“Claire” usually wears a bright blonde wig placed obviously over her own still-dark hair. Sometimes she has her teeth in, but not usually. Either way you are guaranteed to be greeted with a huge smile beneath squinty, cheerful eyes. When she says “hi” her voice goes up, up, up and back down all in one syllable—like a roller coaster peak, or maybe a steep sine wave, but I never took calculus so I don’t know for sure. I do know that no packet of Sweet ‘n Low is safe when Claire’s around though. Yes, Claire is quite a character. I often wonder what she was like before Alzheimer’s.
Wednesday night is prayer meeting night at our church. The little group that gathers for dinner at six o’clock is joined by a few more when the service officially starts at seven. Before the Bible study part of the hour we divide into small groups and all pray aloud for a few minutes. One by one the groups all go silent as they finish praying for one another and the church. Eventually the whole room falls silent in prayer until our pastor concludes it with a brief word and an “amen.”
I hope I never forget last Wednesday’s little gathering. As each group of two or three sat in prayerful silence, all of us could hear one person in one group still praying out loud. Seated as she always is with her husband, it was Claire’s turn to pray. By default we all sat eavesdropping on this one small voice. There in the silence of a room full of people Claire prayed as though only Jesus could hear her. Said with a slow and careful reverence, we all heard the same childlike words of faith God was hearing,
Dear Jesus, Thank you for being my Savior. You are my Savior and I love you. Thank you for my husband and our church and our pastor. I love you Jesus. You are my Savior.
If ever I sat in a holy moment, it was that one. Claire’s once agile mind, now racked with all the altering cruelties the disease could press upon it, could not be diminished in expressing the deepest loyalties of her heart. The atheist Richard Dawkins himself would have been converted if he heard her tender sincerity.
Alzheimer’s is not the only illness inside Claire. While it is attacking her mind another is attacking her body. How much longer she has is known only by her Savior. Even so, the very thing that has made Christianity unique everywhere it has been proclaimed is no less true for Claire: Resurrection. The “living hope” as Peter calls it; just as the Lord Jesus Christ defeated the damning effects of sin and triumphed over the hopeless grave, so now we who hope in Him need no longer despair that which comes to us all.
Someday, because of Jesus Christ, Claire will have vitality in mind and body like she’s never had on earth. A glorified, sinless vitality. Eternal life. And when that day comes she will look at her Lord and say with perfect clarity, “Dear Jesus, Thank you for being my Savior. You are my Savior and I love you.”