In the early stages, even the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s did not alter my dad’s habit of praying three times daily. Without fail, Tuesday was still his set fast day. He loved church, and during every service he worshiped with his whole heart. Many times, I sat quietly on the stairs, listening as he prayed, “God, I’ve got memory trouble. But no matter what I forget, don’t ever let me forget You. Keep me in Your will every hour of the day.”
At age 56, he could no longer perform his job. He walked miles a day collecting bottles and cans for recycling to fill the hours. On the day he cashed them in, he told Mother, “You can have these spots (nickels and dimes), but these spots (quarters) are for the work of the Lord!” Each time he retrieved the old coffee can from its hiding place in the attic, the smile on his face was immeasurable, knowing he was able to give unto the Lord.
Eventually, the effects of Alzheimer’s disease accelerated, and his beloved walks were taken away. We watched as he picked up his Bible in frustration saying, “I don’t know the wording!” He had suddenly forgotten how to read! We purchased the Bible on CD, and with tear-filled eyes we watched him lean back in his recliner with the biggest grin you’ve ever seen. At times, you would see tears running down his cheeks as he listened to the precious words he lived for, whether he understood them or not. Alzheimer’s could not take away his love for God. He suffered for nearly fourteen years. He did not recognize any of his children; yet whenever his pastor entered the room, Dad smiled and reached for him. Daddy recognized him as the man of God. The Lord honored his prayers!
His body was emaciated; for two years the only thing he could move was his head. Standing at his bedside, I told him the angels were coming to take him home. He glanced at the ceiling. I said, “Daddy, are you trying to tell me they are already here?” Again, he looked at the ceiling. I desperately needed to know he understood, and I asked explicitly, “If they are here, Dad, show me where they are.” Immediately, he turned his head and neck several directions all over the room. He closed his eyes and slipped into a coma. Moments before he took his final breath, he opened his eyes. Suddenly, looking above my mother’s head, a man who had not moved a muscle in two years sat upright in the bed and reached his arms up toward the ceiling! The complete awe on his face and the wonder that came from his lips was undeniable! His face was illuminated at whatever it was he saw as he took his final breath and slipped away—not unto death, but unto life everlasting!
Alzheimer’s took away many things, but it could not remove his desire to give, the respect he had for his pastor, or his hunger for the Word. Daddy did not forget the Lord—nor did the Lord forget my Daddy! God is faithful to the very end.
Written by: JoAnn McIlvain. She attends Lighthouse Christian Center in Milford, Delaware, where she resides with her husband, Dennis. She enjoys teaching and writing and has published the book, Drops in My Bucket. She feels passionate about spreading the gospel and telling of the miracles God has performed in their lives. In her spare time, she loves scrapbooking and spending time with her family.