Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 6, 2004


Finding the courage to cope with Alzheimer’s disease


      A dear friend’s wife called recently with alarming news. Her husband, she shared, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Several tests led his doctor to conclude that my friend was in the early stages of this dread disease.

          The conclusive evidence, according to the doctor, was the man’s loss of short-term memory. His long-term memory remains reasonably good. However, the failure of one’s short-term memory indicates that progressive dementia has begun.

          There was good news and bad news. The bad news is that there is still no cure for this disease. Once it begins, it will eventually shut the brain down. The good news is that there is medication available to slow the disease’s progress. My friend has begun taking the medicine though it is too early to measure its effectiveness.

          As a pastor I have shared the agony of many persons whose lives have been shattered by Alzheimer’s. With most of them I have prayed for God’s healing, despite the hopelessness of this appalling disease. No matter how terrible the problem, I believe we should ask God for healing, and then leave the outcome in God’s hands. I believe that because Jesus said, “All things are possible with God.”

          Healing is not all we should ask from God, of course. We should ask for courage and the strength to endure life’s trials with grace and dignity. We should ask for the gift of patience for the sick person and family members.

           We should ask for faith to remain strong even though severe trouble tempts even the best of us to give up on God. Jesus, after all, reminded us that in this world we would have our trials. Still, in the same breath, Jesus advised us to “be of good cheer.” Thus he affirmed that nothing, not even Alzheimer’s disease, could rob us of our joy if we continue to trust God.

          My friend and his wife have found the courage to discuss with us and other friends the doctor’s diagnosis. They have a healthy attitude about the matter. They want their friends to know that they are leaning on the Lord and on one another to “get through” this bizarre turn of events.

          “God has helped us through many other struggles and we believe he will bring us through this one,” my friend remarked with confidence. His courage, and that of his wife of 55 years, is inspiring to all who know them.

          No one knows what the future holds for my friend, or for any of us. What we do know is that a courageous spirit always wins, and always inspires others, no matter how terrible the trials of life may be. We know that though terrible diseases like cancer or Alzheimer’s may rob us of life, they cannot defeat the human spirit that has embraced the eternal Spirit of God.

          Our friends have invited us, with serene dignity, to help them face the future bravely. They have rejected any sense of impending gloom. With charm and good humor, they shared their plan to continue enjoying life and serving the Lord as they have for nearly 80 years.

          We all know that people suffer and people die. Life goes on. There is a difference, however, in a life that drags on, and a life that moves on, in faith believing that God is always working for good in the lives of those who love him.

          This much I know: my life has been immeasurably enriched by the remarkable courage of these two dear friends. I have witnessed firsthand, up close, an indomitable spirit. The effect on me is exhilarating. Few things in life are as energizing as the unconquerable will of a friend.  

          If, and when, the time comes for me to face such a challenge, I know with what spirit I should stand up to it. In the meantime, I can only hope that the grace to marshal such courage will be mine when the hour comes.

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