Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essayist
Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat . . .We must find each other.
- Mother Theresa, Saint
I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.
- Albert Schweitzer, Missionary
Nothing is more revealing than movement.
- Martha Graham, Dancer
The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
- William James, Philosopher
If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a kind word of encouragement, or attempts to understand a lonely person, extraordinary things begin to happen.
- Loretta Girzartis, Author
In American life, we think we are most free when we don't need anybody. Exactly what Alzheimer's represents is absolute dependency - That's what we all need to learn - how deeply we need one another.
- Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Theological Ethics
Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World.
- Christopher Columbus, Explorer
They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything.
- Bil Keane, Cartoonist
A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to, and a perfect traveler does not know where he came from.
- Lin Yutang, Writer
You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.
- A. A. Milne, Author (Winnie the Pooh)
All real living is meeting.
- Martin Buber, Philosopher
Memory Bridge Newsletter
03/23/09 - Hoping Skills: Why Alzheimer's disease is not the end
A certain young politician a few years back wrote a book entitled "The Audacity of Hope". I must admit that I have not read it, but the title was enough. (I did vote for the author, Mr. Obama, however.) And many years ago, when I was getting my training in theology, I learned about “hope against hope” and “hope in things not seen,” catchphrases that spoke about the possibility of hope even in the face of the greatest catastrophe or the worst despair.
In the religious tradition I grew up in, it was said that there were three great qualities of the fulfilled life: faith, hope, and love. Faith is trust in that which is greater than yourself and the belief that all is good, that life has meaning, that despair is never the final answer. Love is compassion, the notion that giving yourself to others and the world makes both the world and you more whole. But from where does hope come? Alas, I am not the type of Christian who believes that you qualify for some kind of eternal heavenly reward for a life of saintly drudgery and goodness…or because you had an otherworldly “spiritual experience.” For me, the question of hope has everything to do with this life in this world, not some afterlife. So what is the basis of hope, confidence, and peace?
This question takes on a particular urgency for one with Alzheimer’s disease. Because the one thing that I know is that no matter how much the medicines hold off the encroaching plaques and tangles that are slowly scrambling my brain, ultimately the disease will gradually take me away, if something else doesn’t first. And probably I will end my journey earlier than I had hoped. My grandmother lived to age 91, and my father is now the same age. I, who am now 66, will probably not live anywhere near that long.
Yet I am not without contentment. Each day that I wake up is a gift, one more day to love, to share, perhaps to be of service, to enjoy. There are wonders to see: weather patterns, the flow of people, pets, and other animals, the formations of Canadian geese and other creatures of air and land and water, the rough and tumble of storms and the peaceful flow of clouds. There are things to do, places to go, errands to run, essays to write, household chores to accomplish, shows to watch, dogs to walk. Life is full each day. There are people to love, conversations to share, books to read, and…. The list goes on and on.
As long as you can cherish each day as it comes and not dwell too much on the future, life is good. For as long as I can be a positive presence to others, I will feel that my life is worthwhile. For however many days of sentience I am given, I am grateful. And when the deterioration begins in earnest, I will try to be as light a burden on those who are caring for me as possible, both physically and emotionally.
And so I hope. And so I persevere. And so I dance! Why not? Isn’t that much more enjoyable than wailing and gnashing teeth?