I have promised to keep this real and write from my heart. I know many may not be able to read this and that’s okay. Please, feel free to walk on by. I do not want anyone to feel obligated. I give you my word I will not be offended. It is a hard place to be imprisoned. I am doing this for anyone who might be in a similar position and if it helps them feel less alone, less isolated, then this journey has a purpose. I desperately need to know there is a purpose, even if I cannot know what it is at this point in time. So here we go ~
If you were to be stranded on an island, with only one thing, what would you want the one thing to be? I have heard this question asked many times and heard myriad answers; my Bible, my Everything Pan, a First Aid kit, a mirror, a hair dryer, tent, blanket, a My Pillow, and the list goes on. I have always wondered what my answer would be if asked. I never really considered an answer until recently.
My sister asked me if I had a bucket list or if I was going to make one. A Bucket List, in theory, is a list of all the things you want to do before you kick the bucket. My Bucket List would be the things I want to do before I forget how to do them, or before I kick the proverbial bucket, whichever comes first. When I was diagnosed with cancer, there was only one thing I really wanted to do to fulfill a life-long dream and I was blessed to be able to check it off my one-item list. I never added or even thought about one more thing or several things I would want to do in my life. I am not dream~oriented. I am not purpose~driven, that I know of anyway.
Jesus, Family, Home. Me in a nutshell. So if I were to attempt a one more thing in life, what on earth would it be? It would certainly have to do with water. I love the ocean. Really, any body of water as long as it has a beautiful beach. We went to the lake several times throughout the summer when our children were young. My sister and I would load up the van with kids, food, water toys and rafts and head out early in the morning and spend the entire day on the beach. Sometimes, our hubbies took the day off and went along with us. When we moved out here close to the lake, we started taking the kids and grands and spending the day on the beach until it became too much work for me to make it to the water’s edge. If I couldn’t even get far enough to put my feet in the water and feel the breeze coming off the lake, I didn’t see the point. I encourage them to go and take the babies and send me pics, but it’s just not going to be the same. Maybe, I’ll go this year, sit up in the shade and keep binoculars in hand. Maybe….
We have taken several trips down to the Gulf. Sometimes just one or two nights, eat dinner in an ocean-front restaurant on the open deck, stay in a motel with a view so I can say good night and good morning to the waves. I am continually fascinated by the fact that the ocean is stayed by God’s Word and HIS hands. It laps around my feet and no further without HIS permission. The awe and the power of it all beckons me to return.
For our 40th Anniversary, my husband and I went to an Island in North Carolina. It was just a stone’s throw from the coast but we were surrounded by water. It was beautiful and peaceful and perfect. My sister and brother-in-law were on a driving vacation across the southern states and they met us there for a few days on their way home. My best friend and her husband came in for a couple of days and it was just a perfect interlude.
A few days ago, I was reminded of that trip. First Class all the way, sports car rental, our own home on the beach, friends and family, chilly evenings wrapped up in a blanket sitting on the enclosed porch watching the moon dancing on the tide, and early mornings watching the image of a flickering fire burst over the horizon as the sun slowly came up over the water. The thing is, I cannot recall those moments from my own memories with very much clarity anymore. I now remember it from looking at pictures and knowing I was there.
On a too frequent basis, things are slipping from me. I have redundant reminders and alarms set in order to remember certain things throughout the day. I take copious notes to help me remember things I feel are important. Then, I find a paper with my handwriting and have no idea why I wrote what I wrote. It is a scary place. Sometimes I feel completely alone. No one can possibly understand. No one gets the fear, the sadness, the loss. My husband just ordered a book by Stormie Omartian for me. I have a few of her books on my bookshelf and he thought I would like to read ‘The Power of Praying through Fear‘. I pick it up repeatedly and read but cannot seem to retain the power I know are in those words.
Alone. On an Island. I think that’s my one more thing. And I’m there. Alone on an island with palpable fear. I pray throughout the day and the fear eases but it roars back in during the night like stormy waves slapping at the stilts of this fragile house I live in these days. I worry about things I have never worried about in my life. I worry about handling any money. My doctor told me to relinquish any and all financial control as that is one of the biggest problems early on and I have seen it happen. I don’t remember what I did exactly, but I remember messing something up and trying to fix it only to make it worse. It was my own budget but it was frightening, because the recall of how to do it right is gone.
Conversations I have had in the last few weeks are slipping away. I can remember bits of convos but I can’t put the pieces of how that statement came about or why that person said the one thing I remember. Always writing. Notes I cannot understand. The essence of me is here. I know who I am. I know who everyone I love is and how they are connected to me. I know where I live. My town. My state. I remember where I was born. Where I was married. Where my children were born. But I don’t know why or when I put radishes in the knife drawer. Or why my phone was in the guest bath. I don’t know why there is trash stuffed in the washer, but pretty sure I put it there. I don’t know where I put my favorite shirt or even what color it is anymore, just that I can’t find it. Little illusive things. Frustrating things. I don’t understand where these things go and why I can’t get to them. And that makes me afraid.
Afraid to engage in conversation. Afraid of what I might forget that is vital to me or someone I love. Afraid I will misplace something important that will never be recovered. Afraid to walk outside. Afraid to stay inside. Afraid to take my medicine in case I’m taking the wrong kind at the right time. Afraid I’ll forget appointments that must be kept. Afraid to remember anything for fear of forgetting everything. More notes. More writing. More fear. And the cycle of fear and stress makes it so much worse. This I know, yet I cannot get perspective.
I need an interlude where I can just be me again. My short term memories are slipping away. I feel it. I feel the encroachment of more slippage and I know that I cannot stop it, but I cannot process the reality of it all either. The song by Jim Brickman ‘Hear Me‘ sings simply~
“Hear me, hear my words unspoken. Restore my faith in hoping.
Hear me, I am feeling broken. I am broken open.
Take this life, turn it into something. I’m afraid it’s just wasting time.
Turn this life the sun has ripened, grow it slowly on the vine.”
Then the cycle begins again. How long before I forget the words to that song? To other songs? The song I sang to my husband on our wedding day? My favorite hymns? The lullabies I sang to my babies. I love songs. I love words. Yet I forget how to spell them. I have to edit and edit and edit everything. I forget how sentences go together and obsess going back over them and changing everything.
But more than anything? Memories. Those precious bits of forever that link us to the past, keep us in our present and urge us to plan for a future. I fear more and more of those slipping from my mind. So today, if I were to be stranded on an island, and I think I just may be, what one thing do I want with me? Certainly not the fear! The one thing I want is all of my precious memories. The ones that have been lost through the natural process of time and the ones Alzheimer’s is snatching from me. I want them all back. I want to sit and go through them one at a time. I want to touch, smell, taste, hear, experience them all. I do not want to go back in time or have any do-overs. I’ve had a good life. God has been good to me. But I want to go through all my memories, alone, on this Island….
Moment to moment, life is fleeting. If you do not know the Lord, I pray HE will place folks on your path that can help guide you into a knowledge of Christ. If you have walked with HIM and slipped into a place of withdrawal from HIS presence, return to your First Love. And if you are in a great place with the Lord, and you are going through a frustrating time in your life, remember this: You will get through this phase. I don’t know how long you may be in it, or how deep it might get, but I know HE will not let you sink. HE will always hold you up with HIS hand. And even if you are in a place like me where you feel completely alone and lost, HE is still right there. Run into HIS arms as many times as necessary throughout the days and nights. The Lord’s arms are always wide open and HIS love for you is unending.
For today, that is enough to get me through another day.