"Lamentation" - the Tragedy of Alzheimer's
- Published on Thursday, 20 May 2010 15:56
- Written by Stanton O. Berg
(Georgia Brady – Waco, Texas - 28 October 2007)
(Stan's Editorial Notes: “Lamentation” is beautiful story of a Wife's loving care of her husband in a setting of Alzheimer's. The complete story is told in only 860 words. "Lamentation" is also a poignant love story of a wife and husband's fight for his survival and the sorrows of loss as the husband slowly disappears into the shadows of Alzheimer's. The initial hope followed by hopelessness. This story is incredibly well crafted to tell the story of one of the world’s worst if not THE world's worst disease. I am reminded of my daughter Julie’s comment to me when her mother and my wife June was in late stages of this disease: “I wish Mom had Cancer, and then I could talk with her and tell her how much I love her”. The "Lamentation" writer’s personal strength of faith is clearly evident in the writings. While the Book of Lamentations comes from the Old Testament of the Bible, "Laments" have long been some of the most beautiful of the existing poetry. It would be difficult to find a more concise or a more illuminating description of the sadness, the sorrow and the tragedy of this long and relentless terminal disease. I have resisted most of my usual inclinations to make editorial changes except for the “Title”, the illustration that I have chosen and some formatting changes. I have tried to gain more knowledge and insight into the author and the background of this extraordinary essay or poem when I first published it in 2010, but my inquiry to the Texas Church of which the writer was a member has gone unanswered! - May 2012)
"No, no, no…Please dear GOD. No! The widow cries herself to sleep, tears soak her pillow. Her beloved is gone, no more alongside her to sit and hold her hand. She is alone.
Sorrow and exhaustion have drained all beauty from her face. Nights of bitterness and days of lost hope have sapped her strength. Look, O GOD, and see what has become of me!
And you, all of you have witnessed our suffering, look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, what GOD did to me? She is utterly forsaken.
The widow remembers the beginning of her sorrow, the days when she could no longer pretend that her husband was well, when the doctors shook their heads with bad news. Her heart is gripped by fear and dread. GOD, help us!
She secretly prepares herself for the worst but hides her fears from her husband. She protects him from the truth, protects the children, protects his mother and his brothers and those who love him.
She bears the truth within herself, lives the nightmare from which she cannot awaken. GOD, help us.
In the early long days and nights of his illness, she cares for her husband. She is intent on keeping his life.
She finds support groups. There are people who understand. When people meet, they earnestly seek to learn from each other ways of coping, and they are alert to every promising new treatment. They pray for each other. O GOD, help us!
She begins to believe that if she tries hard enough she can make him well and bring him back to her and to the life they had together. There must be some medication;, some doctor, some miracle, some prayer…GOD, will you not help us?
The families come. They try to understand, but they can’t ---or won’t believe. Later, they linger, sharing their sadness with each other and with her, trying to imprint upon their mind’s eyes and ears his face and body and voice. They sympathize, and they help in ways that they can. GOD, where is your help?
Friends, neighbors visit, keep them company for long hours. They sympathize, help in ways that they can. Their hands hold her hand and they speak gently to her. Their hands hold his hands and they speak gently to him. They bring treats from home and chocolate milk shakes from Burger King, they gently spoon fine –crushed ice into his mouth.
Relentless, the disease progresses. He looks at her with love, with eyes that trust her with his life. His looks break her heart. O GOD, why? What have we done to deserve this? Whatever it was, please forgive us! Please, please help us GOD!
Doctors treat her husband. They do what they can to ease his suffering, prolong his life. With downcast eyes, they explain that nothing more can be done.
Nurses and aids attend his needs with quiet respect and gentle touch. Hospice aids tuck sheets, adjust his position, change soiled clothing, bathe his body. They take comfort from their care. But GOD, where are you?
One day, she picks up a book and reads words written long ago by Saint Teresa: (Teresa of Avila 1515–1582) "Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the feet with which He has to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless man now."
Her eyes open; her face wets with sudden tears. She realized that GOD has not abandoned them; GOD was not silent to their pleas! At this time or that, God had taken the form of a loyal friend, a grieving member of the family.
Her mind races with memories of those who have come! A devoted friend, a loving family member! A disappointed doctor, a compassionate nurse or nurses aide, a gentle social worker, a supportive Chaplain, a caring Minister! Even a stranger ;pausing at the door of their room in the nursing home with a friendly smile and wave!
GOD has come to them disguised in flesh and blood, GOD-with-skin-on! Thank you GOD! You have been coming to us all along! Thank you, thank you, heavenly Father, heavenly Mother! Thank you for your loving care!
The husband is weaker, as weak as a child, when like an infant who cannot lift its head. Once he gave eloquent speeches in courtrooms and high places. Once he spoke tenderly to her and to others he loves. Once he laughed and shared stories of his childhood and youth. But his voice falters, his sentences fall apart. Now he is silent.
His face and body are shrunken, unfamiliar. He can neither swallow a sip of water nor move a finger or a toe. His body clings to life, but his eyes are closed and no longer look into hers. O GOD, let him die! Let him be delivered from this body of suffering!
Death comes early one morning. She moves to the bed and climbing up lies upon his body. She rocks him back and forth in her arms, her tears wet their faces. No, no, no…please, dear GOD. No!"
Stan’s ending note: I have so much feeling and empathy for the writer of "Lamentation"…for this care-giving wife who lost her husband and her love to this cruel disease.…I also remember at first that I did not want to tell the world of June’s diagnosis, I did not want her to be treated differently… later thinking perhaps I could somehow save her life, I busied myself with research and letter writing...40 + letters to Congress, the President and Religious Leaders...tried to get June into a Mayo Clinical trial… received prayers in June's behalf by the Billy Graham and Pat Robertson's organizations, our Redeemer Lutheran Pastors, friends in the Catholic Church, took June to a Benny Hinn's Crusade and all the while I wondered why God did not intervene for one of his best servants. As June slowly slipped further into the shadows of Alzheimer’s, I finally accepted what I knew would be the final chapter…June also passed away early one morning after almost 11 years of a losing battle with the disease that always comes up the winner! The above lament was written almost exactly one year before June passed away on the 23rd of October 2008 and almost exactly on the date when my Mother Ellen, also an Alzheimer's victim, passed away on 21 October 2007.
Dawn Laursen Galati - Orlando, Florida - (21 May 2012): "This is what my dear mom is going through right now with my big strong dad. I miss him so much I can't imagine what she feels everyday. What a senseless disease, death it is so hard, but this slow slow loss is even harder. Only wish I was closer to them, to help my mom with my dad's care. Love them so !!!"
Ursula Zarecki Sypniewski - Toms River, New Jersey - (21 May 2012): ”That's so sad! It gave me chills!”
Sandy-alzheimers-support - (21 May 2012): "This brings back many memories of caring for my Mom. Such sadness..."
Kathy Spence - Willow Street, Pennsylvania - (22 May 2012): “There are not enough words to encompass the entire tragedy...this wife makes a valiant effort though...God be with her and all others who struggle in the darkness of any form of dementia...prayers for all.”
Maxine J Bailey - Rotherham, United Kingdom - (22 May 2012):…”IT BRINGS TEARS…I'd do anything to help… its a terrible experience.”
Lynn ONeal - Abilene, Texas - (22 May 2012): “It's what I am going through with my Dad. My Mom was his caregiver until she passed away in September. I helped her as much as she would let me. Now, it is all on me.. my sibling has not been here in six months and only lives 2 hours away. Dad says I am all he has.. so be it. I will travel this road and do the best I can to love him and make him comfortable.”
For the story of June K. Berg and her 12 year journey into the shadows of Alzheimer's, click the below link:
(June and Stan 2002 - June's 6th year of Alzheimer's)