It was a week after Valentine’s Day 2012. Retired missionary Dottie Cooley could no longer live alone as she descended into the confusion of Alzheimer’s disease. Her momentary memory lapses were stretching longer and deeper. At times she couldn’t remember her husband, Bob, who had died in 1995. The Dottie of 2012 was a changed person from the vibrant young woman she was in 1951, when she and Bob joined Baptist Mid-Missions to serve in France and later in California and Arizona. Although there was much Dottie could not remember, one thing she hadn’t forgotten was to be a missionary.
“Say something in French!”
On that day in February 2012, Dottie’s daughter Judy took her to visit Marsha, a woman Judy met through her church’s ESL class. Marsha and her husband were French-speaking Muslims from Algeria, where Bob had served during World War II. Because Dottie spoke French, Marsha loved her and had invited her to her home many times. During this visit, Marsha sat by Dottie on the couch and patted her on the back, excitedly saying, “Talk to me in French! Say something in French!”
Dottie was embarrassed. “Oh my,” she said, pausing as she held her French/English Bible on her lap. In a few moments, she quoted John 3:16 by heart in French—a verse she had quoted so many times that her memory did not fail her. When she got to the last two words, “vie eternelle” (eternal life), she said them with special emphasis. Marsha repeated “vie eternelle?” Dottie said, “Yes, vie eternelle!”
“Do you know Him?”
She read the next verse in French and asked Marsha, “Do you know the Lord as your Savior? Have you accepted Him into your heart?” Sadly, Dottie could not remember how to say these words in French, and Marsha did not fully understand the question. Yet it was a good visit, a beautiful day. Afterward, Dottie and Judy ate carryout hamburgers at home while Judy downloaded the picture of Marsha and Dottie that she’d taken. When Dottie saw it, she said, “Who’s that?”
Memories came and went from Dottie’s mind, but the Lord was the strength in her weakness that day, enabling her to be His servant, even with Alzheimer’s.
Editor’s note: Dottie entered heaven in 2013 and is now reunited with Bob, having a restored mind that can perfectly remember, understand, and enjoy her Savior.