By Randy Pierce
My first personal exposure to Alzheimer’s was as devastatingly moving as I could imagine. As someone with deterioration of my own brain, I envisioned the potency with which this terrible disorder can erase the entirety of a life full of memories, emotions, and experiences. Not so long ago I had the opportunity to hear Liz Longley perform live and gift us with a song which very well captured the emotional surge I feel regarding Alzheimer’s. She calls the song “Unraveling” and it’s a tragically perfect description for the experience. If you are prepared for the emotions, I encourage you to listen:
Very recently, a close friend’s mother died after a long spiral through the unraveling. Her memory walked backwards through her life, dropping her most cherished people and events year by year. She lost birthdays, holidays, children, a husband, and even the ability to make or acknowledge a simple smile. My heart goes out to the people afflicted by this disease and the many loved ones overwhelmed by the results. How can you reasonably share coping perspectives with those who are so immersed in the pain and grief? To me, the answer to healing is time and personal reflections for each to manage in their own way. I believe that the gift of time and experience we share with each person is the treasure to which we should hold in times of loss. Small solace, I know, for those who lose the memories of those very things, and all the worse during the moments when they realize how much they are losing or have lost. That is all the more reason for the rest of us to cherish and hold the remembrance of the experiences with those and for those who have them unravel.
My heart is indeed heavy as I write this. I hope only to honor and support those who choose strength and courage as they confront the awful realities of Alzheimer’s. I wish the healing of time for them, to allow the positive reflections of time with their loved one to influence their memories and lives far more than the tragedy of pain, grief, and loss. The marvel of individual strength in our personal lives is potent and inspiring, though sometimes overshadowed by the sadness of grief which may seem at times to be the more grand stage. Our best strength of support comes from our closest community, as well as our most well-earned admiration and support for the heroic deeds we experience most closely. I hope to never know this pain any closer, and yet if it should come to pass, I hope fervently for the strength, love, and support that is stronger than the challenge.