Where can I flee from your presence? If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me.—PSALM 139:7-10 [NRSV]
After my wife, Candy, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, we moved from Dallas to Milwaukee to share a duplex with our son and his family for their support. A year and a half later, we flew to Dallas for a weekend to wrap up some business. We saw friends and worshipped with the congregation I had pastored. Our son who still lives in Dallas showed us around the school where he teaches music. When we woke up the morning we were to fly back to Milwaukee, Candy looked around the hotel room and said, “Where am I? How did I get here?”
I heaved a deep sigh in my soul. I had hoped that seeing the people and places of our recent past would help Candy close out the past and comfortably embrace the present. Instead she experienced disorientation. Flying was emotionally discomfiting. The hotel was unfamiliar. Memory of our moving and our 17 years in Dallas had faded beyond her recall.
We won’t be flying again. Rather than trying to maintain continuity with the past, I try to give her stability and security in the present. We reminisce with notes, phone calls, and visits from our accumulated treasury of relationships. We celebrate when our out-of-town family members visit. I ache as the memory gaps grow and pray to focus on present joy.