When you first showed up, you were a hundred Post-it notes hanging around my grandparents’ house. We saw your signs when Grandma spoke: a missing word, an incomplete thought, a forgotten date or two. Between doctors’ appointments, you became her unwanted houseguest, piling papers on every counter, stuffing cabinets until they overflowed, leaving food out to rot. As we saw you more, we saw her less. You left birthday cards unsigned and seats empty at graduation. You neglected her beautiful garden until it was overgrown with weeds.
You took a quiet woman on a wild ride, dragging her from denial in the morning to anger in the evening, abandoning her to sweet oblivion for all the hours in-between. You ransacked her house and left her there, lost in her own home. You turned familiar faces into strangers, leaving her unstable and afraid. You locked her mind and allowed her body to decay, day by day.
She Was Made by God
My grandma has long since forgotten my name. Sitting beside her bed, I barely recognize her either, but I remember who she is: a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend. An image-bearer of God, bringing Him honor because she is His. Don’t you realize what it means that she was made by Him?
The God who picked up the moon and placed it in the sky is the same Creator-God who made my grandma. What David said about God in Psalm 8 is true and will always be true, even when our minds are unable to remember it:
When I observe your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which You have set in place,
what is a human being that you remember him,
a son of man that you look after him?
You made him little less than God
and crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:3–5 CSB)
Look at my grandma lying in bed, and you’ll see a woman who is small in this world but seen by the Most High, fragile in body but full of God’s glory.
She Belongs to God
Here’s what you’ll never understand: my grandma is not yours to have. She belongs, “body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.” Kids sometimes memorize this sentence when they’re taught the catechism early in their lives. It answers an essential question we all have, especially when it’s time for us to die: “What is our only hope in life and death?” My grandma knew the answer: that we are not our own.
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Rom. 14:7–9, emphasis added)
She belongs to Jesus—now, in the struggle, as we wait and watch her sleep, not knowing if she’ll wake again. She belongs to Jesus because she’s believed, by grace through faith, that He is her only hope. He gave her eternal life, and He holds her today. No one and nothing will snatch her out of His hand (John 10:28–29).
She Will Be Healed by God
It sure looks like you’re winning. My grandma’s mind no longer knows how to tell her body how to live. Hospice thinks she has a day or two left, but how can they know for sure? Her times are in God’s hand (Psalm 31:15). All her days were written in His book and planned before a single one of them began (Psalm 139:16 CSB).
And when the end comes, Dementia, it will only be the end of you. For her, true life will just be beginning.
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26)
Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He puts all his enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be abolished is death. For God has put everything under His feet.” (1 Cor. 15:24–26)
Until then, we count each breath. Every inhale points to the power of the God who sustains her. She may not remember Him now, but He will be faithful to her and to us, her family, to the end.
The Final Word
You’re the reason I didn’t have a final conversation with my grandmother. You kept her from hearing our goodbyes. But you won’t have the last word.
You don’t have the right to say, “it is finished.” Those words have already been spoken over her life, and in death she is with her Savior. Because Jesus triumphed over brokenness at the cross, my grandma’s brain is whole again.
Dementia, this was never about you. It’s not even about her. It’s about Him.
Thank you for not forgetting us—not for a moment. Grief would be unbearable if we didn’t have You. Thank You for keeping Your promise to be with us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4).
Your goodness and love followed my grandma all of the days of her life, and now she will dwell, healed and whole, in the house of the Lord forever.