by Maria Showalter
When people talk about Alzheimer’s or dementia, it is often in the context of the person’s symptoms. Caring for my Dad with Alzheimer awakened a deeper Spiritual perspective. Initially I was the care “giver”. My focus had been on his physical needs and behaviors and I failed to recognize his Spirit. Then gradually, I was awakened to the true essence of my Dad and became the receiver.
Dad came to live with me after my Mom passed. In the beginning he fed himself, was mobile with assistance, and demonstrated minimal verbal communication. He enjoyed riding in a golf cart while waving and smiling to neighbors. We attended programs, parades, park concerts, and local activities. He never knew a stranger. He acknowledged people and especially children with a smile, wave, or handshake. It wasn’t until his disease progressed and his condition weakened that I became more conscious of his Spirit.
His true self was apparent simply in his smile, a handshake, or a look. Other times, it pierced through the mundane routines of the day and announced itself. While attending a middle school Veteran’s program, the guest speaker, an Air Force General, glanced at the filled gym. His attention was drawn to Dad. He inquired about his WWII service and then the program began. When finished, the General walked over to Dad and shook his hand. Without hesitation, Dad stood, saluted the General, and then he turned to the middle school students, raised his right hand, and in a voice that projected throughout the gym said, “We did it for you!” Spirit announced itself! Another time while he sat in his recliner, Dad unexpectedly said, “I want to tell you something.” Shocked, I knelt next to him. Holding up his large hands, fingers spread, he methodically pinched each finger and said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you…”. Tears rolled down my cheek. Spirit had gently spoken.
As he transitioned, his Spirit was unveiled in unexpected and beautiful loving moments that awakened me to his true essence. I am deeply grateful for this life-changing transformative gift.