By Tommy Rush
I remember the final years of my father’s life. Although only in his late 70’s, his dementia had a major effect on him. His short-term memory left him hanging on memories from his childhood. Dementia and Alzheimers like other diseases are tough for any family to experience. Nancy Reagan referred to Alzheimers as the “long goodbye.” She watched her husband, President Reagan go through ten long years of suffering with the disease.
My Dad experienced dementia for the final six years of his life. Those years were some very painful and difficult ones for my family as we watched him slowly lose his memory. Eventually he had regressed backward to the point that he required constant help to complete even the simplest of tasks. My heart goes out to families who are walking through this tough valley.
I still remember the night we sat together watching his favorite baseball team, the Atlanta Braves. They were playing the team he always referred to as “those Dad-gum Dodgers.” He was quiet and still and he looked over at me after several innings and asked, “What are those people doing?” It broke my heart to hear that question, because it confirmed to me that his memory had almost completely left him. In a matter of a few short months he had regressed to the point that he did not know me or any of the other family members by name. Someone said, “It’s like losing your loved one twice when you lose them to Alzheimers or Dementia.”
Seeing Atlanta in the World Series again has triggered many good memories for me. I have many fond memories of my dad watching the Braves play baseball. One of my favorite memories is the trip we took to Atlanta to see the Braves and Giants play on his 70th Birthday. It was his first and only time to see a major league game in person. He loved the trip to the game, but could never get over the price of the hot dogs at the stadium or the traffic in Atlanta. After our trip to the game, he preferred to just watch the games from home and eat “Mama’s Hot Dogs.” The trip was one that I’ll never forget or at least I hope to never forget!
This past Wednesday Night, in our children’s ministry the children were learning a new song titled, “The Story of Scripture.” The leaders told me the song was a great way to teach the kids the entire storyline of the Bible using music. It is really amazing to see children learning and memorizing God’s Word through singing.
Again I thought about my dad’s ability to sing the old hymns and songs of our faith that he had been singing all his life, even when he could not remember anything else. He never forgot the songs! Research has demonstrated that music is so deeply meaningful in our childhood that memories tied to music live on even in advanced Alzheimer’s patients. I was encouraged Wednesday Night thinking about the children memorizing God’s Word through music. Then I watched Game 2 of the World Series. Even though the Braves lost, I was grateful for my good memories!