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Husband Cares for Wife with Alzheimer's

Editor's Note: Preachers, this is a powerful illustration about the beauty of committed marital love. It's longer than many of our illustrations, but it's worth sharing since our people desperately need positive examples of marriage.

My parents got married when they were 19 and recently celebrated their sixty-second wedding anniversary. But today things aren't easy for them. My mom struggles with Alzheimer's. Something about the evening makes her even more confused. Medical professionals have a term for this: Sundowners. It's a common experience for folks with Alzheimer's. For mom, when evening comes, she gets disoriented and demands to be taken "home." My mom and dad live in an apartment facility for the elderly, so we're never sure what mom means by "home."

One night I was watching TV with my mom and dad in their apartment and mom started pleading, "I'm tired. Can someone help get my coat and take me home?" At first her questions are addressed generally to the room and then to me and my husband. She gets frustrated and cries "ACK" with full German disgust. But she focuses on her husband: Why won't he take her home?

Two years ago my dad had his voice box removed so it's difficult for him to talk. He can't comfort his frightened, sick wife. But my mother can't remember the surgery so she demands, "Why won't you talk to me?" He shakes his head back and forth. This makes her angrier. "He just shakes his head and never talks to me," she shouts to the room. She calls him selfish, uncaring, and a host of hurtful words and names. My Dad's eyes are misting. He's a tough man. Strong language is not foreign to this old Norwegian painting contractor. But he understands what she is really saying: "I'm scared and confused." That's what really breaks his heart.

Finally my mom decides that she could spend the night "here" (her apartment). She turns as sweet as she had been horrid. "You poor man," she tells my Dad. "Swede, you are a good man, we can stay here can't we? We'll be fine for tonight." She goes to her room and gets ready for bed. Coming to my Dad one last time before retiring she puts her hands on each arm of his chair, gets her face about a foot from his, and with the most endearing look asks, "Do you have something to say to me?"

"I love you," he mouths.

"I love you too," she replies. And then goes to bed.

They have a love that lasts a lifetime—so ingrained that even the loss of memory and voice cannot touch it.

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