The two favorite women of my youth were both very, very special.
The first was my maternal grandmother. Her name was Irene, and she was my favorite relative of all times. I remember her always being happy when we were with her, and we were always happy as well! We would go for long walks along the beach and have long, interesting talks. She always listened to me, and I felt free to share anything with her. I knew I could trust her to keep my secrets. I could tell she loved me as much as I loved her.
One day my grandmother told me she had something she wanted me to know. I remember it clearly. I was twelve years old at the time. She was visiting at my parents’ house, and both my mother and her sister, my aunt, were also there. I had no idea what she wanted to say, but I could tell by her demeaner that it wasn’t good.
She began by telling me some things about my grandfather that I didn’t know. Because Belgium was taken over by the Nazis early on in WWII, Belgian men were required to fight for the Nazis. My Grandfather refused to support the Nazis in any way, and as a result, he had to live in hiding. If the story had stopped here, I would have been proud of my grandfather; but it didn’t. Apparently he spent most of his time during the war in the homes of two prostitutes. I was shocked! How could my grandfather hurt my precious grandmother that way? After that, I didn’t like my grandfather anymore. After all, he was still hardly ever home and the war had been over for nearly two decades. Did he still have prostitutes he turned to instead of my loving grandmother?
It was very had news to hear, but the fact that my grandmother shared this with me made me feel really special. Another of my precious memories was that every New Year’s Eve my “Marraine”, which is what we all called her, would give 500 Belgian Francs to each of her grandchildren. One year, my 500 francs disappeared. I didn’t want my Marraine to know; however, my mother told her. My Marraine then proceeded to save another 500 Francs, money she didn’t have, and she gave them to me. I was so touched! I didn’t want the money. Just to know how much she loved me was enough.
The second favorite woman in my childhood was my mother. She was more than a mom to me. She was my friend. In fact, we were bosom friends. She listened to me. She hurt when I hurt and cried when I cried, and she shared my joys, my dreams, my aspirations. In addition, she shared her innermost thoughts with me as well, and she always took especially good care of me. I had no doubt in my mind that my mom loved me.
When I learned later in life that my Marraine had Alzheimer’s, I didn’t know what to do. By this time I was living in Canada, I had a job and a family to support, and she passed away before I could see her that one last time. I wasn’t even able to go to the funeral.
It was only a few years later that I learned my mother was suffering from the same condition. I was a bit better off financially by this time, and we tried to travel to Belgium to visit her as often as we could. I was so happy to still have her, even though her dementia was such that she nursing home care. I remember visiting her in the home, taking her out in her wheelchair for ice cream at a local café, listening to her tell all the old memories of my childhood… I loved her so much!
As her dementia progressed, I knew in my heart that her time was near. There were no other family members who would visit her, and I didn’t want her to die alone. Everyone tole me it was impossible for me to be with her at exactly the right time, especially since it was the middle of a school year, and I couldn’t be gone from my classroom for an indefinite period of time. I asked my Heavenly Father to help me to be with my mother for her final journey, and He came through. He told us exactly when we needed to make that last trans-Atlantic flight, and my wife and I were at her side, early in the morning of Valentine’s day, 2017. I remember so clearly how peaceful she looked; but as she was breathing her last, I could see she was becoming confused. I whispered to her: “Go towards the light!” Peace once again reigned on her face, and then she was gone.
It is a sad story, but I am so comforted to know that the two favorite women of my childhood are both in Heaven. The problem is, now I have also been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Am I to suffer the same fate of these two special women?
I sought God for the answer to this question, and here is His very interesting response: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7–8 NIV).
Wait! What was God telling me?
I wasn’t sure at the time, but one message was loud and clear: Never give up hope!
I have been clinging to this message of hope ever since those fateful words exited the mouth of my gerontologist; and whatever it is that has you in its filthy clutches right now, I would also remind you: There is ALWAYS hope!
Join us next Friday to learn how God continues to give us hope in the midst of our worst nightmares.
(To access the entire “There is ALWAYS Hope” devotional series, please click here.)