Dementia is ugly. That’s what my Gramma says and she should know. She forgets her words and sometimes doesn’t know where she is. She still usually remembers who we are but knows that’s not how it’s always going to be. If I were in her shoes I would be scared and angry, but she wants to use this trial to point people to the Lord.
Every summer my grandparents go to the county fair. This year she didn’t want to. She knew people would talk to her and she wouldn’t know who they were and she wouldn’t be able to hold a conversation with them. It would be frustrating and embarrassing. But when the fair came, she went to my grandpa and said she changed her mind and wanted to go. She told me that when they were there people would come up to her and say, “Hi Sheryl, how have you been?” And instead of being embarrassed and trying to fake it, she would say, “I’m sorry, I don’t know who you are, I have dementia.” And when they would say how sorry they are and how awful it must be, she’d just say, “I’m not sorry. God is still good.”
It made me think of how I respond to trials. Do I respond by saying “God is still good.” Dementia is arguably one of the hardest trials there is, to forget everyone you love as they watch you get progressively worse, and she is able to say, “I want to use this to point others to the Lord.” Oftentimes when I face affliction, I pray for the Lord to get me through it, to end it, but rather I should pray that he would use it entirely for His glory, no matter what the cost to me. Not only might He open doors for me to point others to him, but praying, “not my will but Yours” would most certainly change my heart.
One of my favorite songs right now says, “I know You're able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand, but even if You don't my hope is You alone. I know the sorrow and I know the hurt would all go away if You'd just say the word but even if You don't, my hope is You alone (Mercy Me, Even If).” This song is based on what Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:17.
My gramma knows God could heal her from her dementia if he wanted, but even if he doesn’t she’s going to trust him. Is it wrong to pray for healing? No. Is it wrong to ask God to save us from the fire? No. But ultimately our desire should be God’s will and our prayers should reflect that. God used my Gramma her whole life to serve others and to minister to others. Now it seems like He’s taken much of that away. She can’t make meals for people in the church like she used to because she can’t follow a recipe anymore. She can’t help Grandpa with their ministry in Haiti- she made mistakes addressing envelopes for the newsletter. She laughed and told me she was fired from helping. She can’t lead a Bible Study because sometimes she has a hard time reading and it’s hard for her to remember her words when she talks to others. Her whole life she has wanted the Lord to use her to minister to others, and he has. But what if her greatest ministry throughout her whole life will be through her dementia? What if her greatest impact on the Kingdom of God is yet to come? If we knew that, would we be praying for God to take this away from her? Of course not. We don’t know how God will use this, but we can pray that His will would be done and that He would be glorified.
Last time I saw my gramma, I asked her if she was scared. During the rest of our conversation she had been stumbling over her words and losing her train of thought, but when I asked that question, she didn’t hesitate to say, “Not so long ago I would have said yes, I was scared, but I’m not anymore. You know, it’s God. It’s what God wants. I don’t want what God doesn’t want. I want what God wants.”