Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Father, Forgive Them

Anger isn't a constant state for my Alzheimer's mom; much, even most of the time she is pleasant and quiet. But during her restless times, most often in the late afternoons, she lashes out.

In her anger she feels I am not meeting her needs properly, and she becomes vindictive, trying to think of things she can do or say that will upset me. The anger itself becomes a separate entity that can't be reasoned with. It is no good to point out her pleasant surroundings and the large chart on her door that lists her schedule. It doesn't help to tell her that I'm in her room a minimum of eight times a day, seeing that her needs are met. In these moods she doesn't want explanations, she wants a target. She can't explain why she is so viciously angry, but she is very good at voicing the anger. 

I'm just heart weary.  She surprised me last night by mocking the way I laughed at some little joke my husband made about our silly but sweet yellow lab as we walked with Mom around the driveway, and for some reason this particularly hurt my feelings. I've sometimes felt self-conscious about the way I laugh.  Mom followed her scorn of my laughter with these words:  "My knee hurts, does that make you happy Linda? You like seeing me suffer don't you? Someday you will have to pay for this, the Lord is taking notes of this."

I replied, "Ohhh Mama, you'd better hope He isn't." 

But you know I've wondered about this. In someone who doesn't have Alzheimer's, Mom's behavior would be labeled "sin." Isn't she getting herself into deep trouble with the Lord?

When I brought this issue before the Lord, I instantly thought of Jesus' words regarding the people who tortured and killed him: "Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

Well...if ever there was someone who doesn't know what she is doing, I'm sure it would be a 91 year old woman who's had Alzheimer's disease for eleven years.  I felt so betrayed when Mom, angered because I hadn't answered her phone call requesting saltines to go with her coke, called 911 and reported elder abuse...but how much deeper was the suffering that the the betrayal by His own people inflicted upon Jesus.

And then I remembered another verse that says whatever we bind on earth is bound in Heaven (Matthew 18:18).

If I refuse to forgive Mom, I hurt not only myself, I hurt her by deepening her sin before the Lord.  If I refuse to pray, with our Savior, "Lord forgive her, she doesn't know what she is doing," then I make it more likely that Mom will remain bound by her own sin even as I allow the crippling effects of unforgiveness to take root in my own life.

"But Lord," I prayed, "She has broken my heart."

In response this thought came: "No, she has not. Your heart is safe in My hands."

Unforgiveness binds us to the ones who hurt us; in a way, it puts us at their mercy. The Bible instructs us to respond to bad treatment with love, and to pray for the ones who persecute us.

These are not happy lessons to learn at the hands of the woman who once adored me and would have been willing to give her own life for mine. The sense of betrayal runs deep. But I'm praying for grace to forgive my mother even as God has forgiven me for my many sins, and to release her from accountability for the wrongs she's dealt me.  If you've also been treated unjustly, perhaps you'd like to pray with me:

Father, we release our loved ones from accountability for the sins they've committed against us. We know You love us and take action against those who hurt us, and so we release them from our blame and any divine rule that would require Your vindication on our behalf. We lift these, our beloved enemies, to You, and we pray: Father, forgive them, they don't understand what they are doing. In Jesus' name, amen.

Comforting Scripture for Caregivers:  

But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” 
 Isaiah 49:4

...God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:26


  1. Linda this is the first time that I have left a comment on your blog, I read other blogs but do not leave comments but I have to let you know that I did pray with you as it touched my heart. My husband 62 has dementia and at times can hurt me with his anger and terrible words like he says I did this to him, are you happy now that my licence is suspended you called the drs to take my licence away. Its always my fault this is just a terrible disease and I pray God give all caregivers strength. I will keep praying. Thanks Linda

    1. Oh, Rina, I am praying for you now. May the Lord strengthen and protect your heart and provide you the support you need!

  2. I can't imagine how this must tear at your heart! My mother hasn't gotten to that place but with her personality, it is a strong possibity. Your book - "My Mom Has Alzheimer's" has been a God-send for me! It is comforting to know that others have similar feelings and circumstances. God bless.

    1. Melanie, I am so blessed that the comfort and help the Lord has provided Mom and me have helped you and your mom as well. I pray right now that you can see the Lord's helping hand in ever phase of your caregiving journey, and that you only grow stronger along the way.

  3. Regarding the story I told above about Mom's anger toward me for laughing while we were walking… I do understand that when she was uncomfortable not only with her knee but with exertion, to laugh for any reason was probably insensitive. This sparked the anger she was already feeling (though John had included Mom in his comment, speaking directly to her, and so I believe it was clear to her that I was laughing at his joke about the dog and not at her). Chalk this up as a caregiving error.

  4. Your posts always remind me of a story, which I will not share. Be grateful. =D

    You know what? I never knew that Isaiah 49:4 existed and how often have I felt that way. Just goes to prove that all the answers lie in Him.

    1. Vee, I'm praying for you regarding the emotional fallout from the story you aren't sharing! Many times when I come out of my mom's room I say jokingly, "After this is over, I'm going to need therapy." And I may--nothing wrong with a good Christian counselor, because as you said, all answers lie in Him.

  5. Dementia also changed my mother from a kind and loving person to a mean and nasty one. Many, many times on my way home from being with her, I had to stop driving so I could cry. She was so nasty. It has taken at over a year, from her death, before I could remember Mom as Mom, not evil-dementia-Mom.

    1. Mariarose, a few years ago I read a quote that I'll paraphrase here: "After the last vestiges of the Alzheimer's disease have faded away, there will remain the good memories of the person as she was." This gives me hope, because while I am in the throes of this Alzheimer's battle, I can't now remember my mother as she once was. Your words give me hope that I'll one day be able to remember Mom as Mom....