Love is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, our source and our substance. If we lose everything else, we still have Love, since nothing can separate us from the Love of God. Not even forgetting. It is the one thing that is unchanging and everlasting. My Dad taught me that, and he lived it. Now that Love is going to carry him Home.
This journey has proven to be utterly unpredictable and full of surprises. I didn’t expect the last phase to be so long and painful, but this is where we are, and the exit signs are getting brighter. We are in the final stretch now, and it’s time for me to hone in. I went through this passage with my mom, and it was bittersweet. The mystery of life and death holds us and hovers as we try to make sense of it all. For me, it always comes back to Love which is all I know to be true. And that is enough.
I have a precious memory of my dad and me sitting on the front lawn at dusk under the giant, leafy umbrella of the maple trees. He sang this evening hymn to me:
Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh; shadows of the evening steal across the sky. Through the long night-watches, may thine angels spread their wide wings above me, circling round my bed.
As night begins to fall on a bright and beautiful life, the stars come out. The evening chorus of crickets and the cicadas fills the air. My heart swells and my body trembles. He may hang on longer than we expect, but I am drawing near, holding space, and being present. There is holiness and wholeness in this sacred moment and the approaching transition. The everlasting arms hold us and set us free.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it. -John 1:5
Grace & Peace,
Elisa J. Juarez