Let me make clear where I am coming from in the beginning. I am a Christian. I am not married, nor have I ever been married. I am my mother’s primary caregiver. My mother has Alzheimer’s.
This week when told about a man whose wife had Alzheimer’s but the husband was seeing another woman, Pat Robertson stated, “I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care.” When asked by his co-host about marriage vows ‘for better or worse’ and ‘in sickness and in health’ Robertson added, “If you respect that vow, you say ’til death do us part. This is a kind of death.”
When I first heard this I checked Twitter and it was all a flutter and I thought someone must have misheard what was said. I then watched a clip of the segment and much to my disappointment Robertson had said it.
I still cannot believe that a man who has fought for the right of the unborn would so quickly give up on those at the other end of life. Christians value life. Christians value commitments.
Joni Eareckson Tada, who went to my high school, took piano lessons from my same teacher and attended Bible Study at my house, well understands those who have disabilities and the way the world treats them. It was no surprise when Joni and Friends made a statement including this: “Alzheimer’s disease is never an ‘accident’ in a marriage; it falls under the purview of God’s sovereignty. In the case of someone with Alzheimer’s, this means God’s unconditional and sacrificial love has an opportunity to be even more gloriously displayed in a life together!”
Alzheimer’s is a debilitating disease but my family has made the choice that we are going to care for our mother at home until we physically can no longer do so. She had dementia issues starting in 1994. We saw money issues and general forgetfulness. We started treatment with a Johns Hopkins’ doctor and she participated in several national Alzheimer’s studies. As time went on, we saw more and more issues but she was able to take care of herself with family members regularly checking in on her. In 2007, it was clear that she needed someone to live with her and I left my teaching position in South Carolina and moved back to Maryland to live with my mom. We have seen a steady decline though it has not been rapid. She loves life, her family, and people in general. She sings, doodles and tells stories. Having had hip surgery 9 years ago she uses a walker but is now more unsteady. She is more fearful and sometimes wakes up and doesn’t know who I am. Though things don’t always go as expected and there are struggles, we have made a commitment to care for her and we are honoring it.
You see, sometimes life doesn’t go as you expected.
Dad died when I was 16. Not what my family who dearly loved him wanted. Money was tight. There were definitely challenges and things were not always great. It was emotional, sometimes messy, and hard. Mom raised us and did not abandon us. She provided for us, teaching us right from wrong and to stand up for what we believe. She made sacrifices to see that each of us went to college.
My brother and his wife adopted a baby with special needs from Bethany Services. Those needs were not spelled out but when he was a few years old it became clear he was not developing as other children. After years of doctor visits and tests, they found out he is autistic. He is a valuable member of our family and we can’t imagine life without. He will need supervision the rest of his life.
Sometimes in life, it seems like we are thrown a curve ball. It doesn’t always go as we expected but the important thing is how we respond. My mom did not abandon us, she had made a commitment. My brother and his wife did not return their son. They had made a commitment. Marriage is a commitment and in the eyes of the Lord, a commitment for life.
ABC News with Diane Sawyer did a short segment about this issue. The last scene is very powerful. http://youtu.be/vsaqfP87Z58
What commitments have you made?