The power of the gospel amid loss
What is the subject?
Second Forgetting is about the hope of the gospel, in particular, for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. As people’s ability to think and remember is impacted, the hope and encouragement that comes from the gospel is vital. The “second forgetting” is neglecting to remember the Lord, a condition often experienced not only by the person with dementia, but their family, friend, and church.
Who is the author?
Benjamin Mast is a licensed clinical psychologist, associate professor in psychological and brain sciences and an associate clinical professor in geriatric medicine at the University of Louisville. He serves as an elder at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
Why this book?
My father suffered from dementia prior to his death 15 years ago. As I care for my aging mother, and as a pastor walking with many peers who are doing the same, I have found the challenge of aging has become a regular part of my life. The book gave me both personal and professional encouragement. I found the suggestions great ways to start a conversation with someone who has dementia.
The author uses many Scripture passages (and other poems) throughout the book. The main biblical parallel he employs is analysis of the Israelites’ cycle of remembering and forgetting in their desert wanderings. Mast references many psalms throughout.
There is a strong emphasis on the fact that those with dementia are foundationally loved by God and saved through grace, even if they have become very limited in their functioning, remembering and communicating. Mast highlights the biblical emphasis on serving others throughout.
I found the chapters on how to care helpful, and the reminder that caregivers need to have assistance as well. The church has a role to play in caring not only for those with dementia, but for those giving care as well. These lessons apply much more broadly to life than simply to those suffering from dementia.
I also appreciated the difference between “groaning” and “grumbling.” A good reminder to keep things in perspective.
There are some technical sections where the author explains some of the science behind causes and treatments of Alzheimer’s. Though helpful for some, many readers will likely not engage deeply with that material.
Other relevant information
Discussion/reflection questions are included at the end of every chapter.
There are some helpful charts of “tips” included in several chapters. One chart provides tip for interacting with someone who has Alzheimer’s; another provides practical questions worded specifically to help those struggling to remember to contribute to the discussion.
Who should read it?
The author indicates this book is for those with Alzheimer’s disease, their caregivers and the church. Though the book is likely most helpful for those offering care or those in the early stages of dementia, I recommend church leaders read this book to learn how to support the needs of many seniors in our congregations.
“Yes, there is suffering to come, but the reality of suffering does not take away our hope.”
“Remembering – who God is, who we are, and what our purpose is in this world – is one of God’s primary commands for us. But because we live in a fallen world, we struggle to do this.”
[Leonard Klassen serves as an associate pastor at King Road Church in Abbotsford. Over the years, he has learned to truly appreciate visits to hospitals and care-homes.
I first met Phil on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in his private room up on the palliative care unit. He was a retired engineer in his late 70s....