Somehow, I’d taken refuge in the idea that the period of real dementia would only last four or five years and much of that time I wouldn’t have much consciousness of where I was. But it will probably be more drawn out. Will I be able to tolerate this long process? It’s not so much fear that I feel now but the tragedy of a long, slow slog, unpleasant without hope.
Without hope. Hmm. I’ve been dealing a lot with this question of hope for several years. I’ve been thinking, writing and teaching for more than two years (much of it is on my website, www.davidhilfiker.com) about our response to the ecological crisis when there can be no reasonable hope of “fixing things.” The reality is that we are not going to slow this process of, for instance, global warming, for a long time, and for the foreseeable future, the impact on civilization is going to get worse and worse. I’ve been impatient with people when they can’t recognize the hopelessness of even keeping the damage from getting worse. In our culture, most of us don’t know how to deal with hopelessness. While it can’t be fixed we can learn to live in the present, to act upon the universal principles expressed in the Gospel, to recognize that no one can completely fix what’s happened, and to recognize that whatever happens I can contribute to the work of building a new society when the system-as-it-is collapses to one degree or another.
Well, here I am facing another kind of hopelessness. There is no significant chance that I can be “fixed” and recover. But, at least so far, when I can stay in the present, my life has actually been richer than before and I can sense my contribution to the community more. At least one of my contributions will be to teach my community not to be afraid of this disease. I won’t be able to do that if I’m always thinking about the future and all the unpleasant possibilities. Can I find legitimate hope in just being present to the community?