What will survive of us is love

Amy Isham writes for CPX about her mothers dementia.

“Do you know the man who lives in the little house on our property?” my mum asks me. “Yes, he’s my brother, Alex, I’m very fond of him,” I answer. We share a smile, because we both know the man and now, for a short time, we know his name.

Small capillaries have burst near the memory centre of mum’s brain, so she picks her way around forgotten words, names, and phrases like a child leaping over submerged stones in a creek. The words she chooses feel like an unfolding folk tale (the man, little house, our property) and I prefer them to “Have you seen Alex today?”

According to Dementia Australia, dementia is the second leading cause of death of all Australians and will likely soon be the first. With this looming statistic, carers need to be available continually for their loved ones, while they face the sorrow of watching them fade away. Their job is not just to keep them safe and fed, but to foster their connection with the world around them.

My brother makes time to wonder with mum daily. They spread oats for the currawong, worry about the wallabies in the Tasmanian drought, linger on photographs on walls and in albums. When I visit from interstate, the sorrow I expect to feel isn’t here, only a mindful joy. Instead of feeling like I am losing something, there’s a powerful sense of gaining something previously lost.

There’s a fading glory in physical and cognitive decline, and a dignity in caregiving that reminds us of God’s image alongside the sacred in everyday life. As we care for the people we love, even as they forget themselves and forget us, we honour them and the God who sees them.

This week’s Thinking Out Loud is brought to you by our newest Associate, Dr. Amy Isham.

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