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Giving Thanks for Dementia?

Marie MacPherson


From personal experience, I agree with Ann Voskamp in her book 1,000 Gifts when she says, "The only way to fight a [negative] feeling is with a [positive] feeling." In other words, give thanks in all things, which is the thesis of her book.

When I feel sad and depressed, I feel helpless and hopeless. But, after reading 1,000 Gifts, I learned that I have a powerful, God-given weapon for combating those emotions: thanksgiving. And though it is easier to dwell on the negative, ultimately, it doesn't do any good, nor does it seek God and His purposes.

So, now we come to my dear mother's dementia. She is 58 years old. She's been diagnosed for 6 years. She will die of this ugly disease unless God calls her home sooner. She can no longer be independent or alone. She has difficulty communicating and being understood. She forgets to eat unless someone reminds her. And probably, most difficult for all of us: she can no longer serve the friends and family around her in the way that always gave her such gratification.

What is there to give thanks about? Everything in me, that is in my sinful flesh, says, "Nothing. There is nothing. There is no good. There cannot be. And there never will be." From the bottom of my soul, I ache, grieve, mourn. Until your own sweet mama slips away from you while she is still alive, you cannot understand the pain.

And yet, God reigns.

He has not forgotten my mother. Or me. Or my father or brother or aunts or the friends of my mother. Dementia does not tie God's hands. He has provided for my mother's greatest need: He has redeemed her with the death of His Son on Calvary. He will not turn His back on us. Dementia does not limit Him. "[Nothing] will be able to separate us for the love of God that is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:39) And so, out of obedience, clinging to the promises of Him who loves us, painful though it is: I WILL give thanks. Even for dementia. I must.  Because either there is purpose in this disease and thus, hope; or there is no meaning, and only despair.

How can I give thanks for dementia?

I've forced myself to ask this question over the past weeks and months. Here is a small sample of the answers to which God has opened my eyes. What good can possibly come from this disease?

I'll grant there are probably many more reasons behind this illness. Dementia doesn't mean that God has forgotten my mother. That's not why she, and we, are going through this. I trust that He is using her, behind the scenes, to accomplish His amazing purposes.

Is there any good in dementia? If Mom could, she would cry out, "Yes!" I have no other choice, but to submit my own will to the Lord's. May He help us and hold us until we can see all things clearly in our Heavenly home.

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TAGS: Healthcare, Worldview, Dementia, Thanksgiving

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