This next example could as easily go under the category of Mom's toughness, but here the toughness that she demonstrated was of the will and intellect — the two powers of the soul, powers that I think people with Alzheimer's are often thought to be lacking.
Kath's husband Joe built a great cement ramp, fifty feet in length and fairly steep, for us to be able to roll Mom up and into the farmhouse. When it was first built, Mom was able to walk down the ramp with someone by her side for balance, but to go up the ramp we always used the wheelchair. I had been saying to her that we should try to start walking up the ramp, and that maybe little by little she would be able to walk all the way up. I had said this several times, but we had never made an attempt because I wanted someone else to be with us to bring the wheelchair up behind so Mom could sit down when she got tired.
So one day we were in the house and I said it again, "Mom we should try walking just a little way up the ramp and eventually you'll be able to walk the whole thing." She got really agitated and started acting as if she wanted to go outside. So we did — we walked down the ramp with me helping Mom and bringing the wheelchair with us. We got to the bottom and right away she seemed to want to go back into the house. I said to her that she needed to get into the wheelchair, but she wouldn't do it, but she was turning as if she wanted to go back to the house. So we atarted walking back up with me nervously protesting that she needed to get into the wheelchair. She refused. Mom walked all the way up the ramp, into the house, right to her chair that faced the door and sat down.
She knew all along what I had been saying about walking up the ramp, and she knew all along that she could already do it. I was as guilty as anyone for underestimating Mom's ability to understand and to do.
And now my two favorite stories that show Mom's strength of soul, both involve Holy Communion.
Before beginning the first, I need to tell you that Mom had quit saying "Amen"before she received. She told me that she preferred saying "thank you"and so that's what she always said.
Now to our story. Mom and I were walking into St. Helena's in Fort Morgan and a lady introduced herself and asked Mom her name. Mom didn't say anything, so I told the lady Mom's name. We went inside the church and then it came time for Holy Communion. As the priest held the host up to Mom and said, "The Body of Christ", Mom didn't say thank you; she didn't say Amen, what she did say was, "I am Marie Westhoff". I realized that during Mass she had been thinking of what the lady had asked her and what her response should ahve been. And so when the preist "introduced"Our Lord to her, she was ready this time and introduced herself to Our Lord.
The 2nd story. Our parish priest was concerned that Mom had lost the ability to distinguish between ordinary bread and the Holy Eucharist, and he told me that he would only give Mom a blessing when she came up at Communion time. I was really upset. I asked if I could meet with him. Before we met, I decided we needed some evidence that Mom knew the difference, but I didn't know how to get it because Mom was not talking by then. Mom was sitting in her easy chair, and I walked up to her and asked, "Mom do you know that Holy Communion is the Body and Bood of Jesus?" Immediately, she folded her hands and bowed her head. That was all I needed to tell Father.