My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's when I was twelve. He lived for another 21 years after that, much of that time spent in a nursing home. I don't need to inform everyone of what a devastating disease Alzheimer's is -- how the victim ultimately becomes someone quite unlike their former self.
Marvin Olasky, the editor of World magazine, wrote a brief tribute to his late mother in a recent issue. He said she was, as a relative described her, "the unhappiest woman I ever knew". She had had a cold, hard life. "She never felt love nor enjoyed its material manifestations." Olasky describes not feeling any empathy for her ("I'd like to say love, but it was more abstract") until he became a Christian as an adult. The woman "wore those resentments on her sleeve". I think we all know people like that.
But an interesting thing happened to her at the age of 87 when dementia set in. Instead of forgetting the good things of life and becoming "mean", she forgot the bad things. She forgot her fear of poverty. She forgot her feeling of always being taken advantage of. She forgot old resentments and anger. She even forgot her fear of death.
She suddenly seemed to enjoy life and people, even being almost fun and mischievous at times. The picture included in the article is of her with her cake on her 88th birthday (see it to the right). She is smiling and radiant, seemingly full of joy. This unhappy woman spent the last three years of her life finally enjoying the blessings she had been given -- and finally listening in a genuine way to the story of Christ her son had been trying to share with her all those years (though how much she understood and accepted can't be known).
This story really spoke to me. Lord, in your will, please spare me from the disease, but bless me with that kind of amnesia.