Esther Talbert is the wife of Layton Talbert and mother of five children--Heidi (18), Ethan (16), Micah (13), Becca (11), and Isaac (3). She received a B.S. in Nursing from Bob Jones University and worked in the medical field for several years before devoting her time entirely to rearing and home schooling her children. Since 1994 she has also been devoted to caring for her mother-in-law (and former nursing instructor), Jean Talbert, who has Alzheimer's Disease and lives at home with the Talberts.
The Talbert Family
Back Row- Jean Talbert- Esther- Layton-holding Issac- Ethan
Front Row- Heidi-Becca and Micah
Mrs Talbert poses in her Peace Be Still message, A Psalm For Old Age , "There is a reason God leaves the elderly and infirm among us, and it is often not for their benefit but for ours."
Perhaps your family situation calls for the caring of an elderly parent or relative. Be not discouraged as you will discover from Mrs. Talbert’s experience of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s - "If we are not too busy and self-absorbed, we may learn the qualities of Christ that we lack and that He desires to mold in us, the transformation of character He intends to accomplish in us, by confronting us with their presence and needs."
A Psalm for Old Age
The subheading to Psalm 71 in my King James Bible reads "A Prayer for Old Age." Naturally, then, when I read verse 1—"In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion"—my thoughts immediately ran to my 81-year-old mother-in-law, who has lived with us for nine years. She has Alzheimer’s.
I was puzzled by this verse. She has definitely been "put to confusion," I thought. Then I discovered the phrase "put to confusion" refers to humiliation or public disgrace. That is why the same word is often translated to be "ashamed" or "put to shame."
The Psalmist prayed that he would never be put to shame because he had placed his trust in the Lord. Mom was gloriously saved and transformed 35 years ago, during the time that her husband of 25 years was divorcing her. Her life so changed that within 2 years, three of her four children also came to the Lord. The fourth later came to know the Lord as well. Even while her life as she had always known it crumbled around her, her consistent testimony was one of joy and delight in her new-found Lord, and of generous love and kindness to others. To me, she was an ideal mother-in-law. No, she was never put to shame, because she did put her trust in the Lord.
Verse 9 reads, "Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth." Has God turned His back on Mom in her old age, by abandoning her to the ravages of Alzheimer’s? Has He forgotten her by allowing her mind to slip away? The only answer of both faith and experience is no. God is, indeed, very much in control of Mom’s mind and condition.
Alzheimer’s is the disease that breaks the hearts of loved ones looking on even as it painlessly fractures the mind of the victim. Gone from her mind is the pain of her divorce, which she carried with her for over two decades. She is confused to be sure. But God has not forsaken her, and we are privileged to be some of those through whom God does care for her.
Verse 18 of Psalm 71 says, "Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not, until I have showed Thy strength unto this generation, and Thy power to every one that is to come." As a nursing instructor cherished by her students (of whom I was one), Mom imparted to her young charges far more than nursing skills. To many she was a surrogate mother and spiritual counselor who showed the strength and sweetness, the love and faithfulness of the Lord. Now God is using her to show His strength and power—perfected through weakness—to my husband and me.
There is a reason God leaves the elderly and infirm among us, and it is often not for their benefit but for ours. If we are not too busy and self-absorbed, we may learn the qualities of Christ that we lack and that He desires to mold in us, the transformation of character He intends to accomplish in us, by confronting us with their presence and needs. By the time something like Alzheimer’s strikes, God is about done with His earthly work in someone like Mom. "Why, then, does He leave someone to linger like that?" we wonder. His earthly work in Mom is done, but much of His earthly work in us and others, through Mom, is just beginning. He strengthens us daily to love and care for her. In the gentle rebuke of His mercy, He is molding and changing us—revealing our selfishness, unfolding His fifth commandment in new ways. Only as I myself am moldable will God’s power, in my turn, shine through me to "this generation and . . . to every one that is to come."
"Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto Thee! Thou, which hast showed me great and sore troubles shalt quicken me" (Ps. 71:19, 20). God is righteous in His choice of Alzheimer’s for Mom. He is, in fact, the one who has caused her to see "great and sore troubles" in her days. If it was an accident beyond His control, He is not God. If He sent it but it is not righteous, He is not God.
"Thou, which hast showed me great and sore troubles shalt quicken me, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side." (verses 20, 21). When Mom is finally called home by her loving Lord and Savior, all the "great and sore troubles" will vanish like a puff of smoke in a sudden wind. The Lord who shepherded her through this earthly life and laid her body in the depths of the earth will again raise her body—refashioned and forever healed of all ills, and set her on high with Him in everlasting comfort, There she will rejoice in His wisdom and grace, and have again a keen mind and fervent heart with which to show forth the praises of her God.
"My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto Thee; and my soul, which Thou hast redeemed."(verse 23) God called Mom out of the darkness of Catholicism and showed her the way of life everlasting. In His mercy He saved her and her four children. She has been redeemed and will live forever with God. All else pales into insignificance.
© 2003. No part of this page within No Tears In Heaven may be reproduced or reused in any way, electronic or print, without the expressed permission of the webmaster of No Tears In Heaven or the Author. Mrs. Talbert may be contacted through e-mail at Ltalbert@bju.edu