I always felt blessed to have her as an older sister. I couldn’t have asked for one more dear. Not all sisters have good relationships, but we did. Funny thing is we were often mistaken as twins. We looked somewhat alike, had the same coloring and same build. Not too complimentary to me, as she is twelve years older, but maybe a tribute how women in our family age. Maybe!
This aging part is why I feel such grief now. Aging doesn’t necessarily bring Alzheimer’s, but it did with my sister. Her advancing Alzheimer’s crushes my heart. She is the first one in our family to be afflicted. I listen with interest every time some break through is discussed. The amount of current research given to the condition is heartening and I believe we’ll know more in time.
A sister will always be a sister, but the sad thing is she is lost to me in the sense of being the sister I had. Oh, she is still here, but she is not here. I still visit her in the Alzheimer’s Unit a couple times a week. She always seems delighted to see me and still knows me, which makes me smile. We can take heart in that many Alzheimer’s patients are happy. They live in a place apart.
The other day, in my thinking about her and how I could possibly help, I had an epiphany. I still had a sister. I still need to visit, because she needs company and stimulation. It’s not about me. I need to push back thinking I won’t go because we can’t have a real conversation anymore. We can’t laugh over some dumb thing we’ve done, can’t discuss genealogy, clothes, make-up, food, travel or anything substantial. I need to keep going even if I am asked the same question many times in short sequence, even if my kids are distant memory to her.
Some days I ride with this epiphany, but some days I look into lackluster eyes, once sparkly brown, and I want my sister back. I want her back real bad. I ask why she had to succumb in this way. She did nothing to deserve it. She was the best possible Christian.
Down deep, I know better than ask why. I know wisdom and peace call believers to acceptance. I’ve lived long enough to know, even though God is good, we can feel bad. I mumble to myself that life is fair but not equal. And, sometimes I wonder if it is even fair. Just sometimes.
What though am I really learning as my sister and I travel this journey through her disease? We can’t recreate the past. The only thing I can do is try to help her as her family and the disease shape her future. I’ve learned a person can do all the prescribed things to stave off Alzheimer’s and still develop the condition. I’ve learned it can be slow or fast and sometimes we wish it were faster. Or sometimes we wish it were slower. There are no winners here.
I must say my sweet sister has always been one stubborn, little lady and this stubbornness gets in the way of those wanting to help. I also believe the condition itself lends an irrationality, which families find greatly challenging. I’m also realizing what hard decisions a family must make with an Alzheimer’s member.
I have lost the sister I had and for this I grieve. I know I will lose her physically someday and will grieve again.
Help is abundant for caregivers and for those loving someone with this condition. Support groups are found in most memory care units or locally in towns. Google inquiries will give you valuable information. There is even an online support group (again Google) and the web site www.alz.org also has many resources.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
-III John 2 KJV