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Divorce because of Alzheimer’s?

daddy-and-mamaMy dad had only been dead a few days.

My mom, steeped in Alzheimer’s and fuzzy about many things, was starting to grasp this thing

He had been her husband since she was 15 years old. She always remembered that. And now her man of 55 years was gone?


For years and years, he was why she’d have a home-cooked meal on the table at 5:00 when he got home from NASA.
He was why she’d put lipstick on every afternoon right before 5:00.
He was why she felt safe and cared for and loved.

Now it was up to us kids to keep her feeling safe and cared for and loved.

Today was my day to take her to the dentist. She didn’t want to go. She had stopped wanting to go anywhere. And certainly not to the dentist.

It was no easy task getting her there. Only one thing made it easier.

She would take my dad with her.

She had a photo of him that she’d been looking at all day. So she taped that photo right on to the front of her shirt.  

That’s how we went to the dentist.

The receptionist and hygienist smiled when they saw her—and Daddy—his picture taped prominently over her heart. They knew our family well. The dentist smiled too.

Mama told them that she was keeping Keith close to her. They understood.

She wore the shirt, with Daddy’s picture taped to it, the rest of the day, that night, and the next day. My sister Liz was able to borrow the photo long enough to have it copied on a sweatshirt that Mama could wash and wear. 

So when I hear it said, “It’s okay to divorce your spouse if they have Alzheimer’s,” I think, “Not okay! How devastating that would have been to my mama.” And to my dad.

And to me.

If there’s one thing my dad could have done to lose my respect quicker than anything, it would have been to abandon my mom in her greatest time of need.

Only by death—not by choice—did he leave her side.

I respected him for that.

Seven short months later, they were side by side again.
This time with restored minds and perfect bodies.
Way past his cancer and far beyond her Alzheimer’s.

They had been faithful.
To each other.
To the Father.
To the end. 

Marriage doesn’t get more sacred than that.

* * *

Remembering my sweet Mama today on Alzheimer’s Action Day.


Please read Trisha’s response to Pat Robertson’s words. She says all the things I wanted to say.



Holly said...

I'm sitting here with tears rolling down my face. I couldn't believe it when I heard about Pat Robertson's comment earlier this week. Your parents are the sweetest, most authentic rebuttal to that nonsense! The truth they lived outshines any foolish statement! Beautiful...

Trisha said...

Oh, Lisa, what a powerful story this is. I'm weeping.

Your parents must have delighted in having such loving children, and you have honored them so well, my friend. To God be the glory!!

I can't begin to imagine how difficult this trial must have been. You cared for your Mama in those hard days after your Dad died with such tenderness. That sweatshirt must have been her absolute favorite.

This is a beautiful story all around of a couple honoring their marriage vows in the hardest of times and of children honoring their parents. How great our God is!

Love you!

Barbara H. said...

What precious memories. I have much respect for your father, too, and others who follow the Christlike path of keeping commitments and laying down their lives for their loved ones.

Lynn Severance said...

A beautiful tribute and message to all, Lisa.
Thank you for sharing - esp. on this day set aside for Alzheimer's Awareness.

Robertson's words- so wrong and uncalled for - have in some ways backfired to catapult this awareness about fidelity to the forefront. And that is woth an, "Amen.

Love, Lynn

Anonymous said...

Lisa...what a beautiful post...what a beautiful love story...a love that goes to the death. The picture taped to your mom's shirt...brings tears. How precious. I too, was so sad and mortified at such disregard for the value someone's life.
Thanks for sharing this lovely brightens my day.

Deanna said...

What a beautiful story! I am so happy to read that today.

Brian Miller said...

i read this earlier in the week on divorcing due to alzheimers...and just shook my just reinforces our ages definition of commitment which is until it starts to hurt or affect my way of life...your parents story is beautiful even in its tragedy...and they are an example...

Nancy said...

"That how we went to the dentist." Oh, those words just gave me chills. That and the image of your mom putting lipstick on for you dad every night. Maybe I'll do that tonight in honor of them both.

happygirl said...

This story breaks my heart. My mom is beginning to show the early signs. I'm full of fear. Thanks for telling your story. It gives me strength.

Lisa Spence said...

I thought of you when I first heard of Robertson's horrific comments. Thank you for sharing your parents' story here. What a beautiful testimony to love, both the love of a man for his wife and the love of Christ for His church!

Cora from Hidden Riches said...

I am just plain angry at the thought that Pat Robertson would make such comments --- so against God's ways and His plan in marriage. I am so thankful for the example of my parents who took care of each other "til death do us part." Thank you for the links, your comments, etc. My feathers are ruffled!!!!!

messy marriage said...

Wow! What a beautiful and touching story. And to think that your parents "lived" that story is such a blessing!

I'm so glad your dad didn't divorce your mother because she had Alzheimer's too. Now, we all have an example to live up to!

Thanks for the inspiration and for stopping by my blog too!

Love Bears All Things said...

Isn't it great to have had parents with a love like that...When Mother was in her last days, lying in her hospital bed, in the living room, with Daddy sitting in his recliner, she'd look at him and comment that he didn't look right(is he eating, sleeping, etc.). She lingered on in her love for him and I told him he would have to say goodbye. It took a while but he finally told her to go on and he'd be right behind her, to look for him by the river...That was Saturday, he lay down beside her on the bed and held her. It was a good day. She went home Sunday afternoon. He followed her 16 months later. They were married just 2 months shy of 60 years.
Bless you,
Mama Bear

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness my heart just swelled reading that she taped his picture to her shirt.
What a wonderful legacy you get to tape to your heart.

tinuviel said...

Oh, friend, do you know you came to mind right away when I heard about that kerfuffle? It had to be a dagger right through you. I also remembered my grandma, 10 years older than my grandfather and always expecting she would precede him in death. When he had to move to a nursing home because of Alzheimer's, my mom drove her to see him at least 3 times a week, and every time she took his favorite "millionaire pie" dessert, no crust, and spoon fed it to him. I thank God for such a model of faithful love.

At least one good thing out of this? The Dallas Fox affiliate brought a prominent pastor on their evening news and interviewed him about whether the Bible said divorce was ok in that situation. The pastor explained beautifully and clearly the Biblical vision for marriage and got a bit of the gospel in besides.

Thank you for sharing this lovely story about your mom and honoring your dad's faithfulness.

Joan Hall said...

Lisa - I was appalled at Pat Robertson's statement. I could not believe that he would say something like that.

You might be interested in reading Christian comedian Ken Davis's blog post in response to Pat's statement.

Beautiful post about your parents. It really touched my heart.

Kateri said...

This made me cry. Thankful for men like your dad and my grandfather (who cared for his wife for five years like your dad cared for your mom) who show us what true love and marriage is. Wishing you and your mom peace and comfort as you mourn the loss your dad.

Donna said...

Lisa, you wrote a moving and loving tribute to your parents. The way in which your mother kept your father close to her heart with his picture made me smile. Your words ring true:
They had been faithful.
To each other.
To the Father.
To the end.

God bless you.

Laura @ Beholding Glory said...

Brought to tears. What a beautiful example.

Loni said...

I was blown away too by Pat Robertson's take on alzheimers . . . I think with all the publicity this is getting, this may be used to prick his heart and recant. It may humble him. We can pray so for his sake and his relationship with God.

floyd said...

I have to confess, I have tears in my eyes.

My parents were married in 1954 and were married 55 years when my dad passed.

All I can say is that God used those people of character that we can barely grasp to influence our lives. Your parents like mine demonstrated the true essence of who God is in their actions. They lived by Biblical principles, not emotions.

God grant us that same heart for you and the strength that it takes to fulfill it...

Brenda said...

Enjoyed reading this. They lived as a testimony to all who knew them. I always think about how a grandchild or friend could look back and remember how to face a hard time because of observing how our parents reacted to a similar situation.
My dad said after Mom had been in a coma for a few days and we thought she was about gone, he kissed her and said I love you and she said I love you too. I like to think her lips and mind were so used to saying it they just reacted to love being given to her.

path of treasure said...

What a sweet, sweet story and example!

Susannah said...

Tearin up. Thanks for sharing this moving tribute to your parents.


Brother Ollie said...

We are so fragile.

Anonymous said...


I love the way your Mama and Daddy took care of each other. They didn't always agree on things, but they loved, respected and always, always showed that love to each other and to those that were witness to their lives.

I am crying as I have just read your blog and the part about the picture on her shirt just about made me have a come apart. I had heard that story before, but it really hit me today in a different light.

What a blessing their lives were and yes, I am so thankful the message of their lives still lives on in their children and in all of your words as a testimony to them and their love for God and each other.

Love you,
Cindy Burgess

Lisa notes... said...

I appreciate how you loved Mama and Daddy. No wonder they loved you like a daughter. And I love you as my sister.

Mommy Emily said...

this is so incredibly moving dear lisa. thank you for sharing, beautiful sister.

Monica Sharman said...

Lisa, this is truly inspiring and cause for celebration. I love it that she had his photo taped for all to see.

And, he worked at NASA? I worked at NASA!

Carrie said...

I actually wrote CBN. They sent me the transcript of what Pat said and seeing the words just outraged me all the more! I love that program and think it's a worthy ministry (that I actually support each month), but Pat has been saying some crazy things over these last few years that is going to do damage. I hope he retires soon.

I love that your dad stayed true. I'm sure it was hard for him, but look at the legacy he left because he honored his vows. What a man. I also love that your mom had a sweatshirt with his picture on it. How clever! What a great post, thank you for sharing this!!

Blue Cotton Memory said...

My parents divorced - my dream in life is to grow old with my husband loving our Lord and showing my children what a faithful, God-filled, love-filled marriage looks like. It means staying when the life gets rough.

That someone would suggest divorce was o.k. for A - it reminds me of a commencement speach I recount in the following post. It is sad that someone would think faithfulness doesn't count when times get rough:

Your story is a beautiful example of how we need to love our parents:)

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