The stifling humidity did nothing for my already sweaty palms and pounding heart. I remind myself to breathe more than once as our car wound around the narrow North Carolina roads bringing us closer to a place I never wanted to go. Memory Care Unit. Alzheimer’s. Beloved Grandma (AKA- Nannie). I try to steady my mind. My racing heart. My burning eyes. But still the tears pool and spill over as we pull up to the charming white building.
She asks, “Where’s that other guy?” She means my brother, but cannot retrieve his name from her torn up brain. (I wonder later if she is asking about my ex-husband?) We head to her room (ignoring unpleasant smells) and sit in more silence than we’re used to with Nannie. She cannot converse as she once did. She scrambles to put together words and sentences that make sense, but cannot tell which is which anymore. We complement her room. Her chair. The way her hair is cut. We say how much we love her brand new carpet.
Suddenly a man enters with a carpet cleaner. He heard there had been a nighttime “accident” that needed to be cleaned up. Nannie does not have a roommate…we sit in silence as he cleans the carpet. Pulling the huge machine back and forth, back and forth over the offending stain. Nannie has no idea why he has come. What has happened to the carpet? She doesn’t seem phased in the least.
As I blink back tears we decide to go outside for some fresh air. As usual, I thread my arm through hers. She is so small. Frail. Hunched over in a way that I don’t remember from six months ago when I last saw her. She grasps my hand tightly and looks directly into my eyes. “You’re so beautiful.” She says. “Your face is just so lovely and you don’t even know it.” We are crying again. “You’re so beautiful too, Nannie.” I manage to choke out the words. Slowly shuffling our feet in unison as I steady her shaky steps and uncertain motions.
I remember all the times she took care of me. Her steady hand literally guiding me through tough times and good times. The way she cupped my face within those familiar hands on my wedding day and held me tightly. “All the best to you both darling!” She exclaimed. When I was a little girl just out of the tub, the way she would comb my wet hair and call me Cinderella. “It’s time for the princess to go to bed!” She declared with hugs and kisses and tucked in feet. The times we talked about our God and how He works in our lives. All of those precious times that she can no longer remember.
As we lead Nannie to the lunchroom and say our goodbye’s until tomorrow, I squeeze her little hand, kiss her soft cheek and promise that we’ll be back. I cry all the way back to the car remembering how her face went right back to blank as we left her there. Right back to a shell of her formerly amazing self.
Thank God that someday we will truly meet again. Someday there will be no more tears. No more Alzheimer’s. No more memory loss. The steady hand of our Lord will raise us up into the place He has prepared for us and we will be reunited. Until that day I’ll take the pieces I can get. The love in those blue eyes. The softness of that hand in mine. The steady pulse felt as I hold her tight. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
This article originally appeared at Revive Me Again.