In the Chicago Amtrak station
I offered what we call a “teaching” at our Eighth Day church on Sunday. The subject was my Alzheimer’s and my “theological learning” over the past five months. As with so many experiences I’ve had with other people since September, this was a wonderful sharing that felt rich and beautiful, deepening the bonds of community. I posted the teaching on both the Eighth Day site and my own, and (as I usually do with my writings) sent it out to my mailing list of over 300. Within hours a torrent of emails began to flood my Inbox. This suggests not only support for me but also the hunger people have to learn about this disease. It’s well-matched by my desire to write and teach.
As I review the sermon, however, I see I’m using the terms “beautiful,” “wonderful,” “rich,” “gift” so often that it begins to feel like a soap advertisement out to convince myself and others about the wonder of the product. Reviewing my posts over the last several months, I get the same feeling. At an intellectual level I understand what the has in store for me: It’s not pretty. And my friends and old readers will know that I’m hardly a Pollyanna: My usual response is to dwell much more in dark side of things than the light. Indeed, this experience of joy over the past five month is unique, as great a surprise to me as it may be to those who know me well. But the richness and beauty are so real that I can hardly write about it without using these overused terms that smack of hyperbole or, worse, just trying to put a pretty face on suffering. I do sometimes wonder whether these current feelings aren’t some kind of euphoria that will eventually reveal itself as just another way of coping with feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, etc. Given some of the emotional pain I’ve suffered several times in my life, however, I know that denial is not my style.
Perhaps what sometimes seems like hyperbole is just the loosening of inhibitions that goes with this disease.
At this point I don’t know. Wherever this joy comes from, it’s real, and it’s part of what it has meant for me to live within the reality of my Alzheimer’s disease. And I’m grateful.
And, as I’ve written before for a writer everything is material.