Five years later, that first patient, Auguste Deter, died at the age of 55. Her doctor, Alois Alzheimer, kept up his research and treatment of similar patients. Emil Kraepelin, another doctor, suggested that the new disease should be given the name Alzheimer's disease after the doctor who first recognized it. Today, the methods for diagnosing the disease are still basically the same as those that first doctor himself used over 100 years ago, which in itself is amazing given the advances medicine has made.
Alzheimer's may be one of the most feared diseases there is. I know it scares me to think of still being alive and yet not being who I am any longer, being a burden to my family, or even mistreating them because of it. We focus on the memory loss, and that may be the worst part. 18 years ago Keith suffered something called Transient Global Amnesia for about five days. That was scary enough. I think we just don't realize what a blessing memory is, even a memory that is a little faulty as we age normally. At least something is still there. But every time we suffer a lapse, we wonder…
I walked into the kitchen and stopped, looking around at the counters, the stove top, the sink, the pantry.
Keith came in behind me and asked, “What are you looking for?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t remember,” and nothing lying around in plain view had jogged that memory, one that couldn’t have been over a minute old. I have finally reached that stage when my memory is as fragile as my old lady bones.
My short term memory, that is. My memories of childhood, school, early marriage, and raising kids are firmly intact, and so are the memory verses I learned decades ago as a child.
For a while there, memory verses seemed to be out of style. I even heard a sister in Christ say their value was “overrated.” She was even older than I. I wonder how she feels now, especially during long nights when she can’t sleep, as happens so often to the elderly.
Those memorized verses are invaluable to me. They instantly spring to mind when I await another scary test result (“casting all your cares on him because he cares for you” 1 Pet 5:7); when the aches and pains of old age slow you down and you can no longer do what you have always done (“For this perishable body must put on the imperishable” 1 Cor 15:53); when friends and family pass on before you leaving a hole no one else can fill (“That you may not grieve as those who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” 1 Thes 4:13,14); when you suddenly realize you’ve reached an age where anything could happen any time (“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” Rev 14:13).
All my life during times of temptation, suffering, and betrayal, but also joy, hope and thanksgiving, those passages memorized so long ago have kept me going. They’ve helped me answer a skeptic, refute false teaching, encourage a suffering friend, and edify my sisters in Christ. If I lost them all due to a disease, I cannot imagine how empty I would feel. Those words etched on the hearts of you and your children are anything but overrated. Fill up your children now, and while you’re at it, fill yourself up before your memory, too, becomes as fragile as your bones.
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, Deut 11:18-20