In American life, we think we are most free when we don't need anybody. Exactly what Alzheimer's represents is absolute dependency - That's what we all need to learn - how deeply we need one another.
- Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Theological Ethics
They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything.
- Bil Keane, Cartoonist
Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World.
- Christopher Columbus, Explorer
Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat . . .We must find each other.
- Mother Theresa, Saint
Nothing is more revealing than movement.
- Martha Graham, Dancer
If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a kind word of encouragement, or attempts to understand a lonely person, extraordinary things begin to happen.
- Loretta Girzartis, Author
All real living is meeting.
- Martin Buber, Philosopher
I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.
- Albert Schweitzer, Missionary
You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.
- A. A. Milne, Author (Winnie the Pooh)
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essayist
A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to, and a perfect traveler does not know where he came from.
- Lin Yutang, Writer
The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
- William James, Philosopher
Memory Bridge Newsletter
03/23/09 - A Message from Michael: Reflections on life with Alzheimer's disease
Here is a funny sad story, or a sad funny story, I can't decide. Either way, it's true, and it may cause you to think twice about who among us are truly absent.
Last semester, Dr. Bob Eschenhauer, who teaches a course in counseling at St. John’s University in New York, asked his students what it is about sending text messages to each other that they found so appealing. Until a couple years ago when he broke down at his girlfriend’s urging and purchased his first cell phone, Dr. Eschenhauer didn’t even know what “texting” was.
“Because it’s less of a hassle than calling,” said one student.
Another offered: “Because you can do it anywhere.”
“And when you’re good at it,” added a third, “you can do other things at the same time.”
“Like what?” asked Dr E.
The obvious answer to that silly question came from the back of the room. “Like listening to your lecture,” quipped a voice not revealing its face. As uproarious approval engulfed the room, “Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water” suddenly began chiming, and the source of the ringtone was somewhere on Dr. E’s person. The timing could not have been worse—or, perhaps, it could not have been better. Dr. E. had taught long enough to take chances. “Wouldn’t you know it,” he announced theatrically as he removed his cell phone from the inside pocket of his doughty sportscoat, “somebody is texting me.” The simple message, which Dr. E. proceeded to share, said it all:
Because we don’t like the intimacy
The way we communicate is the kind of community that we are. At the moment, all the rage is with what is called social networking, the horizontal integration of persons to persons in a worldwide web of incessant chat and twitter. To be, is to be connected—to have a profile and an uploaded photo (or hundreds of them), a “face,” in a “space” that is everywhere and nowhere. The kind of community that we are becoming through the increasingly disembodied ways that we are communicating is aptly called virtual. What that means, in short, is that we are always in touch but without ever touching.
People with dementia are never virtually present. Either they are actually present, or they are not present at all. And so too it is with those of us who wish to be present with them: either we meet them in felt space and real time—body-to-body, heart-to-heart, face-to-face—or we miss them completely. We see their bodies, but not the spirit animating them; we hear what they say, the sounds, but miss the being—the unique being—striving to communicate its presence. We are now and again, between visits, in the same room with them—there. But we seldom join them in a shared emotional space—seldom dare to meet them Here. And I think I know why. Something in my own experiences in the company of people cognitively impaired tells me Dr. E’s student is right: Because we don’t like the intimacy.
In the age of the “text message,” in a global world aptly described as “flat,” people with dementia may be uniquely situated to remind us of those dimensions of our being, and more importantly of our being together, that require bodily, communal, and spiritual integration. In this project, we will have to risk living in a deep world; we will have to become intimate again with those aspects about ourselves that are not, finally, subject to technological manipulation and mastery. The courage to be mortal, dependent, and open about our never-ending need for emotional connections is the kind of courage that people with dementia may be leading us—by challenging us—to remember.