My 84-year-old father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2004. He had shown signs of dementia before that but the official diagnosis was not realized until that year. Since then he has defied all odds. He has even managed to outlive my mother, who was ten years his junior and passed away from cancer in 2012.
I received a call a few months ago from the longterm memory care community in Colorado where my father was, saying they didn’t think he had much longer to live. My wife, Shannon, and I decided to bring him back to Wisconsin to live out his last days with us and our four children, two cats and dog.
Taking care of my father in our home has been both a rewarding and challenging experience. In some ways it has caused our family to slow down – for the better.
One day when Shannon was alone with my father, she could tell he had something to say. She encouraged him to speak his mind even though he had aphasia and could no longer verbally convey ideas in complete sentences. Astonishingly, he clearly said “The Lord is coming back soon.” She asked, “For you?” He replied, “No, for everyone.” Later he remarked to her that he could see angels passing by and that they were beautiful.
Some people might be quick to dismiss his comments as ramblings of the waning mind or simply a product of dementia, but my family and I think there is more to it. While my father was deeply devoted to his faith, he wasn’t one to talk about spiritual things. Politics – yes, religion – no. I like to think that closer you get to death, the more your senses are in tune with the Divine. I think my father had a spiritual experience where he was shown the heavenly realms. While I’m not sure what it means, I know it was important that he shared it with us.
We shouldn’t assume that because someone has lost their ability to remember, think, reason and speak, that they are incapable of connecting to a spiritual reality above and beyond what we ourselves can see.
They are not necessarily alone in their “fog.” They may be being attended to and comforted by angels. I hope caregivers can find comfort in this possibility. My family and I look forward to more spiritual insights as we spend these last days with my dad. – Toby Janicki
Toby’s father passed peacefully with his family present on October 21st, 2016. The CareLiving community offers heartfelt condolences to him and his family.