Walking Through Twilight: A Wife’s Illness—A Philosopher’s Lament

by Douglas Groothuis
Foreword by Nicholas Wolterstorff

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How do you continue to find God as dementia pulls your loved one into the darkness?

Nothing is simple for a person suffering from dementia, and for those they love. When ordinary tasks of communication, such as using a phone, become complex, then difficult, and then impossible, isolation becomes inevitable. Helping becomes excruciating.

In these pages philosopher Douglas Groothuis offers a window into his experience of caring for his wife as a rare form of dementia ravages her once-brilliant mind and eliminates her once-stellar verbal acuity. Mixing personal narrative with spiritual insight, he captures moments of lament as well as philosophical and theological reflection. Brief interludes provide poignant pictures of life inside the Groothuis household, and we meet a parade of caregivers, including a very skilled companion dog.

Losses for both Doug and Becky come daily, and his questions for God multiply as he navigates the descending darkness. Here is a frank exploration of how one continues to find God in the twilight.

What people are saying:

“Douglas Groothuis’s Walking Through Twilight is an extraordinarily moving memoir of lament. In inviting the reader into the experience of his wife’s progressive dementia, he combines superb writing and the incisive thinking of a first-rate philosopher, which he is. But far beyond this, the book is filled with liberating honesty and the particular beauty of unadorned truth. Hearing God in the thunder and lightning is easy, but hearing him in what sounds mostly like silence takes a particularly keen and delicate ear, one this author possesses in abundance.”

–Eric Metaxas, radio host of the Eric Metaxas Show, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

“Poignant. Profound. Powerful. This very personal journey through a wife’s dementia will astound you with its eloquence and insights. The path through twilight is painful, but—thank God!—it’s not without ultimate hope. This is a memoir that will mark you forever.”

–Lee Strobel, professor of Christian thought, Houston Baptist University, author of The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith


“To be honest, I’ve never read a book like this. It overflows with deep reflection on the suffering of life and the apparent absence of God at the very times we need him most. But the specialness of this book lies in Groothuis’s raw, unfiltered, and bewildering expression of emotion—pain, agony, confusion—regarding the journey of his dear wife, Becky, and its impact on Doug’s own pilgrimage. There are no cheap Christian slogans, no slapping of a Bible verse as a Band-Aid on a near-mortal wound, no simplistic happily-ever-after. But there is hope. Hope built on deep reflection about Christianity, suffering, and the meaning of life. To me, this is the best book my dear friend has ever written. Its healing powers will penetrate your soul as you slowly read through its pages.”

–J. P. Moreland, distinguished professor of philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University


“Would I write as Doug Groothuis does here? Could I even begin to? I was profoundly humbled by this memoir. Philosophers are all about clear thinking, but the classroom is beggared by the anguish described here with such searing honesty, such poetic insight, such intense clarity, and such unconquerable hope.”

–Os Guinness, author of Impossible People

Book Excerpt

“I hated God and told him so, repeatedly.”

I am not sure what event in Becky’s decline enraged me more at God. Perhaps it was when I first visited her in a behavioral health unit. Maybe it was an incident that took place shortly after that. Becky had been transferred to another hospital and had been there for only a day or two. I called and asked how she was, “Oh, fine. She is resting after her first ECT.”

I screamed into the phone, “What? I did not give permission for that!”

My startled outrage seemed too explosive to be housed in my body. I roared, snorted, lashed out at two innocent objects in the house, and stormed off to the hospital. A bit of sanity slipped into my consciousness, and I stopped by a good friend’s house on the way to the hospital. After more yelling, crying, and lamenting the day of my birth (like Job), I settled down a bit and did what I had to do.

Table of Contents

1. Rage in a Psych Ward
2. The Year of Learning Things I Did Not Want to Know
Interlude: The Mensa Card
3. It Is Eerie
4. Giving Up
Interlude: Sunny
5. The Temptation to Hate God
6. Learning to Lament
Interlude: My Worried Ear
7. Joy in Lament
8. Moses and Our Sadness
Interlude: The Red Book
9. Lamenting in the Classroom
10. Lamenting Online
Interlude: At the Museum
11. Technology Free
12. Learning to Lie to My Wife (as Little as Possible)
Interlude: Jesus Loves Me
13. Gallows Humor
14. Dogs, Dementia, and Us
15. Miss Becky and a Way of Speaking
Interlude: Snack and Scalp
16. Words Fail Us
17. My Escape into Meaning
Interlude: Becky as My Student
18. How Is Becky?
Interlude: Resting
Conclusion: From Twilight into Darkness
Appendix: Lightening the Load