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If you're new to this blog and want some context for it, read this post from the day I announced my Alzheimer's disease and this post about the day I announced I had lost it. For more info, visit my website with my autobiography and all blog entries in chronological order for easier reading to catch up. There's also a sermon on the spiritual lessons I've learned through this journey through my damaged mind.

Thursday, February 07, 2013


 Washington DC
In our faith community, we often speak of “call,” what others might name “vocation:” the kind of life I am called to now.  A few of the marks of call are: first – the task seems impossible; second – one has the personal gifts to do the work of the call; and third – the work involves both the pain of the world and one’s deepest joy.  It seems a perfect description of my desire to change the way I, my community, and the world think about people with Alzheimer’s disease.

As for the first mark of call, the task of changing the way the world thinks is obviously impossible and I’m not even sure about being able to change me or my own community.  As for the second mark, my two memoirs on doctoring, Healing the Wounds and Not All of Us Are Saints suggest that I have the gift of exploring my own inner world and making it accessible to others.  And finally, this vocation explores the pain of the world—not only as my family, community and I will experience it but also as the circles of people that form around any person with Alzheimer’s experience that pain.  To my delight, writing these blog posts over the months has been a great joy.  Sometimes, it seems that, here in the present, Pollyannaish as it sounds, the disease itself is a great joy. 

So creating this blog or my website and any speaking or teaching that I do are my call at this point in my life.  I am to be the voice of this illness in the present moment. To communicate it to the world.  To stay in touch with my reality and share it with others.  To invite people into less fear and embarrassment around questions of this illness.  I’m finding a joy and contentment in this process that has been absent the last few years, when I’ve had to struggle to do the hard work of writing.  It flows fluidly and easily.  For now, as I have said repeatedly over past posts (“Shame and Humiliation,” “Joseph’s House and It’s Interns,” “Telling My Sister Laurie,” and others), I am finding great joy in my life, something that had not been true much before this diagnosis.

I'm not Pollyanna; I know there will be much else to this call and to the disease, some of it ugly.  Not everything is sweetness and light, even now.   I can hardly trust myself to put anything down—backpack, gloves, hat, slippers—even for a moment.  If I take off my gloves to tie my shoes and turn to put the gloves back on, they’re not there.  I have to look around.  It’s not that I put them in weird places (yet) or that they disappear forever.  It’s that I have to make a conscious effort to remember where I’m putting something; the remembering doesn’t happen automatically.  No, it’s not all sweetness and light.

So there’s joy in the presence of pain; for now that’s enough.

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