My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. The disease came suddenly and unexpectedly. The disease came without warning, with surprising symptoms and a rapid deterioration of my mother’s health. You could say that the disease appeared as if it were a bolt from the heavens!
Before the disease…
mom was a unique and independent woman. She
raised me alone and had to work very hard to support us. Since
we had no close relatives, she was often very tired and overworked.
My mother was a very intelligent woman with diverse interests. She was interested in history, geography, travelling, archeology, sports (she was particularly passionate about ski jumping and figure skating), music, film and literature. She always bought a lot of books, and due to this fact we had a relatively large collection in our family home.
My mother was a very sociable person. She liked to make friends and meet people and she therefore always had many friends and acquaintances in the area in which we lived. She willingly discussed various topics and people liked to talk with her, because she always had time to listen to their problems, talk about topics of interest or simply just chat.
My mother was friendly to all people regardless of their opinions, points of view, religious views, addictions, bad habits, etc. She tried to see the good in everyone.
My mom was a believer, prayed a lot and lived in accordance to the Gospel. It did not bother her talking to atheists, agnostics, or people who belong to non-Christian faiths. She was always respectful of the views of other people, although in general she always firmly kept her convictions.
My mom was my best friend. I could tell her anything and everything. I knew that I can always tell her about my worries and problems. She comforted me at those times and tried to help me find the best solution. After I left my family home and moved to capital, we were in contact by telephone every day and we could talk for hours.
My mother was very demanding and I am very grateful for this fact. On the one hand, she spoiled me, but on the other, she was quite stern. She demanded a lot from herself and of course she also demanded a lot from me. She always told me that genuine success is achieved only with hard work, a great deal of effort and perseverance.
My mother showed me how I should deal with various difficulties and how to overcome adversity. She taught me that a person should never give up when life gets difficult. She taught me that there are no impossible things for us and everything is achievable so long as we have a close fellowship with God. I am very grateful to her for everything she did for me.
My mother was an extraordinary woman. And this is the way I would like to keep her forever in my memory and my thoughts.
When the illness came…
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear after the age of 60.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people. Dementia is the loss of cognitive function- thinking, remembering, and reasoning, impaired to the extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. The disease gets worse as it develops – it is a progressive disease. There is no current cure for Alzheimer’s, although there are ways of slowing down its progression and helping patients with some of the symptoms. Also Alzheimer’s is a terminal disease, it is incurable and causes death.
When my mother first showed symptoms of the disease, I thought that she was only experiencing memory problems, which are common and effect many people. Externally, it seemed as though my mother was all right and that there was no reason for concern. So I did not take the first signs of the disease very seriously when they first appeared.
But over time I noticed that something strange was happening with my mom. For example, she began to have problems with her orientation and was not able to correctly identify the area in which we live. It seemed to her that she was in another town and she had difficulty finding her way home from the shop or from the church. From time to time she could also not express herself in a clear and comprehensible manner. She also told stories which could not have taken place. For example, she was convinced that apart from us, there was someone else in our apartment. She saw many people through the windows, including members of our family, relatives and friends who had died many years earlier, in addition to various unknown people. She talked to them almost non-stop.
I also noticed many changes to her behavior. As it turned out, these were the first signs of personality changes, which many patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease undergo. My mother started to speak in a way quite new to me and to which I was not at all accustomed. At the same time, she spoke a lot and told me everything that popped into her mind. Unfortunately, these were just her fantasies.
All of these symptoms came about concurrently and it was for this reason I began to look for an appropriate doctor. Next she had to go to the hospital where she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Following the diagnosis, further symptoms of the disease appeared progressively. It was clear to me that she could no longer use a variety of devices, such as radios or telephones, or turn lights on and off, etc.
At this time, the most important thing for her was a return to the family home. This desire was incredibly strong. She often repeated, “I want to go home!” or, “When are we going home?” From time to time she tried to leave our apartment on her own to get to the family home 200 kilometers away from the capital.
After some time, I could no longer talk with my mother in a normal way. With each passing day and week, she more and more quickly became a small, helpless child of 1-2 years, who was unable to properly express her thoughts and feelings, speak normally, perform day to day activities independently and understand the world around her.
Approximately a year after her diagnosis, my mother often did not recognize me anymore. She thought I was her friend from her youth and she asked me about her daughter. My mother lived in her own world, in which she had her own life, had friends and experiences that I did not know about. She lived in her own world, which I did not have access to.
At the beginning of the disease, to my surprise, I met many people in my area, who had had to deal with people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. These people made me realize that over time my mom would need constant care (24 hours a day) and I would not be able to leave her at home by herself.
I received many warnings, for example, to prepare myself mentally for anything and that the worst symptoms of the disease would come about sooner or later. Some even advised me that I should put my mother in a nursing home, or I would not be able to cope psychologically for too long.
Soon it became clear that they were right with regards to the progress of the disease. The disease developed and developed further very quickly. With time, I had to increasingly restrict my leaving the apartment to go outside. At the same time, I had to give up many things, issues and activities that would require me to leave the apartment for longer, or to leave my housing complex.
The disease came as a terrible shock to me. At the beginning I did not want to believe that my mother is so very ill and that she would never be well again. It was very difficult to accept this truth, that there would be no improvement and my mother’s behavior would not change. Actually it was quite impossible for me to deal with this new reality. I was not able to accept her fate and accept this new life experience. I was not able to truly understand my sick mother and accept this terrible disease.
The Love Test
The health status of my mom had a very bad influence on me. Firstly, I often fell into a bad mood, then there was a deep frustration. I became very nervous and I was not able to take control. Increasingly, anxiety and fear deepened within me.
First of all, I was fearful about the future and was rebellious as a result. I had to career plans, I wanted to develop myself further, learn and achieve other life goals. And suddenly it became quite clear to me that I would probably never realize my plans. It also became clear to me that I would have to give up many things that I have gotten a lot of joy and pleasure from.
Over time and with the development of the disease my negative emotions were magnified. Still I was not able to accept the difficult truths about my mom and to cope with the new situation and with new responsibilities. I could not accept my current life and therefore in the first months of the illness I was full of anger, pain and suffering, ever restless, impatient, rude, etc.
Awareness of my own weakness and helplessness was the cause of even more pain and became a source of discouragement for me. At times I just wanted to leave everything behind and flee to the other end of the world.
In the end my inner state reflected negatively on the relationship with my mother. I was not able to truly take care of her and even neglected my daily duties. Then when I began to analyze my behavior, I concluded that I was full or egoism and self-love. I was aware that this situation was progressing badly and that I was hurting my mother at the same time, but I felt as if my behavior was independent of me. At times it continued this way between love and anger, rage and love … My awareness of my own sinfulness was terrible for me. That was horrible time.
One day I realized that I could no longer live this way. I lacked patience and perseverance, but above all, love for my sick mother. At the same time I concluded that my negative behavior and attitude towards the disease was not able to change anything or have a positive effect on her health.
All the difficult situations for me at that time not only showed me my own weakness but also made me realize that I had to change my ways and, above all, was still in need of conversion.
It was also a test of my faith. I could not understand why God once again subjected me and my mom to a very difficult experience. I often argued with God and I asked helplessly: “Why …?”. Since I had already been healed by Jesus from several diseases, I decided again to ask a lot of people who attended my church for intercessory prayer, especially those involved with the charismatic Renewal of the Spirit Movement. But in spite of all this, God remained silent to these prayers.
With time it became clear to me that Jesus would not heal my mother. After several months had passed and her condition rapidly deteriorated, I began to ask God: “What do you expect from me?” Each time I asked him this question I “heard” the answer in my heart and my conscience. Internally I felt that I should acknowledge and accept my mother’s illness, and take good care of her. I felt that this was the will of God for my life over the next period of time .
I decided to do something with myself and change my attitude, as well as to overcome the negative feelings that had accompanied me. I considered the most important and serious issue at that time to take some steps and find the best solution to the problem I was facing. I realized that something in my life had to change, otherwise things would continue to get worse.
True love comes from heaven
I decided to “fight” through prayer. It occurred to me to turn to the Divine Mercy and ask Jesus for patience and perseverance and, above all, genuine love for my mother. I asked Him to help me change my attitude towards the disease and to just help me take care of my mother.
The Divine Mercy of God is His greatest attribute. God’s Mercy is God’s love in action. This is due to the fact that God sees all human misery, He has compassion for mankind in all its poverty, He listens to prayers and requests of those who turn to Him in faith and comes with help to those in need.
So I decided to recite The Chaplet to the Divine Mercy, in which I asked for forgiveness for my sins and for my inner transformation, several times each day. At the same time I asked God for mercy, I was able to accept His will in my life and come to terms with this difficult situation.
God quickly answered my request. Immediately after the first prayers I noticed that I became more patient and I had more understanding for my mom and her illness. Once again, I was polite, friendly and ready to help. Once again, I was full of joy and inner peace.
God helped me to agree with His will, accept my cross to bear and with the love to take care of my mom. By His grace I was able to courageously accept my situation and to perform my daily duties without any delay. My optimism returned and therefore I did not worry much about my future, which I had entrusted to God. It was simply just easier to live in this way.
I realized that I would not be able to cope on my own. If I didn’t pray or prayed only a little one day, negative feelings and emotions would return, I would make mistakes more frequently and it would be impossible for me to deal with situations and problems. So I decided to recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day for this reason.
The meaning of suffering
In the beginning, when the disease first appeared, I would often ask myself and God the following question: Why does my mother suffer? Why do I suffer?
Over time, I was able to gradually understand the meaning of my suffering and understand why my mother was suffering as well. Today I see my mother’s illness as a great grace from God, for which I should be grateful to God for. God knew very well that the disease of mother would be a wonderful antidote for my ailing soul.
I discovered that the disease was God’s call to love. A call for me to bring myself closer to God, to love Him and my mother even more and serve Him with love … I found that suffering had a healing power, which freed me from my own selfishness, vanity, arrogance and other negative traits that which had had a detrimental effect on me and on my life.
It became obvious to me that earlier in my life I was looking primarily after my own convenience and was feeding my own selfishness. I was interested in leading a comfortable and carefree life in which no one would bother me, and I would not have to exert effort for others. It occurred to me that over my whole life I took care of myself more than I took care of my own mother.
I understood that whenever I accepted the disease thankfully and did not rebel, God cleansed me of my negative qualities, sanctified me and helped me to become like Jesus. Sometimes it is said that “suffering exalts the heart.”
I came to the conclusion that suffering is the gate that opens the way to a deep friendship and intimacy with God. Therefore, my cross has become sweet for me when I understood that – as in the case of the cross of Christ- it has become the road to paradise.
Every day I asked Jesus to make me stronger and He helped me.
He transformed me internally – He relieved me of my anxiety, impatience, anger and poured His peace and joy into my life. God gave me inner strength and patience. He helped me better understand my sick mother and accept her regardless of how she was and what she did.
Jesus transformed my thoughts and my heart. Every day, I felt as though the old me was dying inside and my new life was born.
(My mother died September 14, 2010)