My Dad has Alzheimer’s. I am grateful to God that at the ripe old age of 85 he is still here and able to interact with us, but the disease is starting to live up to its ugly reputation as it mercilessly takes away his faculties.
Dad still recognizes me and knows my name for the most part (he sometimes mistakes me for his twin brother, James). He can still pray. He can still quote John 3:16 when you ask him about his favorite Bible verse:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Dad can still tell a joke every now and then. He’s even thoughtful enough to stop and show compassion to other residents at his facility, as he feebly shuffles his feet down the corridor searching for his room number (scribbled on the palm of his hand).
But sometimes, like yesterday, Dad randomly slips into a state of agitation and begins saying the unthinkable. I won’t quote him here, but suffice it to say that what comes out of his mouth makes him unrecognizable to me because it is so drastically different from the gracious man I have always known.
I try not to take it personally. I refuse to dwell on what Dad says in those moments because I know it’s just the disease talking. It’s the bizarre and cruel effect of Alzheimer’s on the chemistry and circuitry of his brain. No matter what he says or how he acts out, to me he will always be the most humble man I’ve ever known, with a heart as big as Texas.
As he comes down the final stretch of his life, Dad is still doing the best he can. If you ask him for some advice, he will probably offer one of his favorite expressions of encouragement, as clear as a bell. He will look you in the eye and say,
Keep on keeping on.
And what he means by that is that no matter what you might be up against right now, with God’s help, you can lean into it and overcome. No matter how hard it is, in Jesus, you have everything you need to keep fighting the good fight and to keep running the race until you break the tape.
That’s good advice. With God’s help, that’s what I intend to do. By faith, I will keep on keeping on.
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.