Dr. Robert F. DeHaan, colleague, friend, and fellow ASA member, writes in this profound volume of the journey of a long goodbye, the account of his wife Roberta's descent into the mystery and emptiness of Alzheimer's disease. But it is not so much an account of that journey as it is a powerful love story, and how two lovers gradually - and painfully - parted.
Dr. DeHaan, who before his retirement was the chair of the Psychology Department at Hope College, writes from his heart as he tells the story of the years 1998-2002. It is an account of God's leading along a torturous path, a divine presence that was, and is, sufficient. There is no "Hollywood ending," of course; at this writing (April 2003) Roberta Timmer DeHaan, confined to a nursing home, has almost (but not quite yet) faded from this world. Yet throughout the book I was continually aware of God's grace and everlasting love, always aware that what I was reading was only "chapter one" of a story which will be continued, in triumph, in glory. The book carries the message of hope to Bob's fellow Christians, who know that not a sparrow falls without God's notice.
On May 2, 2001, Bob and Roberta shared together their last bedtime snack - Roberta would enter the Alzheimer's care unit the next morning. Bob relates, on pages 236-7, how he turned this event into a communion service - just him and his dear loved one. Pita bread dipped in grape juice. He writes: "We continued our snack with long silences until the bread was consumed. Then we finished off the juice, she holding the chalice to her lips followed by me doing the same. Roberta looked at me. 'That was communion,' she commented in a calm voice. 'Yes, Roberta.' I said. 'That was Communion.'"
As a Stephen Minister, I've read many books which speak to the "long dying" of the Alzheimer patient. This book, written by one with a clear and abiding Christian faith, and also a deep and abiding love for his companion of over fifty years, stands head and shoulders above the rest. Nearly 25% of adults in our country are friends, relatives, or, in some cases caregivers, to someone affected by this disease. If you are one of these, this book is a must read. If you are not, it is worth reading to understand a "real" love story. I cannot recommend it too highly.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson
Physicist, U.S. government (retired)
IBM Corporation (retired)
Denver, Colorado 80210
Submitted to PERSPECTIVES on Science and Christian Faith,
Journal of the AMERICAN SCIENTIFIC AFFILIATION, on 4/16/2003.
Published in Volume 55, #4 (Dec 2003), page 269.
Note: Dr. DeHaan passed from this world in early 2005. He is missed.
The ASA web site is www.asa3.org