Earlier this week we went to visit Brian’s mom, Mary. She has advanced dementia, an awful disease that causes progressive mental deterioration.
We arrived at the nursing home while the residents were being moved into the dining hall. Mary was all ready there seated by the window in her wheelchair. On the table beside her was the Bible.
Brian knelt down beside his mother, as the rest of us gathered around. She looked at us and then focused in on Brian’s face, who was now nose to nose with his mom.
“What a surprise”, she said quietly
“Hello mom”, Brian said. Mary looked at his face but there seemed to be no recognition.
Brian continued talking about seeing this family member and that family member. Mary remained silent.
Soon Brian had exhausted the conversational topics and stood awkwardly, not knowing what to do or say. My heart ached as I watched this interaction between mother and son, observing the pain of not being recognized by the woman who brought you into the world. I stood there utterly useless, tears rolling down my cheeks. Tyler was standing beside me, and my thoughts turned to my own son. How could I ever forget this amazing boy? How awful is this disease that takes away precious memories.
Laura, Tyler’s now fiancee could bear the silence no more and brushed through the semi circle and assumed the place where Brian had previously knelt.
“Mary”, she said with joy in her voice. “I have wonderful news!” She put up her left hand in front of Mary’s face and said, “Can you see my hand?”
“Yes, of course, I can”, Mary replied quietly.
“Do you see the ring?” asked Laura.
Mary said, “Yes”.
“Well, I am getting married! I am marrying your grandson. See the handsome young man with the crazy hair and beard… that’s Tyler and we are getting married.”
Mary’s eyes followed Laura’s hand as she pointed out Tyler. Mary looked at Tyler with no recognition but looked back at Laura and said softly and without inflection.
“Oh, that’s wonderful.”
Other’s in the dining hall had overheard the news and the nurse yelled from across the room, “She may not understand but I do! That is great news! Congratulations!”
Our attention was drawn to the voice across the room and when we looked back to Mary, her eyes were looking at something in the distance, she seemed far away.
“May I give you a hug?” Laura asked sweetly.
“Sure”, said Mary. As Laura embraced her future grandmother (in-law) a small smile came over Mary’s face.
It was the sweetest, most tender moment I had ever witnessed. In that moment, in that split second, I had seen love overcome a disease. In that split second I saw how an embrace can comfort and bring peace. It was precious.
I would love to think that Mary understood all that Laura had told her. I don’t know. What I do know is that Mary understood love.
Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8