Tag Archives: dementia

What A Friend We Have

As my mother’s dementia progresses, one deep part of her remains: her love of hymns. She grew up in the Lutheran church and sang in choirs occasionally. She learned hymns as a child and continues to sing them today.

One hymn that we both love is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” I like to sing it with her when I visit,

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

The hymn was written around 1855 by Joseph Scriven, a Canadian. He wrote it as poem of comfort and hope to his ailing mother in Ireland. Joseph was a member of the Plymouth Brethren and was known for his compassion and care of the poor and forgotten in his community. He never intended his poem to become a hymn, yet it continues to bring great comfort to those who sing it.

When I sing the hymn, I am reminded of the promise of Hebrews 7:24-25,

Jesus holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

The book of Hebrews makes the case that Jesus is better than any ancient levitical priest who served in the Jerusalem temple, because Jesus’ sacrifice was pure and sinless.

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16).

The function of a priest is to give us access to the High and Holy God.  Jesus is our access to God, the one who hears our cries for help and mercy. We truly can take anything to him in prayer, even the love of our aging parents.

Lord Jesus, thank you for bearing all our cares and woes.

Mother’s Day

Sylvelin Keller with her brother Jerry

Tomorrow will be only the second time in the last thirty years that I will actually be with my mom on Mother’s Day.  Last July she moved back to Minnesota after living in Washington state for over fifty years.  Her dementia had progressed to the point where she could not live alone in her house in Bremerton.   She now lives in a memory care unit in Woodbury, near Resurrection Lutheran.

It is easy for me to focus on the losses her dementia present.  Every time I take her out of her apartment for even a few hours, she becomes anxious, wondering when she will go back to her house in Bremerton.  She will frequently comment that she is so confused, unable to remember the lunch she ate fifteen minutes ago. “I am a hopeless case.”

But joy still breaks through. She smiles whenever she sees a photography of her grandchildren, especially her newest (and only) great-grandchild. She proudly exclaims, “You know what his name is?  Troy VINCENT!”  (Vincent was the name of my father, who died in 1995.)   She also remembers that I am at a new church, Resurrection Lutheran, and that my son’s fiancé is named Maggie.   Deeper emotions seem to make for deeper, more lasting memories.

Her dementia has cause some moments of humor. I had to take her out to sign some papers a month ago.  At the lawyer’s office, she had to sign and date several documents.  Each time she dated the document, April 7, she turned to me and with a big smile said, “That’s your birthday, isn’t it?  Happy Birthday!”   She must have dated six document that morning and each time she wished me Happy Birthday, as if it were the first time. The lawyer got rather tired of it, but I beamed each time she said it.  I flashed back to all the special birthday cakes and parties she gave me as a child.

I don’t know how many birthdays or Mother’s Days I will share with my mom.  Each will be a gift from God.  May your Mother’s Day be filled with joy, hope and loving memories.

Hear, my child, your father’s instruction, and do not reject your mother’s teaching. Proverbs 1:8