Yesterday I visited two friends who are both suffering from dementia. One is mildly affected, and has parts of the conversation where you can see him desperately trying to remember an event being talked about. The other’s eyes are mostly blank, with only the occasional spark of light.
It’s sad to see this happen to people, especially friends. I saw in one the absolute panic in his eyes when he partially choked when he was being given some water to drink. Inside that brain the desire to survive was still there. The fright of drowning kicked in and we witnessed an awful scene of a man desperate to stay alive.
As I age, I have attended more and more friend’s funerals. I had a staple diet of it as an altar boy in my youth! Death is just the natural rhythm of life which is a one-way journey. We keep learning about the next bit of life often as we visit sick and infirmed friends and family. Reflecting on friends who no longer know who, or where, they are does drive home the importance of enjoying life while it is fresh. When we are able to celebrate each other’s part in our lives.
Every time I step into my vintage car, I celebrate one of these friends. His was the genius of thinking in 3-D. Of playing with metal like an artist. Of being able to weld and beat panels so that they took a form far beyond the flat panel he started with. Of us creating a car together. Of seeing in his mind, the finished product, and him having the ability to create it. His strong hands pushing and pulling and moulding to achieve the final product. This was not a tradesman. This was the work of an artist.
Now the eyes see nothing. Or do they? What is happening inside that old head? The strong hands still give a very firm handshake. The incredible creativity of the past however, has gone. As has that of the old woman in the same rest home, the creator of community gardens, who wanders around the yard searching for what she can undertake for her next project.
I always leave the rest home yearning for the past. Lamenting what has gone. My mind filled with wonderful memories of how much fun we had together; and with our family and friends. Those memories partially compensate for the sad journey my old mate is on. Our task is to keep visiting so that he knows he’s not on his own.
I read this quote by Florence Nightingale when she said:
Live life when you have it. Life is a splendid gift-there is nothing small about it.
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