For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life. –Proverbs 9:11
Hi all! Welcome back to the Mon/Fri work week bookends blog Digital Cornbread. (As a reminder…for a while anyway, I will only be posting on Mondays and Fridays. But don’t mistake this as giving up in any sense…just regrouping for what will be a long battle to beat this disease.)
I had a week’s worth of my typical column fodder ready today and will surely revisit much of my thoughts as time goes on, but I feel the need today to discuss 9/11…most notably 9/11/2001….and a brief poke into our topic here as well.
9/11/2001 taught me a lot about life. If you lived through that week…those months…I expect it did you as well. But, just like any teacher, you don’t realize just what you learned until you see what endures. Here are some of the things I have learned and how they relates to what I know today:
- People are bad. OK…let me start here by saying that I already knew that, to a point. I didn’t completely realize just how messed up the world was quite as well until these events. I understood the Islam/Christianity problem. I spent a summer in Israel 11 years before the towers were destroyed and got to know many folks on both sides of that issue, for better or worse. One day we were riding a tour bus to see the old city of Jericho. The bus had Jewish markings and was filled with Christians. We, for some odd reason, were routed through a largely Palestinian tent camp complex housing tens of thousands of destitute Muslims. Once our bus was spotted, the residents threw rocks at us in the bus as we sped through. The bus had a broken AC, so we hid in the floor as rocks made their way in through open windows. Just as we were nearing the end of this gauntlet, one group threw several trash bags of feces into our bus. At the time I blamed their religion. Today, while I profoundly disagree with many of their religion’s tenets, I love their followers deeply and better realize that their actions were largely a product of desperation. Hence the hate shown to us. They lived in abject poverty while many throughout the region, in their same religion, lived in palaces with golden leaf walls, enormous staffs of servants, and an unmatched life of ease. They were and are a political pawn, and they lashed out to the ones they were taught by schools and experience were their enemy. Very sad situation. In dementia, there is a unique parallel I wrote about here: Link . Many, many folks, struggling with dementia are teased, mocked, and treated poorly by fellow seniors! The ones who should understand instead exacerbate the problem. To me this is the height of evil…to make fun of someone who struggles be it financially, physically, or mentally. 9/11…and my mom’s dementia…both have taught me much about the total depravity of man.
- Memories fade. 9/11 is nearing 20 year distant from our view. I was sitting in my living room in the then little town of Battlefield, Mo., home of the Wilson’s Creek Battlefield (Civil War site), when the news broke. I sat in shock, like we all did, and watched. I had to be at work that day for First USA/Chase and knew it would be a distracted and terrible day. The next day I was off and we took my 2 girls to the battlefield to tour the area and so I could start explaining war…something I would have preferred to wait a few years to teach. My oldest was in elementary school and my youngest was a baby. It didn’t really sink in…I could tell…but I thought it better that I share rather than she learn it from every TV on earth that was fixed on the events. Now, nearly 2 decades removed, most don’t remember much other than the videos. Oh sure, there are government intrusion reminders (we have to take off our stinking shoes in the airport because one man attempted one time to smuggle a bomb in his loafers. Note: fortunately there are limits: another guy smuggled a flammable liquid in his underwear…but we get to keep ours on…so far.) These things aside, the memory has faded. I know that because the (disturbing) YouTube videos are still there and when I watch them, I feel like it is the first time I have watched them… My memories of my mom and my uncle and my grandma also fade. Sometimes I struggle to remember obscure things, and other times I fail to remember the stories… They fade…and I hate it. Mom is still here, but her memory has already started to fade. I try to write stuff down and talk to siblings and relatives and collect them like precious jewels, but once the last person forgets, it is gone. Oh, and I hate it.
- Memories distort. Everything within us tries to make sense of things like 9/11 and dementia. We tend toward thinking that we are in charge and, being in charge, we can simplify and explain anything, whether it be a terrorist attack or a life-ending disease, within a comfortable framework. When 9/11 happened, nobody (that I was aware of at least) had any inkling of a thought of some sort of conspiracy theory (It was an inside job; there were missiles involved; President Bush just hated Muslims….etc…Come on folks…sigh). However, the more people grappled with their own inability to understand and sprinkled in their own prejudices, anything became possible. That is human nature. We want…we need to understand and we will do anything to trick ourselves in this way. (How about the “fact” that there was once “nothing” and “nobody” and it exploded and became an organized everything that we enjoy now. LOL. Macro-evolution…sigh….) The same applies to dementia. We need to know and we are truly TRYING to know/find out all of the causes, treatments that actually work, and a cure! However, we are a long way from it. 🙁 I have a list of about 30 things I found online that cure dementia! Wow! Voila! Problem solved. Except nope…they are all either scams or misguided good intentions. A cure is worth trillions of real dollars. Your vitamin or therapy would be EVERYWHERE if it was a cure. But it is not. Wanting something to be something doesn’t make it so. If it did, I would be writing about baseball instead of dementia.
- Good can come from bad. This was a slower lesson for me to learn after 9/11, I suppose. The weekend after the twin towers were destroyed, churches were packed to the ceiling with folks seeking answers. I hope there were many who received the Gospel. Lessons were taught and learned. Many people were ministered to. One of the best things that happened was society rallied around and for our county. Here is a great example of this, read by Jack Buck as baseball resumed some time after the events of 9/11:
Is America worth celebrating? I say yes, wholeheartedly. This nation has been the engine of freedom for the entire world for most of its existence. We have been, in many ways, the center of Christianity, the center of science, the center of the arts, and the center of much else good in the world. Have we made mistakes? Bad ones? Yes. No doubt about it. We have the freedom to do so…and learn from them. And we have. And, Lord willing, we will continue to learn from mistakes from the past. We are a far “better” nation now than we were at our founding in many ways. Even touting that all men are Created equal, we still clung to the abomination of slavery…until we finally turned from the evil and toward good and became a driving force for ending this oppressive system world-wide. Do we have a long way to go? Yes…but we have come a long way as well.
Can good somehow come from bad in dementia? Yes, and here is my article articulating some of the ways. Please read and consider it. It is part of how I have made sense of this and how I reconcile Romans 8:28-30 to life’s hard experiences.
I hate dementia. I really do. However, I…we…have to make the best of the situation and focus on all that is remaining with our loved one rather than pre-lamenting them deteriorating. Am I being cognitively dissonant or irrational? Perhaps. However, I would rather err on the side of loving mom imperfectly and doing my best than later on lamenting failing and trying too little. I am gathering memories and hoarding experiences for all I am worth. Have we had good times since she developed advanced and now end-stage dementia? Absolutely. There will be time for sadness later.
Heaven awaits.- I wouldn’t be able to type here or process any of this without the backdrop of the future reality that heaven awaits. A heaven with no terrorists, no sadness, no dementia, no symptoms…just joy and celebration of what He has done for us in His son, Jesus Christ. That sustains me and always will…
Update: As I mentioned on the last post, #180, mom’s center had an outbreak and we are prevented from seeing her in the outdoor capacity for at least a few weeks. There are now a handful of positive cases including 2 staff members. Pray for every one of them. She seems good, relatively speaking, when we did our video chat Wednesday. She is no fan of technology and this mess hasn’t changed that a lick.
Diet update: I am over 85 pounds down. I need to lose just under 15 more in 7 weeks to hit my pre-Anniversary goal. 🙂 It will be hard, but it is possible.
Dad Joke to get you by:
I’m only familiar with 25 letters in the English language. I don’t know why.
Please join our Walk to End Alzheimer’s Team. We walk a week from tomorrow. If you want to join or donate, here is your link:
We will walk virtually and I will explain how it works out if you haven’t seen the info yet. 🙂