Today I heard the sad news of my aunt’s passing. My aunt had given the last umpteen years of her life over to looking after her husband, of whom I wrote about in a previous post. My uncle had suffered numerous years of dementia, the unwitting victim of Alzheimer’s Disease; and my aunt had selflessly devoted herself to his care. Now, just two months after his death, she too has left this mortal coil.

It was a shock to the system when I received the news. Her daughter, my cousin, rang to give me the bad news. Earlier, another cousin had emailed with the same news. I could hardly believe it! I had hoped that my aunt, whom I called Second Aunt in Cantonese, would, after her husband’s death, have some time to call her own. Second Uncle’s illness had taken a lot out of her, and my hope was that she would now be able to relax a little. I will explain what I mean.

The things many of us take for granted are just not to be when one is the carer of a person with Alzheimer’s Disease. For example, one cannot simply relax in front of the TV and hope to watch a programme from start to finish without interruption. Invariably, the person with severe dementia will require one’s almost undivided attention even in the most mundane of circumstances. Take, for instance, my mother, who also suffers from severe Alzheimer’s Disease. I remember sitting down with her to watch TV together, in hopes that the speech, colour and motion of old and familiar films she would have once known and enjoyed would stimulate her mind and bring interest into her life. Unfortunately, they could not hold her attention. Mum would either begin to talk about imaginary persons and situations or, even worse, begin a loud and lengthy conversation with an imaginary friend. Then, midway through her monologue, she might head out of the room, making a beeline for the front door. For someone who could shuffle ever so s-l-o-w-l-y with the best of them, she could also zoom about with the best of them. If I did not go after her as soon as she began to leave the room, the likelihood of losing her as she made her way out of the house would have been pretty high. Thus, as you can see, one has always to be vigilant when caring for a person with Alzheimer’s.

I was therefore particularly saddened to hear about my aunt’s passing today. I felt that she had not had the opportunity to reclaim any of her life at all after all her years of unstinted loving care for her husband, dying so soon after her husband’s decease. I wish she had had more time just to be, to enjoy all those things that many of us take for granted: watching her favourite Chinese soaps without interruptions, taking a trip into town to look at the shops, going out for a meal, etc. And Hubby and I are also so very sad for the family members she left behind, who are still grieving the loss of their father and grandfather respectively.

I entitled my post tonight, ‘Why?’ because life to me always seems so complex. However, my faith in God does not waver despite this. If one believes that God is over all, then one also will continue to trust in Him in spite of circumstances that one cannot or can never understand. I will end with this verse from Isaiah 55:8: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.’

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