Roger Zerbe suffered from an early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. One day, after a troubling time of forgetfulness, he wrote a note to his wife.
Today fear is taking over. The day is coming when all my memories of this life we share will be gone. You and the boys will be gone from me. I will lose you even as I am surrounded by you and your love. I don’t want to leave you. I want to grow old in the warmth of memories. Forgive me for leaving so slowly and painfully.
Blinking back tears, Becky responded and wrote:
My sweet husband,
I will continue to go on loving you and caring for you — not because you know me or remember our life, but because I remember you. I will remember the man who proposed to me and told me he loved me, the look on his face when his children were born, the father he was, the way he loved our extended family. I’ll recall his love for riding, hiking, and reading; his tears at sentimental movies; the unexpected witty remarks; and how he held my hand while he prayed. I cherish the pleasure, obligation, commitment, and opportunity to care for you because I remember you!” (Becky Zerbe, “Penning a Marriage,” Marriage Partnership (Spring 2006).
I have been fortunate to have seen the love Becky showed to her husband modeled in reverse. Leonard Stover was the most principled man I have ever been fortunate to know. Living quietly in the hills of Pennsylvania, Leonard married at a young age, took a job in a brick factory, and with his wife brought two children into the world. The first child, a son, died in childhood. A daughter was born who grew up to marry, and give Leonard a beloved granddaughter.
The day came when the wife of Leonard’s youth was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Leonard, long retired from the brick factory where he had risen to become a supervisor, attended to his wife tenderly. The time came when help was needed to take care of her needs. Leonard reluctantly placed her in a facility near the family farm so that each day he could go and be with her. Leonard did not just spend time with his wife after putting her into a necessary care unit, he continued to give her his life.
Workers at the care unit noticed that prior to 8:00 AM, Leonard would be found sitting outside the facilities, waiting for the doors to open. Then, he would stay the day until regulations mandated that family and friends leave for the night at 9:00 PM. But early the next day, and then week after week, year after year, Leonard was by the side of his wife assisting when he could to her every need, until the closing hour.
Leonard’s love was unconditional. It was not only until the best years of life had past, nor even unto her death, but it extended beyond the grave, until the time came to be reunited in heaven.
Fortunate is the man, or woman, to be the object of unconditional love.
The love of Becky Zebe for her husband Roger, the love of Leonard for his beloved wife, reflects the love of God for sinners. It is a love that endures beyond death, and extends into eternity.
Someone asked, “Lord, how much do you love me?” And the Lord said, “This much,” as He stretched out His arms and died.
“The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”
Frederick M Leman, 1917