Grandaddy had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, just before his 80th birthday. We knew it was coming. He had been repeating himself, getting lost driving roads he had driven for over forty years, being confused at home and at church, and worrying. Grandmama was diligent in getting him medical help and keeping his prescriptions consistent, putting names and phone numbers in his wallet and his pockets so that if he should need help he wouldn’t have to remember. Soon he quit driving, quit singing in the choir, and became pretty quiet.
Eventually, because he needed more medical attention and care than we could give him at home, he moved to a local memory care center. Grandmama went to visit everyday and always took his laundry, tidied his room, and helped him with lunch. We also took turns visiting regularly.
One visit, as we walked into the large sitting room, we observed about twenty-five elderly folks on couches, arm chairs and settees, dozing, staring blankly, watching the front entrance. Winding our way toward Granddaddy, we saw him look up and begin singing, “Show me the way to go home I’m tired and I want to go to bed…” By the end of the second phrase every head was up and every voice had joined merrily, ” I had a little drink about an hour ago and it went straight to my head…” People were making eye contact, smiling, fingers were tapping and the room filled with song, “No matter where I roam, over land or sea or foam, you’ll always find me singing this song; Show me the way to go home.” As soon as the song ended, voices were silenced, eyes again closed, and the area returned to a dozy nodding. But we had seen and heard the room before and during the song, and the mood afterwards was different.
Although these people would never again live independently in their own homes, they still held on to this old song about going home, the memories of home, and the anticipation and hope of home.
Grandaddy did go home, December 5, 2013. For two days, when the doctor said it was time, we all stayed with him, singing hymns, praying, sharing meals, holding his hands and each other’s, telling stories, and singing many choruses of “You Are My Sunshine.” Finally, exhausted, we all went home the third night, close to midnight, except for one sister. She, alone, was there to see him take his leave; she witnessed his last breath on this Earth before he joined the ages, and she watched as he went home to waiting family.
Christmas is the anniversary we celebrate as the birth of the Christ, and it draws us to home, even if only in our dreams. After all, that’s really why He came here – to make a way for us to go home, and to show us the way there, and He has only left us momentarily to prepare a place for us. I pray you know Him – the Joy of Heaven, the Hope of Humanity, the Prince of Peace, the Light of the World.
Merry Christmas friends.