Pat’s Praise: The Long Goodbye

Published 10:24 am Saturday, January 22, 2022

In 1973 a movie was released with the title The Long Goodbye.

It is a crime film genre characterized by cynicism and moral ambiguity. The only exciting thing I saw in the film was looking at handsome Elliott Gould. Neither is the soundtrack to that movie entertaining to me. Then there is the song written by Ronan Keating and performed by Brooks and Dunn (2009) titled The Long Goodbye about love gone sour. Again, not a favorite of mine. But this is not about that; it is about the changes within our minds, our brains.

The long goodbye I am referencing is Dementia or Alzheimer’s. I am absent the intellect required to explain the technicality of oligomers that accumulate within the brains of Dementia or Alzheimer’s individuals. As long ago as 1906, Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist, first identified the neurodegenerative disease in a fifty-five-year-old patient. Today, we are told that one in ten individuals over the age of sixty-five have Alzheimer’s while one in three over eighty-five have it.

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Why is this neurological disease called the long goodbye? It is simply because it is the most prolonged goodbye to a loved one you will ever experience.

It begins with memory loss, misplacing items, forgetting the names of places and objects. Then it progresses to increasing confusion and disorientation, delusions, frequent mood swings, increased anxiety or agitation. Later symptoms include a gradual loss of speech, significant short- and long-term memory problems, and difficulty changing positions or moving around without assistance.

God works in ALL things – not just isolated incidents; thus, He is at work in the lives of those who have
dementia and for those who care for them. Your parent, brother, sister, or another relative may be victims of this dread disease. You may be a caregiver.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. [God is not working to make us happy but to fulfill His purpose.] For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30 NIV.

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31 NIV. What does this have to do with Alzheimer’s? Personalities may dramatically change wherein you do not even recognize that person anymore. The individual eventually does not identify you. You may question whether your loved one with dementia sins and will be forgiven sins they may commit in their state of mind. I cannot imagine that God would hold any sin against the demented one; His grace, mercy, and forgiveness are forever forthcoming.

Early on, Solomon asked God for wisdom which was granted. He enjoyed many years of fruitful living, but his life took a downward spiral toward the end. Solomon learned that life without God could produce a bitter, lonely, and hopeless old age; what we do when we are young matters. We can enjoy life but should not do anything physically, morally, or spiritually that will prevent us from enjoying life when we are old.

“Remember him – before the silver cord is severed, before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel is broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:6-8 NIV.

When disabilities, sickness, and handicaps cause barriers to enjoying life, as with dementia, an earlier life centered around God will make the days of trouble easier to bear, especially for the caregiver. Read Solomon’s complete account of what it is like to grow old and die in chapter 12:1-8. He speaks about “before the sun, and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim.” Ecclesiastes 12:2-3 NIV.

“When the doors to the street are closed, and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred, then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets.” Ecclesiastes 12:3-5 NIV.

The poetic picture Solomon painted of what it’s like to grow old and die is not a pretty one. The Scripture above is the closest reference I could find to describe one with dementia. The body, including the brain and the mind, slowly deteriorates until the silver cord is severed, the pitcher is shattered, the wheel broken “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7 NIV.

My earnest prayer is for those caught up in the long goodbye that God will grant you and me clear-cut thinking for decision making and handling issues. The long goodbye is not a part of normal aging; it is a gradual, deadly assault on memory and behavior. It cripples a person’s emotional and physical health, leaving the caregiver to deal with it. I believe that God will give brain-damaged persons another chance because He is a God of Love.
Recently, my son, Parrish, shared a report stating that research is underway for a nasal spray that will stop dementia and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Pray for the progression of that!

A retired nurse, published author and columnist, Pat Throckmorton can be reached at kandpthrock@gmail.com