Yes, I am concerned, like all the rest of the people in the world, about this terrible Coronavirus. But I am not in fear. And I am not letting this plague overwhelm my thoughts and my life. Why? Because I trust God; and because my thoughts and my life are being overtaken by a different "plague," one that ALREADY affects millions of Americans and others worldwide. This plague is called Dementia or Alzheimers. No, you can't catch it from somebody in the grocery store or on the airplane; but it is all around you and for those going through it and those who are caring for them, it changes everything.
I wrote in my blog on January 11 about the events at the first of the year when John was taken by ambulance after fainting, landing on his face, and then having his gall bladder removed. The episode caused a Traumatic Brain Injury, which has greatly worsened John's ability to find words, communicate, and remember. Through the excellent physicians who cared for him during his hospital stay, I finally learned why John can no longer read or write and why he cannot find the words to make sentences. It is called "Expressive Aphasia" (or Broca's Aphasia). In nine years of marriage, watching all this overtake him, no one had explained to me that this is a very real condition, which has a name, but sadly no cure when it is related to Dementia.
His condition rapidly deteriorated after the brain injury in late December, and our lives have radically changed since then. I have finally decided that it is okay for me to share about this more in my blog. It is never my intention to demean my husband in any way, but simply to be real about what we are going through and what I know that hundreds of thousands of other people are going through every day.
Our married life, though only nine years, has been fraught with an extraordinary amount of trauma. I've watched ambulances and helicopters take John away so many times now that I wonder if I have PTSD! It often feels like I live on "high alert" and stay on a constant watch. The "other shoe" might drop today! Caring for John has become my highest priority and much of my day is like playing "Clue," as I try to figure out what he's trying to tell me, and put together the clues he gives me to find the words he's missing.
A precious friend of mine who used to be an O.B. nurse shared with me that when she was coaching mothers in hard labor, she would watch the monitor and tell them when a contraction was about to begin. She would instruct the woman to "begin deep breathing" and then when the contraction hit the peak, she would encourage her to breathe rapidly through the worst, and then reassure her that the contraction was subsiding and she could relax. I thought about that for a moment and remembered that the word breath is Ruach in Hebrew and suddenly the profound parallel struck me: when I am in the midst of the worst of the trauma, the Holy Spirit is surrounding me and He gets me through until it subsides! Awesome!
I have also found Yeshua in the midst of all this. I reached out to a wonderful, believing woman who offers a monthly support group for people with Aphasia and their spouses. We had coffee together so she could explain to me the excellent model she teaches to help caregivers understand how to navigate through this difficult illness and how to keep their spouses safe and without anxiety or fear as they face the loss of memory and communication. She uses a book (which I've now read) called Contented Dementia. The bottom line of this care model is based upon three critical points that one must strictly follow:
1. Do not ask questions.
2. The person with Dementia is ALWAYS RIGHT and you are not. They are the expert on everything.
3. Do not contradict.
I am ardently practicing this counsel and am overwhelmed at the similarities with the teachings of Yeshua/Jesus! This is a matter of completely humbling oneself, making oneself to be of no reputation, and holding others in higher esteem than yourself. This is harder than we might think. I LIKE to be right! And I use common sense to correct John, but he cannot process common sense now. He can only perceive what his brain tells him, no matter how much sense it makes. He is the expert and I am not! May God help me - and all of us - to practice what Scripture teaches.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves (Philippians 2:3)
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it. (Matthew 16:25)
He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. (Psalm 25:9)
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)
Let me just close by saying this: John Mills, the man I married, is a great man of God. He has an unwavering faith such as I've never seen and he absolutely trusts God for EVERYTHING in his life. He may not be able to tell me what he had for breakfast, but the Scriptures live in his heart and his mind like a "hard drive" that never crashes! We were in the Emergency Room the day before yesterday because he had a great pain in his calf and was concerned about a possible blood clot (that proved to be nothing) but while he lay there and waited and waited for the ultrasound result, his thin, off-key little voice began to sing:
"They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up as wings of eagles
They shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint
Teach me, Lord, teach me Lord, to wait!"
This is not an easy walk; but it is indeed a blessing and privilege to care for this good man of God in these difficult times.
Kelly Ferrari Mills