Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be a difficult and painful journey. In His brand new book, Twilight Meditations, Dr. Jeff Bjorck chronicles his mother’s journey down the path of Alzheimer’s disease. Her story is one of hope even in the midst of losing her memory. The pages of this book are filled with Irene Bjorck’s artwork and quotes that will bring comfort and encouragement to those who are losing their loved ones to Alzheimer’s. Even in the midst of suffering, God’s peace can prevail. This book is an excellent resource for caregivers and family members of those with Alzheimer’s. Purchase Twilight Meditations here!
Over the years, I have known many people who have found themselves caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s. I would often encourage such individuals by noting, “Some people go to Heaven in an instant, but some people go to Heaven a little at a time, and we are privileged to ‘keep house’ for them as they leave more and more ‘room’ empty.” Then in 2010, my mother began to vacate her first “room.” She fell face-down in the garage of her condominium complex. She had been carrying groceries and tripped over one of the concrete “logs” used as tire stops in each parking space. Admittedly, the groceries blocked her view, but the fact that she forgot to look for the tire stops in the place she had lived for seven years raised my first serious concerns regarding her memory. As a psychologist, I had access to neuropsychological screening measures. I administered one that sadly confirmed my fears. She was starting to experience clinically significant mild cognitive impairment. Now it was my turn to take my own “housekeeping” words to heart.
Thus began our journey together facing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and I started my grieving process that I knew would likely extend into the coming seven to ten years or more (a typical disease progression). In the midst of my grief, however, I was struck that my mother’s lifelong, unconquerable gratitude to God and her trust in Him were evident now more than ever. Buoyed by this encouraging fact, I did my best to cherish each moment we had together and to celebrate the abilities that she still retained. As I did so, my mother would occasionally surprise me with quotes about God, which continued to serve as assurance that God’s love for her remained constant.
As Alzheimer’s disease slowly but steadily usurped more of my mother’s mind, her persistent faith prompted the idea for this book, especially as she continued offering her comments on God in the midst of her increasing confusion. I found myself thanking God for each of her quotes, which seemed to provide glimpses through the fog to the bright and peaceful place where my Mom was still very much at home with her Heavenly Father.
Of course, I also know how blessed I am that my mother has retained her cheerfulness and gratitude. In our broken world, where all creation groans (Romans 8:22), it could have been equally possible that she would have become increasingly aggressive and irritable. This merely depended upon which portions of her brain experienced deterioration first. However, even if she had become angry and combative, I firmly believe that her Heavenly Father’s care and love for her would be just as constant, with her bodily decline simply being one of the ways in which creation groans (2 Corinthians 5:4). Indeed, many do have parents or spouses whose Alzheimer’s disease draws them down into dismal places. Moreover, I would sympathize if the caregivers of these suffering ones are tempted to wonder whether this dark descent signals God’s abandonment. It is my hope that – in the coming pages – my mother’s story and quotes might encourage especially those who wrestle with such doubts about God’s love for an afflicted loved one. My prayer is that God might give you the faith you need to know that, even if your family member seems dragged into the deepest depths, God is still there (Psalm 139:8), and His love truly never fails (Psalm 136).
Peace of Christ to you and to your loved ones,
Jeff Bjorck, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist with a small private practice. Since 1990, he has served as a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary’s Graduate School of Psychology, where he teaches and also conducts research on faith as a coping and support resource. With most of his previous writing published in scientific journals, Twilight Meditations: One Woman’s Thoughts of God as Alzheimer’s Advances, is his first venture into the popular realm. Since 1997, Bjorck has also recorded six solo piano CDs with a worldwide online audience via Pandora, iTunes, Spotify and other digital outlets. Born to two artists, Bjorck’s multifaceted vocations typify his ongoing passion for a Renaissance man’s approach to life. When not working or enjoying time with his wife, Sharon, Jeff occasionally likes scaring their two cats with his clarinet renditions of ’30s and ’40s big band tunes. He also loves to seek creative inspiration for new music by hang gliding high above the mountains of Southern California.