He sits in a chair facing the east window. Eyes closed, head slumped, his left hand clasps a large-print edition of Our Daily Bread.
“Hi, Dad.” I swallow hard and smile. “How are you?”
He stirs, coming to attention and straightening, as if caught causing mischief. He nods his welcome.
I sit on the edge of his bed, unsure of what to say.
He thumbs through the booklet, like he’s looking for something, but can’t quite find it. Forward, one page at a time. Then backwards. Over, and over again.
My mind flits back thirty years. My dad and I are part of a team conducting a survey regarding people’s Bible-reading habits. I watch as he raps on a door and steps back. We hear shuffling feet and an elderly woman peeks out a small opening. I smile and start off the conversation the way my dad has modeled for me several times. The door opens wider. Her eyes twinkle as she answers questions. Conversation flows, well beyond the scope of the survey. She invites us in for tea, but we decline, explaining we need to carry on. Her smile droops, but she nods with understanding and wishes us well. She closes the door and the lock clicks back in place.
“I hope people will come visit me when I’m old,” Dad says.
I sit on my dad’s bed in extended care. “I’m here, Dad.” Tears well up in my eyes. Will he remember that I came? Will he know I still love him? Will his muddled mind allow his heart to understand?
I ponder some of the truths my father taught me. “Honor your father and mother,” Ephesians 6:2. Instead of following the trends of our throw-away society, we need to honour our aging parents.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you,” Isaiah 46:4. God is always with those who follow Him.
At times I am tempted to be angry. My father served God faithfully all of his life. He willingly gave up living comfortably in North America so that people in southern Africa could hear about the Saviour he loved and trusted. After we returned to North America and travelled on family vacations, he searched for rescue missions and street churches when we stopped for the night, reaching out to serve less fortunate people. Why does he have dementia? Is this how God rewards his servants?
Then I remember other verses my father read to me as a child. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . .” Matthew 6:19, 20.
I’m thankful for the godly heritage I enjoy, and I rejoice that some day my dad’s mind will be fully restored. I may grieve for a few years here on earth, but my dad and I have a whole eternity ahead to celebrate and worship our loving Heavenly Father together.
Ruth L. Snyder is a wife to Kendall, mother to Grace, Luke, Levi, Jayson, and Dorothy, and daughter to Rex and Dorothy Beam. She enjoys writing, teaching music, and taking pictures. You can read some tips for supporting aging parents and find more about her writing and photography at http://ruthlsnyder.com.