Visit an Alzheimer’s day center or memory-care unit and you will inevitably hear the questions and pleas:
“When am I going home?”
“I want to go home.”
“I need to go home.”
These are repeated in various ways throughout the day, and they seem to gradually increase in frequency and intensity as the day drags on. This may be a longing for a literal and physical structure that they once called home, but it is also a longing for a place that is familiar, comfortable, and secure – where they feel like they belong and are loved deeply and unconditionally.
We all share in this longing. As life drags on and our suffering increases, this plea to return home grows stronger. Those who belong to Christ may recall his promise to prepare a place for us. We long to be with our Creator, the source of all that is beautiful and lovely. We long to leave the pain of this life and to be with him.
When people with dementia ask for their home, they are expressing this deep longing for a place of belonging, acceptance, and security. Psalm 90 tells us, along with 2 Corinthians, that our home is in the Lord.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. (Psalm 90:1)
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8)
This longing for home is in our hearts, and we feel it over the years, decades, and generations. In a sense, we have known this longing for home ever since the fall, when Adam and Eve left the garden where they had walked with God in the coolness of the day. Sin led to our exile, and we were forced to leave the security of our home, the place where we belonged. Instead of joining God on a walk, human beings now hide from him in shame. But Christ has opened the door to us again, and one day he will return to take us home to his presence. As St. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Only in the Lord do we find true rest, the place of security and belonging. Until that day, we long and groan for the promised restoration not only for the healing of our bodies and brains but to experience the Lord fully – to see him and know him better, and once again walk with him in the cool of the ady. What will that home look like?
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ (Revelation 21:3-5)
One day we will be home again, dwelling in the Lord – the ultimate, fulfillment of all of his promises. There will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain. There will be mo more agitation, no more wandering and getting lost, no more resisting care, no more confusion, no more delusions, no more screaming, and no more fears for what the future holds. Apathy will be replaced with rejoicing and anxiety with perfect peace.
And there will be no more forgetting. In fact, we will not need to remember the Lord and his goodness and promises, because we will experience these as we rejoice in his presence.
Excerpted from Second Forgetting: Remembering the Power of the Gospel during Alzheimer's Disease by Dr. Benjamin Mast. Used with permission from Zondervan.