Guest Post #4
A few years later, they moved to Texas to care for Sandra's ailing mom. I was so sad to see them go. I didn't realize until later all the stress and strain Sandra had endured while her mom suffered through Alzheimer's. It truly takes a toll on the caregivers.
When our 4 year son passed away in 1996, Sandra and Quinby made the long drive back to Iowa so that Quinby could speak at his funeral. To say they are dear to our hearts is an understatement.
Sandra is a lady you will never forget once you have met her. God often speaks to her about people that she meets so that she can minister to them. She is not afraid of anyone or anything because she knows that she serves a great big God. She will hold your hand when you need to cry, and laugh this wonderful, melodious laugh with you when you are happy.
And so, I'd like you to meet...Sandra.
Hi, my name is Sandra. I am an older woman now, but I have lived a full, delightful, and mostly fun-filled life. I have loved being a daughter, a wife, mother, grandmother, and a Great-Gran. I delighted in being called into the ministry of Teen Challenge where I became the Women's Program Director. Prior to this, we lived in Kauai, Hawaii, a most beautiful island.
As a child, I had the privilege of seeing Shirley Temple in movies at our theater. Her
movies changed a generation of little girls to have higher expectations of the way we dressed, talked, and behaved. My Mother could sew beautifully and could even make her own patterns, so I had the privilege of wearing the cutest dresses that seemed remarkably like Shirley Temple's dresses. Even my hair was often fixed like hers.
My Mother was unable to have more children, so she poured a great deal of her life into me. She made life fun for me, even when I might pick up some undercurrents in her life that were difficult. She was an amazing teacher, disciplinarian, and gave me a balanced, disciplined life. It must have broken her heart to hear me try to be my Dad's boy and curse just like him...but he was also an amazing man who provided well for us and loved to read and learn.
I so enjoyed being a teen in the 1950's. My Mother liked Elvis as much as the rest of my friends. American Bandstand was on TV each afternoon after school and she enjoyed all the music and dancing as well as I did. She was an encouraging Mother, a good cook, and so fun to be with.
After I married and began having children, what a wonderful Grandmother she became and was called Nana. Her food, her fun, and playful nature made her a delight for my children. As my children became teenagers things were still somewhat normal, but as they were going into college, we began noticing some strange behavior. We did not live nearby but, in fact, were in Hawaii when significant changes began happening.
As our children began to marry and have their children, my parents would visit them once in awhile. My Dad came to me with much anguish during one of those visits and for the first time voiced the need for help.
My husband and I were working in the Teen Challenge of the Midlands in Colfax, Iowa when it became obvious that my Dad was having a most difficult time with my Mother. Her behavior, and inability to perform normal, small tasks were overwhelming. So, after many tears and crying out to God....we laid down the ministry of loving on folks who had life controlling problems to descending into one of the most challenging, frustrating, heart breaking times of our lives... laying down of our lives so that my parents might survive.
Our lives were about to change as we began to deal with problems we had never faced in our entire lives. The friends of my parents did not understand what was happening to my Mother....some were compassionate, but some acquaintances began to blame my husband and me for the changes they saw in my Mother. They had no idea what Alzheimer's was and the devastation that the disease can bring.
Most people began to question us as if we were her problem, because she was so sweet and welcoming to all that came into the house...not realizing that she would become fearful of them and become so overwhelmed that she would say or do some bizarre things. We endured unbelievable words and behavior from her acquaintances. My Dad tried to help her and tried to let others know that we were helping them. Even one of her hairdressers told her that if all she says was true then I was not a good daughter and I could not possibly love her. My Mother believed her and I was treated like an enemy!
In the midst of all this, my husband was serving as an Assistant Pastor and we had the privilege of teaching about Marriage and Family. There was much love from so many and we were so refreshed when we were with them. They did not know what was happening in our daily routine of life. I certainly did not know how to share about my Mother without dishonoring her. The bottom line was I so wanted to run away to escape my pain! JUST IMAGINE, WANTING TO RUN AWAY FROM HOME AT AGE 50!
As the years went by, the thing that stands out the most for me, was how good a grandmother my Mother was. She so loved and enjoyed my children. However, my Mother and all who have loved her began to experience changes in their relationships with her. We now realize she was experiencing a slow, progressive brain dysfunction.
It was one of the most difficult times of my life and for all those who loved her. Much damage occurred in things that she thought and said to others about family and about situations that never really happened.
Our family is very thankful to our doctor who began an Alzheimer's Support Group for all of us who were trying to help our loved ones in this difficult time of their life. What a journey we have been on! Despair, sorrow, confusion, and then coping skills began to emerge. Prior to this, I had to battle thoughts of wanting to kill us all and seriously wanting to end my life. I thought I had been such a strong Christian woman! Support groups can be amazing as we honestly share with one another. Those who first attend will often appear to have been in an overwhelmed state of mind. To find others who are going through this same dilemma of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's, can bring such great relief.
I began meeting with God late at night and cried many tears for my poor, sweet Mother, for myself as her only child, for my grown children and my grandchildren. The Holy Spirit began showing Himself as My Comforter. Jesus became real to me as my Prince of Peace. I was reminded that our tears are important to Him and He puts them in His bottle! (Psalm 56:8)
Two songs at that particular time were so dear to me, encouraged me, and strengthened me. Andre Crouch had written one of them and I just know it as "Through it all, I have learned to trust in Jesus, I have learned to trust in God ." The other song comes from the Scripture in Deuteronomy 31:6...the words that so ministered to me were, "So be strong and take courage, and do not fear nor be dismayed, for the One who lives within you will be strong in you today!" And the music was amazing. These two songs helped to give me the strength I needed to carry on with loving my Mother and sharing encouraging words with her to the very end.
Alzheimer's Disease affects thinking and social abilities which can become severe enough to eventually interfere with daily functioning. It is the most common cause of dementia and can have a duration of from eight to twenty-five years. To my delight, I have heard a few testimonies of how God has been healing those with this disease.....now that is exciting!!
My Dad did a most wonderful thing for me. He was in his 80's when he looked at me with piercing eyes blazing and said, Sandra, "You will never have Alzheimer's!" It was as if he pronounced a blessing upon me! Thank you, Daddy!!
After my mother's passing, we moved to Chattanooga, TN to work once again with a ministry so special to us - Teen Challenge of the Mid South. As my father's health began to fail, he moved from Texas into our home. We had the honor of caring for him until his passing.
If you are struggling today under the load of either caring for someone with Alzheimer's, or with being the primary caregiver for a loved one, I want you to know that God wants to carry your sorrow and comfort you. Ask Him to assist you and allow Him to do so.
The Alzheimer's Association has information to offer anyone needing up-too-date advice, materials, and information on finding a support group. Please take advantage of the help that is available.
You can see why we love Sandra so much! She is the most "real" person that I've ever met and will walk through fire for those she loves. She and Quinby now live in Iowa and are on staff with our church. They are loved by everyone in our congregation. We are so blessed to have them in our lives once again!
I've asked each lady for their favorite beauty product. Sandra's is Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum. She likes to apply this before putting on her make- up. Sandra has a beautiful complexion, so this is going on my list!