|The garden's last flowers|
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.