The web of Alzheimer’s disease is a thief of the worst sort. Much like a spider, it sucks out bit by bit a loved one’s mind and personality so that eventually only a barely functioning shell remains. The web reaches through the brain of the afflicted, tangling it with plaques so they can no longer think or communicate, and the person they once were disappears.
My father’s dementia was well along in its inevitable progression, so much so that he could no longer communicate and rarely opened his eyes. He lay in bed, unable to move, unable to eat unless he was fed very slowly, unable to talk or communicate. The strong, competent, intellectually curious man was either hidden deep inside or completely gone. Bit by bit, month after month, there was less and less of the man who was my father, or so it seemed.
My father was never a religious person; actually he usually scoffed at any outward show of religion or spirituality. But one time, at a particularly difficult time in his life, my neighbor told me that he’d asked her to say a prayer for him. Somewhere, I knew, my dad had some pull toward God and the Spirit…if only it was to ask someone else to intervene on his behalf.
At that time in my life, I was attending a conventional Christian church with traditional beliefs about what it took to be “saved”. Mark was a person at that church whose thoughtful and contemplative approach to life I admired. I asked him to come with me to see my dad so that I could gain some clarity as to his future care. Mark obliged by taking time off from work at Intel to meet me at the nursing home.
At my dad’s bedside, I introduced him to Mark. There was no response from dad — no blinking, no eye movement, nothing. Mark began to talk to him about the Spirit and about accepting Jesus into his heart. He told dad that he was going to ask him a question and if my dad wanted to reply he could do that, even if it was only in his mind or heart. He then asked dad if he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. My dad, though he couldn’t talk, actually tried to talk! He tried his best to respond. I believe that somehow in the tangled mess of his mind he heard and understood and tried his best to respond.
My dad died about half a year later, and my heart is at peace because I believe my father did, as best he could, accept Jesus/Spirit into his heart. Though I don’t believe it’s magic words that “get us into heaven”, I do believe a loving heart that reaches out is met with love and acceptance in return.