TITLE: From Darkness Into Light
By Martha Davis
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As a child, I was afraid of the dark. Night after night, I cowered under the covers, waiting for some imaginary monster to crawl from under the bed. Tentatively making my way down the tiny corridor that led to my parents’ bedroom, I felt as if I was stumbling through a maze of unfamiliar terrain.
Years later, as I watched my father’s memory slip away as a result of Alzheimer’s Disease, I remembered my childhood fear. Sensing Daddy’s growing confusion, I realized he must have felt that same sense of fear and uncertainty that I had as a little girl. Though he couldn’t recall things that happened weeks before, I believe Daddy was aware that something was not quite right during the early stages of the disease.
Despite developing a closer relationship with him during his final days, I can’t recall a single, tender childhood moment with Daddy. He was often abusive and mean spirited. Yet as his memory faded, there were times when I saw a warmer side of him.
People with Alzheimer’s more easily recall long-ago events. And as the disease took away Daddy’s short-term memory, I learned about the young man and little boy he was before he became a husband and father. My grandmother died when Daddy was 12, leaving him in the care of an abusive father. When I asked about my deceased grandparents, my father refused to talk about them. But as Alzheimer’s Disease stripped him of the ability to recall what he’d had for breakfast just hours before, he became a family historian for me, sharing bits and pieces of his childhood.
My father was a Navy veteran and sailed the freezing North Atlantic Ocean. Until he became ill, I knew nothing about his military history. Yet, once the dementia set in, he told me such interesting and funny stories of his time in the military. And for the first time, I saw the pride on his face for having served his country.
One of the most precious moments I shared with Dad was during his hospitalization to rule out other possible causes of his memory loss. For as long as I can remember, Daddy’s cursory blessing at meals was: “Lord, make us thankful for these and all other blessings. In Christ’s name. Amen.” One day, during a lunch time visit, he took my hand to say grace. I was surprised to hear this heartfelt prayer: “Lord, I can’t remember much, but I know I haven’t been the kind of husband and father that my family deserved. I want to do better, Lord. Please forgive me and give me a chance to make it up to them. Amen.”
While I lost a piece of my father to Alzheimer’s Disease, I received a precious gift amidst the many struggles associated with the illness. Daddy’s departure to an earlier time revealed a gentler side of him that helped me forgive his shortcomings as a father. By sharing his darkness, my life was enlightened from knowing the man God desired my father to be.
Entered in Writing Challenge on Faithwriters.com 3/5/08 in response to: Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining
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