Mondays With Mother: An Alzheimer's Story

In 2002 my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It is a hard road, and we live it one day at a time. This is a chronicle of her disease and my Monday visits with her.

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Name: Anne Robertson
Location: Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

From a visitor

I'm always grateful when I hear from those of you who drop by this blog. I don't always respond because time is tight, but I appreciate your e-mails, comments, and posts.

Recently I had a response from a colleague, now retired, who left New England at about the time that I came back. So we have never met in person. But, as is the case with many of you, we have "met" through this blog and through the experience of seeing a loved one through the agony of Alzheimer's.

My colleague, the Rev. Richard Lee Evans, has written a book entitled Senior Moments: Reflections from the Third Trimester of My Life, and in the book he has a segment about his mother-in-law's battle with the disease and the miracle of grace that often occurs at the border of this life and the next. I have asked his permission to print it here, since I have heard others relate similar experiences--not as many times as this, but still significant. I'd be interested to know if others of you have anything similar to share. Here it is:


Out of the Fog—For a Moment or Two

During the final years of her life, Lillian Monsen was enveloped in the fog of Alzheimer’s disease. Yet there were three times we know of, during the last year of her life, that the fog lifted and for a few minutes she became “herself” again. These three experiences indicate to me that Lillian was on the edge between the physical body (with its disintegrating brain) in which she was trapped and the spiritual body in which she would be free and whole again.
The first incident occurred early in 2000. Lillian was in the dayroom of the Alzheimer’s Unit at Evanswood Nursing Center in Kingston Massachusetts. Suddenly she fell from her chair and hit her head. A nurse came immediately and found her unconscious and with no pulse. Several attendants helped lift her into a wheel chair so that they could return her to her bedroom, where they assumed she would be pronounced “dead.” On the way, she revived and looked at the nurse walking beside her. “I died, didn’t I, and you brought me back,” she asked? “Yes,” the amazed nurse responded.
The staff notified her family and soon her daughter and granddaughter arrived. Lillian knew them both immediately and wanted them to stay with her. She was fully lucid with no sign of the disease that had invaded her brain. She laughed and joked with Barbara and Diana and was full of life—just as she was years before. After about 20 minutes, the fog began to descend again and all of the Alzheimer’s symptoms returned.
The second incident occurred about six months later—again in the dayroom. Lillian passed out and staff members returned her to her room and to her bed. She regained consciousness and then passed out a second time. The family was notified and when Barbara arrived, her mother was awake and said: “I’ve been with Arvid (her late husband) and mother, but I’m not ready to stay with them.” Barbara tried to assure her that it would be OK for her to “stay with them.” Then after 15 or 20 minutes, the fog descended once again.
The final incident occurred the day before she died in February 2001. A staff member found Lillian on the floor of her room where she had fallen, near her bed. She sustained a severe head laceration. Staff members got her up from the floor and laid her on the bed where they stopped the bleeding and called for an ambulance for transfer to a hospital. She began to talk and said that her head “hurt a lot.” She carried on a lucid conversation with the EMTs while they placed her on a stretcher and wheeled her down the hall. After passing the nurses’ station, the supervisor asked an assistant who it was that was being wheeled out. “Lillian Monsen,” the woman replied. “Oh no,” said the supervisor, “that couldn’t have been Lillian. She was talking too rationally.” She talked rationally all the way to the hospital where, later that afternoon, she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Lillian remained comatose until she died the following day.
These three stories—taken together—have become a source of amazement and comfort to members of her family as we watched Lillian “teeter” on the brink of death and even glimpse a bit of that heavenly realm before her final journey into the eternal presence of God. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” II Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

October 2004

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