It’s been fifteen days since the love of my life went to his forever home with complications from Dementia. Today, I went to the cemetery to choose the headstone and take a look at the gravesite. As I sat there talking with the young lady who assisted me in doing what I never planned to do, it was as though I was outside my emotions as I looked at the names on the headstone – Dr. Henry R. Jones and Dr. Elizabeth A. Jones. More than once, I have told others that we are now the generation that will be next in line to take our final journey. But when you realize it’s today’s reality, it changes the scope of your thinking.
The night Henry passed away, everyone was leaving my home when I asked my family to remove the hospital bed from my bedroom. I then moved chairs around in my room to make it look more inviting. Kimberly, my daughter, was spending the night, so we prepared to go to bed. We were exhausted from our emotions which had been raging throughout the day as Henry was straining to breathe, so when he drew his last breath, it was as though we had climbed Mt. McKinley and needed extra oxygen for the higher altitude. We lay down and immediately went to sleep and rested throughout the night. People have asked me how in the world we slept in the room where my husband had just passed. I know it was the extraordinary peace of the Holy Spirit that gave us strength to just keep going when our emotions were unraveling.
Each day at 6 pm, I go on Facebook Live with Kimberly and speak to thousands of followers who are connected to Kimberly through church and her RTK Inner Circle. Yesterday, we were online and began to laugh about our day and how much we had accomplished. We both saw a post that someone had written that said, “You seem much happier since your husband has passed.” I immediately went into attack mode because no one can understand where we are unless they have walked in our shoes.
When Henry was diagnosed with Dementia in February, 2015, I went home, shut the bathroom door and cried a river while questioning how in the world could we walk through this awful disease. We knew we would never put Henry in a nursing home and yet, I felt so frail and alone. Honestly, there is no way to explain to those who have never experienced Dementia or Alzheimers how difficult it is to maneuver through such hardships. We only knew that God would be our source and would give us strength as needed.
We had been given a special invitation to travel to the nation of Indonesia for six weeks, so we decided we would take that trip in September, 2015. As we traveled through the years, Henry was the travel agent for us. He would procure tickets and get us fantastic seats because the trip was always from 24 hours to 30 hours, so we would fly economy deluxe which meant we had wide seats, foot rests and personal television. However, for this trip, everything was directed to me. I had to determine the plane, the flight schedule and itinerary for six weeks. I had always been protected and taken care of by this strong man who prided himself in being the best husband, dad and granddad to our family. However, I knew that this would probably be his last trip to the nation that he dearly loved and the friends that we had made for the last eighteen years.
I look back today and am so thankful that we took that trip when we did because Henry would not have been able to go later. The neurologist gave me wise advice after the diagnosis. He told us to do what we loved doing. Take cruises, visit family and just live life until you can’t. Henry’s first love was preaching because he had been preaching since he was sixteen years of age. So, the Indonesian trip was his last opportunity to truly preach without forgetting his subject.
In 2018, we took a seven-day ministry cruise with about fifty pastors to the Caribbean. I could not leave Henry alone at all or he would be missing in action, so we were attached at the hip through the entire cruise. I know he christened every restroom on every floor on that cruise ship. If it had a man’s picture on the door, he had to go in while I waited patiently outside. What I would give to go on just one more cruise with this amazing man.
I am a member of a Facebook Alzheimers and Dementia support group, and I am still reading other families dilemmas with their loved ones (LO). I can tell you that I totally understand and have empathy now that I could never have had if we had not walked through this horrendous disease. This disease did not just affect my husband. It affected our entire family. During lunch with a grandson today, he told me that he had to get healing from being disconnected from God. When asked why, he explained that he had not been able to understand how such a good man who gave his entire life to serving God and people could have been stricken with a disease that would cause him to forget the family that he loved so dearly. How could a good Heavenly Father allow such a dreadful disease to steal the very life of someone he dearly loved. He then explained that, after much praying and seeking God for answers, God assured him that his Papa’s spirit was already with the Lord. Even though he did forget his grandsons names, he still loved them.
Two weeks before he passed, I was walking into the kitchen past the living area where Henry was sitting when I heard my name called. He had called “Ann” so I immediately went to him. He motioned for me to sit on the arm of his recliner, which I did. He just wanted some time with me. He still told me many times a day that he loved me, and I would hold his hand and just kiss his face. He could not change his clothes, feed himself or even take ten steps alone, but he still knew me. I had prayed from the beginning of this journey that he would never forget me, and he didn’t! God is a good Father. We are not promised a constant happy life or a pain-free life; however, our Good Father promises to never leave us nor forsake us. And He didn’t!