Monday, November 21, 2011

A Priceless Gift

The garden's last flowers
I received a precious gift on my birthday, making it the most beautiful of birthdays in a long time. It came from a beloved member of my family, who was given the great burden of a severe-early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis, shortly after Mom died of that disease.

To understand the gift’s significance, you have to understand that severe Alzheimer’s steals not just memories, not just language in all its totality as the foundation of communicating between people. It steals the brain’s computer processor, so it can’t access stored information, filter data, recognize context, transfer essential messages, or discern logical pathways in the process of decision-making. Areas within itself are isolated from each other. The brain fights through this incredible interference to make sense of a whole world in incoherent motion, as it tries to serve its owner’s needs.

After months of withdrawal, as my loved one struggled in the aftermath that diagnosis, a birthday card arrived the day before my birthday. It was followed by a phone call on my birthday, opening with the birthday song, and then a long conversation, full of news and willingness to patiently work through spots where words would vanish, a strength of attention to hear my words. Love lived energetically in that phone call, a wonderful feat of reaching out.

At dinner with my husband later, I opened all my birthday cards, saving that special one for last. It was signed with a loving message, warm with recognition of our history together. At first I wept at the evidence of language difficulty, fleeing to the ladies room for another (brief) war with God over this. I washed my face, came back, and read the card again, this time thankful for the strength and love that glowed in its message. Sorrow can be blinding. When I wipe my eyes, I can see the tender mercies that always there.

It was a blessed birthday, rich with loving gifts from my family. I’m thankful to be part of the human experience, present and sober and wiser for the life given to me to live on this planet. May all our days be rich with reaching out, offering some simple blessing to someone else.

10 comments:

Yvonne Osborne said...

A lovely message for Thanksgiving week. Hold the marketers at bay like a swag of garlic for the vampires. Alzheimer's is such a dreadful disease. I'm taking your message down the road to my mother, who still has her sharp wit and all-knowing mind. Oh....the things we take for granted.

Rachel Fox said...

Sounds like a very special present, that card.
love.
x

Brian Miller said...

you are making me tear up chris...

glad you got that special gift...

Monkey Man said...

Birthday wishes to you, Chris, and heartfelt concerns for your family member's diagnosis.

The Bug said...

That diagnosis is a fear of mine - making every forgotten name or word a pit of despair (this isn't really a rational fear - my grandmother had dementia but it didn't start until her 80s). So I find this story especially poignant. What a gift! And what a recipient. Happy birthday indeed!

the walking man said...

If we were all dealt the same hand then we would never learn any of the things we need to know. Sorrow and Joy being two of the most valuable.

Mama Zen said...

Happy Birthday, and I'm glad that you received that gift.

T & T Livesay said...

"May all our days be rich with reaching out, offering some simple blessing to someone else" --- made water pour out of my eyes .... Love your way with words. So thankful you got this gift.

e said...

Happy Birthday to you! I am sorry that another member of your family must deal with that horrible disease.

Syd said...

I am glad that you received that card on your birthday. I am sure that it brought up a lot of thoughts of your mother. Wishing you many more blessings every day.

Albert Einstein Quotes