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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

God’s Presence Through the Dark Valley of Alzheimer Caregiving

This past Friday morning I almost lost my husband. Emergency medical care saved Mike’s life after he went into anaphylactic shock following multiple hornet stings.

On a Tuesday morning nearly three years ago, my dear friend Cynthia did lose her husband, Bob, four years after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  Does this mean that God was present when Mike was pulled back from the brink but absent when Bob passed into eternity?

I’ve asked Cynthia to share in her own words how she experienced the light of God’s presence through the dark valley of Alzheimer caregiving.

Rev. Dr. Cynthia Fantasia

“ God’s light for each day comes from His Word and His Presence. But there are lots of tears in the dark. Sometimes, as a child, I would cry myself to sleep in the dark because I was afraid. Now, as an adult, I would run to the bathroom, turn on the faucet, and let the tears flow—because I was afraid. As a child, I felt so alone. My husband had been a great comforter, but with his Alzheimer’s Disease affecting him increasingly more, I felt so alone.

I love the words to the song “Weep With Me” by Rend Collective:

Weep with me Lord, will You weep with me? I don’t need answers, all I need Is to know that You care for me

I learned that God often sends people (friends, caregivers) to speak words of hope and comfort. Liz was a neighbor and friend. Our kids had been school friends, and her husband had died from Alzheimer’s disease five years earlier. She was my go-to person when I had questions about Bob.

It seemed that Liz would show up at my door just when I needed her. “Am I going to make it?” I would ask her.

She would respond, “Yup, but it’ll be hard. You’ll be different at the end of your journey. But you will make it.”

When I thought I had blown it, Liz would encourage me by saying, “What you are feeling is normal. I used to feel the same way. Bob looks great, and he seems so happy. You’re doing a great job making him feel secure and safe.” Her words were like a balm to my weary soul and oxygen to my lungs. I could be real with Liz. She was truly a light on my path.

Glimmers of Hope

Sometimes it was just a peaceful moment, a cardinal sitting on our deck, a beautiful sunset, or a card from a friend that would give me a glimmer of hope. In my other life, before Alzheimer’s, I wouldn’t have given these things much thought. But now, they became reminders of God’s kindness and love.

How do we as caregivers train our eyes to see God in these little incidents—especially when so much of our energy is going to noticing and addressing the tough stuff happening in our loved one’s life? If you are not a caregiver but know someone who is, here are two things not to do: [1] stop by unannounced and stay too long, and [2] expect long conversations on the phone.

One thing you can do: Don’t underestimate the gift you can give by simply sending a card.

One bright winter morning, when the snow drifts were high, Bob looked out our family window and announced, “Look, there are some beautiful red flowers growing out of the snow!”

Oh boy, I thought as I went to join him at the window. Things are getting bad. Sure enough, however, several red tulips were poking through the snowdrift. It turned out that our friend Judy had driven by late the night before and planted the lovely silk tulips. They truly brightened our day. Simple, short, and life-giving.

God Was Near

I realized that I had a choice. How did I want to walk through this season? It was still early in this journey, and yet it was so dark. Slowly I came to realize that the darkness could be a holy dark because I was not alone. God was near.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” He will cover you with His feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 91:1, 2, 4

I chose to take God at His word. I was in a safe place, hiding under His wings, protected by His grace, and guided by His Word, His presence, and His people. I would trust God for the future (although I still had no idea what that was going to look like) and focus on the task before me, loving and caring for my husband one day—sometimes one hour—at a time. I would move forward until the night became dawn.”

Taken from In the Lingering Light: Courage and Hope for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver by Cynthia Fantasia. Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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1 Comment

Unknown member
Jul 26, 2019

Cynthia, this is beautiful. Thanks for writing about your journey. My dad died 2 1/2 years ago from Alzheimer’s after a ten journey with the disease. We were blessed in many ways – he had had a long faithful fulfilling life, and my mom was able to be his primary caregiver with help from the family. It was a gift to be able to care for him even at the same time it was so hard to watch this man that you had known and loved your whole life disappearing before he died. Our faith and his faith were real sustainers to us.

I’m sure this book will be a blessing to many!

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