Friday, September 3rd, 2010...11:38 am
My grandmother is suffering from dementia. While there still hasn’t been a formal diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, she suffers from many of the symptoms – loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning – for perhaps as long as the last 10 years.
She is not the same person she used to be. A vibrant and energetic woman who lived independently, driving herself to church; enjoying social activities such as dancing and having family gatherings; sewing clothes for every member of her extended family from bolts of raw fabric; planting and harvested an incredible garden – knowing what it truly meant to harvest the land – making jams, canning vegetables, baking pies, and cooking everything hearty under the sun; growing the most beautiful natural garden of flower; and living life fully with the personal motto: “A hard day of work never killed anybody”, she has slowly lost significant parts of her life.
Recently, as I visited her in hospital – for a newly diagnosed kidney condition which will inevitably take her life, she lies in bed wistfully – staring out the window watching the sunset. And yet, I don’t see her really watching. Instead, it looks as though she is lost inside her mind even though she typically can’t remember what she is thinking when asked.
It is unclear as to whether she knows who I am or who my sister is. And yet, here is the astonishing thing. She remembers l o v e. This strong-minded, rather opinionated woman who could put anyone in their place (sometimes without any particular reason), remembers what it means to be loving and to love. She is quick to return gestures of love and affection, to look lovingly onto others, and to say the words, “I love you” to us.
She may or may not know where she is at any given moment, why there are several tubes connected to her body, or what is really wrong with her, but she knows love. She immediately knows and feels it because the look in her eyes – the one I know so clearly …..that I have seen thousands and maybe millions of times growing up with her in my life – is there. She understands, comprehends, and feels love.
The interesting thing about the concept of love is that we seem to inherently know it. You may argue that it is something that is taught – that we learn it while still a baby, and experience many moments throughout our childhood in which to build upon this foundation of ‘knowing’ love.
I should like to think that the ability of us all to love is limitless and transcends formal learning.
We have, regardless of the poorest examples of being loved and nurtured as children, the inherent capacity to love others – to be loving and to show and display love. This is what makes us (the human race) so unique. This capacity to love is what we are meant to hone and to share with the world. This ability from within to provide even the simplest of gestures that demonstrate love is within all of us. We may only need to be reminded by someone that it is there….
What I still see that resembles the grandmother I have always known – is the love. The love that she shared endlessly with me, the love that said I was special to her, the love that was expressed in all that she did for me. It is her capacity to love and her knowing of love that is still within her.
Facts and Information about Alzheimer’s Disease:
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. It is the most common cause of dementia among older people. Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.
The 2009 World Alzheimer Report, released by Alzheimer’s Disease International, a non-profit federation of 71 national Alzheimer organizations, estimates that the global prevalence of dementia, predicted to be more than 35 million in 2010, will almost double every 20 years to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.