Daniel had been with me at the facility for over eight years. When he was first admitted, he walked, told off the wall jokes and seemed to be an all around guy.He had served in the Navy, obtaining the rank of Captain. He held a Ph.D in Theology. He had five sons and one daughter that loved him very much and doted on him since the loss of his wife fifteen years ago.
Time is often the enemy to those who have dementia. It creeps along each day, slowly stealing the most valuable thing any person has- memories. Think about it; imagine your most dear memory- the birth of your child, your wedding day; your greatest accomplishment in your life. Now imagine not being able to recall the beautiful face of your newborn baby or that of the man/woman who stood at the altar, smiling as they said ” I do”. Memories. In the average day, how many times do you recall and share a story from the past? How often do you say to someone “Do you remember when we……” Imagine living in a world that you are a stranger to. Those suffering from dementia experience that feeling every day. What they have is the present moment, nothing more, nothing less.
Daniel does not remember his great feats while serving in the Navy. He does not recall the many papers he published on Creationism vs Darwinism. He does not remember that he was an avid Chicago Bears fan. He does not remember his love for the Boston Symphony. He doesn’t recall his life at all. Daniel sits in the recliner, covered in a Chicago Bears blanket, given to him by his children, humming the tune, Amazing Grace. I wonder if he remembers why he seems to remember the song? Could Daniel still be found deep inside of himself?
Today, Daniel is slowly slipping away from us, as he begins his journey across Jordan. Dementia is not the cause of his soon departure, but rather pneumonia. His children could have him sen to the hospital, have him treated with aggressive medicines, but they elect not to. They feel he has “suffered” long enough. His daughter expressed to me that she knew her dad would not want to “live this way”. I sat quietly, listening to her, offering neither agree nor disagree….which I am proud of myself for doing.
I went into Daniel’s room a few minutes ago to check in on him. He smiled broadly when I took his hand, a sign to me that he recognized me as ”someone”. I asked him how he was feeling, to which he replied, ” I’m doing good, better than you.”
Indeed, amazing grace is amazing.