Meridian Star

November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving … a time to remember

Dr. Scott Elliott
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Decades ago, the iconic comedian Bob Hope popularized the tune “Thanks for the Memory.” And, surely, pleasant memories are cherished gifts from God.

    The older we grow, the more memories we store. At least, that’s the case for most folks, but not all.

    This Thanksgiving my wife, Claudia, and I will share the holiday with a relative who suffers from Alzheimer’s. We will sit down to dinner with a loved one who no longer knows us. There remain no memories of Thanksgivings past or a zillion other happy times that have been logged over the past half century. Confusion, anxiety, and even anger have sadly taken their place. Sometimes, especially in the evenings, it seems one could set a clock by the time agitation and disorientation begin to peak – something commonly referred to as Sundowner’s Syndrome.

     In a word, it’s heartbreaking.

    Alzheimer’s was first identified by the German neuropathologist for which the disease was named in 1906, but, interestingly enough, when I was young, one never heard much about it. Perhaps people didn’t typically live long enough back then to contract such a dreaded disease. What’s commonly referred to as “the miracles of modern medicine” have, indeed, extended the quantity of man’s days, but not the quality in every instance.

    By 2006, some 26.6 million Alzheimer’s sufferers were recorded worldwide. Experts predict that one out of every 85 people will be affected by the disease by 2050.

     While wholeheartedly embracing the promise of the next kingdom being infinitely better than our current circumstance, I nevertheless view this life as a gift from God.  Our Maker breathed into us a strong sense of survival and even pledged a long life to those who honor their father and mother (Exodus 20:12).

     So, this Thanksgiving, Claudia and I continue to honor our parents. And well we should. We will enjoy the turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream.

    But we will miss other things once relished at the Thanksgiving table, such as reminiscing with family about times gone by. I suppose if one is really lucky, he retains such recollections right up to the moment of his final breath. For some others, there can be a cruel kind of death that precedes the grave.

    One thing is certain, Alzheimer’s produces more victims than the individual who actually contracts the disease. In the end, I’m not sure that caregivers who still remember are not worse off than the patients who don’t.

    Perhaps the point is that we have been cautioned that no one, except the Father, knows when the hour will strike (Matthew 24:36). We don’t even know when our own time will come, let alone the end of days for mankind. And, in some cases, that hour comes in terms of our mental capacity well before we physically pass into the good night. So, it is incumbent upon us to treasure the times that we have now and give thanks to Him who blessed us with them.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.