My mother married James in the summer of 1998. She had dated "Red" as we all affectionately call him for years before they finally decided to marry. Dating was a big deal for my mother. She did not want to do anything to mess up the relationship she had with my sister and me. She devoted all of her time and energy to the two of us before she ever thought about finding another man. Yet, Red came into our lives and immediately grabbed a part of each of our hearts.
Red taught agriculture at the local community college for just under 40 years before retiring. Ranching was once a passion, and it had become his profession when he and Mom married. He had hundreds of Black Angus cattle, a lot of Quarter horses, and thousands of acres of land. For years he taught livestock judging, and his team was always the best in the nation. Red could tell you every name of every member of every judging team he ever coached, along with the years in which they were on his team. He had a memory that seemed to be photographic. He never forgot a name. Details were always stacked in his head, one after another.
The last couple of years have not been easy for Red. Nearly two years ago he was kicked by a bull and suffered a broken hip. At the beginning of this year, he fell while crossing the street and broke his other hip. He had recovered and was doing well, but he has been forgetting things. He forgets to eat, forgets to go to the bathroom, and cannot remember every person's name, let alone the years they judged cattle with him.
Yesterday, Mom and Red got news that any family hates to hear. Red has an advanced stage of Alzheimer's. Nearly 1/3 of his brain cells are already gone, and the physician told Mom that she should be prepared for Red not to recognize her or other members of the family at Christmas.
Out of all of the diseases and illnesses known to man, I cannot think of anything any more cruel than Alzheimer's. I do not understand why anyone should have to suffer by watching their loved one's mind disappear. I do not understand why anyone should have to go through a time when the love of their life no longer recognizes them. I cannot fathom the pain of this disease, and I would give anything if it would just go away. Is there any kind of suffering that is any worse?
A part of me wants to be angry with God. Why would such a gifted, amazing, kind, good person be stricken with such a terrible thing? God, why would you allow this to happen? My mother's heart has been broken once, why would you break it again?
I do not know the answer to these questions. However, when I opened the pages of my Bible this morning, the words of Psalm 16 touched me again:
Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord, I have no good apart from you."
...Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices,
my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.
You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.