by Evelyn Rhodes Smith
A few days before my good friend died, her son, Randy, called. “Mom is in hospice care,” he said.
Jean and I had been best friends since we were teenagers. We spoke nearly every day. In the summer of ’91, Jean told me she had been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease. Fearful of the journey ahead, she agonized over where she would be as the disease progressed. Would she be trapped in a body, unable to communicate? Or would she float in a limbo of murky darkness, not knowing anything? The two of us, who had shared so much, clung to each other and cried.
As the disease progressed, Jean suggested we develop a signal. If she knew me when we met, she would hug me. She might not be able to communicate verbally, but a hug would let me know that inside she was still aware.
For a few years, Jean always greeted me with a long, emotional hug. Then, one day she just stared blankly. From then on I wondered what had happened to my friend.
The phone call from Jean’s son awakened my anguish. All the questions Jean had agonized over burst forth. As the tears flowed, I asked him, “Where has your mother been during the time she’s had Alzheimer’s disease? What happened to the real Jean? Where is my closest and dearest friend?”
Over the phone, Randy and I reviewed Scripture promises, searching for an answer from God’s Word. Randy quoted 2 Corinthians 4:16: “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.”
I had read that verse many times but had never applied it to Alzheimer’s disease. Certainly, with all types of dementia, the “outer person” perishes right before our eyes. The second part of that verse is applicable as well. It brought Randy and me comfort because it promised that Jean’s “inner person” was “being renewed day by day.” Jean wasn’t trapped alone; the Holy Spirit was there ministering to her!
Tears rolled down my cheeks in gratitude to my Father who supplied the answer. I realized if I were to spend eternity with Him beside me, it wouldn’t matter where I was. Nor would it matter to my friend. The real Jean was still alive and well inside her body, being comforted by the all sufficient Comforter.
The apostle Paul wrote that each of us groans — earnestly desiring to enter our eternal dwelling place. My friend may have groaned inside her body, and she might have been absent from the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6), but she was not absent from the Holy Spirit. Our Lord promised, “I will not leave you as orphans, I am coming to you” (John 14:18).
God had entered my friend’s heart when she was a teenager, and His presence never left. On Christmas Day, Jean heard Him call her name, and she received the most precious of gifts.
I had nearly lost heart, yet the answer had been in His Word all the time. Jean will know me the next time we meet, and we will hug again. Our precious Lord Jesus Christ made it possible, and God’s Word tells us it is so.
MORE HELPFUL SCRIPTURES
Evelyn Rhodes Smith and Ted, her husband of 60 years, live in Charleston, W.V., where they are active on the technical production team of Bible Center Church. Evelyn also writes a column for Essays on Faith in her local paper.
This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Mature Living. Subscribe