with my Mother's Alzheimer's
By Martha Stringer
I'm afraid it's dying: a tall, white pine tree
which has graced the corner of my back yard
since before I moved here 11 years ago. I had
my suspicions in the spring, when its needles,
once lush and green, seemed pale in comparison
to its neighbors. Its boughs drooped, but not
from an abundant crop of pine cones like the
"It's hard to say what's causing it,"
the arborist told me. His advice was to fertilize,
watch and wait. "You might save it,"
he said. Or at least delay the onset of whatever
was causing its demise. Either way I'd have
it around longer than the alternative.
"I could cut it down," he offered.
But the roots will be a problem. The proximity
of the trees beside it means their roots are
probably intertwined. They've grown dependent
on each other over the years, sharing space
and soil on their excursion toward the sun.
So, I fertilized, waited and now watch helplessly
as more needles litter the ground beneath it
than cling to its thinning branches. Is it my
imagination? Or do the trees beside it now lean
slightly away. Not wanting to seem indifferent,
but knowing the end is imminent and inevitable,
they're moving forward. Continually growing,
they focus on their own life and limb as the
limbs between them gradually wither. I can't
imagine how my yard will be with out that tree.
I suppose I can replace it - but it won't be
I'm afraid she's dying: a lovely, caring, woman
who has graced my life for 42 of her 76 years.
I had my suspicions some insidious disease was
beginning its assault upon her when she came
to stay with me 8 years ago shortly after my
son was born. Mothers do that - help you get
back on your feet, show you the ropes, love
and support you in ways only a mother can.
But this time was different. Stove burners
were left burning. Her keys, purse, jacket were
always missing. Her eyes, usually shining bright
with joy, were clouded by bouts of fear and
"It's hard to say," the doctor told
us. Her advice was to medicate, watch and wait.
Alzheimer's disease is difficult to diagnose
and its degenerative course harder still to
chart, but medication could delay the onset
of certain symptoms. We know it won't save her.
But we pray it's better than the alternative.
So we medicate, wait and watch helplessly as
her mind slowly withers. At times one of us
-- my sister, my dad or I, lean slightly away.
Not out of indifference, but in despair, knowing
the end is imminent and inevitable. Yet our
love is so deep, our roots so intertwined. The
prospect of her coming demise is at times unbearable.
It's difficult to imagine life without my mother
-- the one who held my hand, who held me up,
who always encouraged me. The one who, by the
grace of God, gave me life. So now I must learn
to lean on that grace - on my heavenly Father.
I give Him my hand and He gives me hope of a
future together with Mom in Heaven. This is
what keeps me strong as she grows increasingly
weak. For it is in Heaven, under God's healing
hand, with His living water and everlasting
light, that our lives will flourish in a way
they never could on earth.
Death is a natural part of the cycle of life.
And when we received God's invitation to become
part of His family through a relationship with
Jesus Christ, we have the assurance and hope
of life together with God and our loved ones
for all eternity.
Martha Stringer is a freelance writer
living in Yardley, PA with her husband and three
children. In addition to editing and writing
a personal column for her church newsletter,
she works part-time for a non-profit, social
services agency. Contact her at MStringer1463@aol.com
Peace with God