Dementia is a hideous condition to witness. Those who suffer most are the ones who must watch the dismantling of their loved one, memory by memory. The person they knew crumbles before their eyes and is replaced by a shadow, confused and helpless.
Grandma June was dying of cancer, it had spread to her brain and was wreaking havoc. Grandpa could not take care of her and she was moved to a nursing home where she would stay for the next year of her life. I would often travel with my mother to Pleasantville, Iowa to visit and help care for her. Mom made the long trip once or twice a week for months. An example of love and self-sacrifice in itself.
For his own purposes God decided this strong woman I have been describing to you this past month, must spend her last days as a deteriorated human, unable to care for herself or think properly. I remember my mom’s tears overflowing as she frequently wondered out loud why her mother, who had had such a difficult life (I have only told you portions) now had to also have a lengthy, difficult and undignified death.
But was it undignified? We must always remember that our lives are not our own. The reason for life being placed in bones and flesh is not for the benefit of the bones and flesh. What a pointless waste of a soul that would be! We live to display the everlasting glory of God, our lives should point to God. “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:7.
In the last year of Grandma June’s life she displayed a beauty that I will never forget: the Word of God remained in her. It was an amazing thing. She couldn’t brush her own hair or remember the faces of her family, but she remembered God’s Word.
During church services held at the nursing home, the pastor would mention a scripture reference and Grandma June would recite it out loud, word for word. The pastor would ask a question about the Bible and Grandma June would respond. I remember one pastor saying with a smile, “June always knows it!” God’s Word had not left her heart and it still came out when nothing else would.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah 40:8. Grandma June was a human example of this verse. The dust that was her body was failing, the Word of God which is eternal stayed, a magnificent gift from God.
Was the end of Grandma June’s life undignified? Certainly difficult, yes, but not undignified in the way that matters. To be used as a conduit of God’s living Word is a blessing; truly a treasure in a very broken jar of clay (2 Cor. 4:7). He did not have to allow it, but he did. Grandma June provided evidence that she had spent her life well. She had spent it pursuing her Savior and treasuring his word in her heart.
What will be the evidence of a life well lived when your final days come? Will you be surrounded by worldly treasures and trophies, with the accolades of others ringing in your ears? Or will others around you be able to observe that you have spent time with God? The choice is made every day and every minute. Live for God… or live for dust. Which are you doing at this very moment?
Grandma June lived for God and all the trials she faced are long gone now. She would be among those who heartily agree with 2 Corinthians 4:16-17:
Grandma June’s life displayed God’s glory, not in a way that she (or any of us) would have chosen, but in the way that God chose for her, therefore the best way possible. She is now reveling in that sweet glory for all eternity. She lived her life on earth for the life to come, not for the life that was. It is evident in the words she would write in the Bibles she gave to others: “Read this, obey it and meet me in Heaven. We’ll sit under the tree of life a thousand years and eat the fruits and drink of the living waters flowing from the throne of God.”
I look forward to singing beside Grandma in Heaven someday soon. I can’t help but wonder if God gave her a perfectly tuned voice to sing his praises when she got there… or if it had been perfect all along.