08 June, 2004

Ronald Reagan died this weekend, and like millions around this world I have decided to put my thoughts about it on paper.

I don't remember him as President. I have never seen any of his movies... But his death still hits me. Many are calling him the beloved President - and are saying he will go down as one of the greats, and while that might be true that is not why his death stays with me. Ronald Reagan died last week after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s.

Eight years ago my grandmother died of the same disease and as I admit that most days pass without my thinking of her, this past weekend brought back her deterioration like a bad dream.

It’s hard to describe what it does to watch someone you love sooo dearly slowly wither away and die. My grandmother was a wonderful woman; she loved Christ and exuded Him at every chance. She was smart, loving, beautiful, vivacious – and treated everyone like a child of Christ. I was six when she got the disease and I remember the stages so well. It started slowly when she couldn’t remember the word in a sentence and it would make her cry – then got worse as she believed her home was being attacked, the CIA was watching our ranch and they were coming for us. I remember a time I had to watch her because everyone was going somewhere and she walked outside with an empty platter and offered cookies to a man who wasn’t there. When I tried to get her to come back inside she scolded me for being rude… But these memories are not my grandmother – but they are all I have after Alzheimer’s took everything else.

There is a struggle inside someone loving someone with Alzheimer’s. In some ways you want them whole, you want a knowing smile, the sound of your name – you want them back. It kills you inside to watch the one you love slowly die; and forget the name of even their husband. And part of you wishes for their death because the pain of the disease on them and yourself is too much… and when death does come it is a bittersweet moment because now you know they are whole and laughing, talking and doing all the things they forgot how. Of course you miss them, but it is a hunger that started long before their heart stopped beating.

How to explain the pain to someone who has never experienced it… My grandmother’s struggle was one of the hardest things of my life. And yet, the fear that my mother or oldest sister could inherit Alzheimer’s is almost scarier. How do you endure this pain twice?

Pray for Nancy Reagan tonight – celebrate her husband’s life, give thanks that he is in Heaven, his pain and confusion gone. Pray for strength for his wife to carry on and learn to live again, now more strong and selfless because of his great struggle.

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© Amanda Lunday