Betty and I have been interacting with different people who are dealing with a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Almost all of us have some knowledge or experience with this devastating disease.
Over time it steals everything we can see, know and love about the person. They no longer appear to be the same person we have known for so long and it’s hard to adjust to the ‘new’ person they have become.
I have been thinking a lot about this because it can affect those closest to us and even our selves.
My reflection has been, “what does Alzheimer’s mean to a Christian?” As Christians, how do we think about our loved ones who are experiencing this drastic change in their personalities?
For me, it comes back to the basics of who we are. We are made up of flesh, our soul (mind, emotions, conscious, unconscious, etc.) and our spirit. Our flesh and soul are the parts of our earthly being. When we die, they are the parts of us that will decay and cease to exist.
Our spirit is the eternal part of our being. When we die, our spirit will live on – either with God or separated from him – for all eternity. What makes the difference is what we do with what Jesus did for us on the cross when he died to pay the price for our sins. If we believe and accept what he did on our behalf, our spirit will live with God. If we reject what Jesus did, our spirit will live in a state the Bible calls hell – eternal separation from God.
So, what does that have to do with Alzheimer’s? When a person accepts Jesus’ sacrifice, the Bible says their spirit becomes a new creation. That newly created spirit belongs to God and is no longer affected by what happens to the remaining parts of the person.
As a person loses their identity and personality to Alzheimer’s, and ultimately dies from it, their spirit is not affected by the disease. It remains clean, pure and whole.
I believe as we mourn the loss of the outer person with Alzheimer’s we can be comforted that their spirit is unchanged and that matters a great deal.
It’s still not an easy situation to deal with, but maybe it can help to know this.