I often wonder why Mom is fighting so hard for so long, 15 years now. It dawned on me that she may literally have the "fear of God."
Brought up a strict Catholic, attending Catholic school was not a pleasant experience for Mom. I remember her telling the story how she was suspended for refusing to put her hands out for a Nun to hit her with a ruler. Back in the 50's, according to Mom, it was common to instill the fear of God in the teachings of the Catholic Church.
For these reasons we (her three daughters) went to public school. We did attend Mass every Sunday, went to CCD classes and made all of our sacraments. Despite Mom's unpleasant experience with school, she remained a devout Catholic. Alzheimer's eventually prevented her from going to Sunday Mass. Mom can barely put a sentence together but, to my amazement, can still site the Lord's Prayer.
I started to wonder: Is Mom afraid to die?
I asked the facility if they could have a priest come and speak with her. I was hoping this might in some way ease her mind. I also realized I could lose Mom in an instant and wanted her to receive her last Sacrament, the Sacrament of the Sick. I know this would be her wish.
(Mark 6:13). In his epistle, James says, "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (Jas. 5:14–15)
The facility has a non-denominational service every Sunday but the disease no longer allows Mom to participate. They had no luck finding a priest, so I made several calls and eventually spoke to a very nice priest. After explaining Mom's situation he agreed to meet me at the facility. He felt the Sacrament itself would ease Mom's soul, as she cannot communicate but for a few short sentences. He was also sensitive in assuring Mom he was not their because she was dying.
To the priest's surprise, together we said the Lord's prayer and when he forgave her she said "this is nice." A very powerful experience.
I don't know if Mom will live another year (or five) or if we will lose her overnight, but I am at peace knowing she has received the sacrament, and believe it gave her peace, as well...
Editor’s Note: Michele’s journey as a caregiver for her mother with Alzheimer’s was chronicled in “Fade to Blank: Life Inside Alzheimer’s,” an in-depth look at the real lives of families impacted by the Alzheimer’s epidemic. Her story continues on her personal blog on AgingCare.com.