By Marianne Delorey, Ph.D.
“Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
“To be able to forget means sanity.” ― Jack London
Yesterday, a long-term resident came into my office. Her eyes were swollen, and it was clear she had been given some upsetting news. She squared off her shoulders, took a deep breath, and said, “I just want you to know I have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.”
She told me she was okay, that her family was aware, and she would be able to count on them when the time came. She was not seeking drama or pity. I think she wanted me to know so that I could keep my eye on her and so that I would be able to reach out to her family when the time came. Her resolve was palpable. I have never seen such courage.
I’m not sure I could have been as brave as she was. I so value my ability to think and reason that this diagnosis would both terrify and decimate me. To be fair, it probably will some day since both my mother and my grandmother had significant memory loss which was likely due to Alzheimer’s.
However, we will all likely face our troubles in older age the same way we have throughout our lives. My strategy has always been to find the positives or hope for the best. It has always been my motto that every plus is a minus, and every minus is a plus, so I thought about how I hoped to change my outlook when my time comes. And so, I wrote this wish list for her:
If you start forgetting, I hope the first thing you forget is your diagnosis. It is just a small part of who you have been and will be.
If you get a bit anxious, I hope you are easily distracted by a warm cookie.
If you forget a bit of your history, I hope you forget the troubles that have followed you during your life.
If you misplace things, I hope you misplace your fears.
If you lose track of things, I hope you lose track of people who have never been helpful.
If you start repeating what is on your mind, I hope you repeat the loving affirmations of your family.
If you lose your sense of time and place, I hope your mind brings you to a beautiful spring garden.
If you forget how to do familiar tasks, I hope those tasks are filing taxes and counting calories.
If you have trouble with word recall, I hope those words are “lost,” “confused,” and “fear.”
If you develop a new reliance on routine, I hope your routine consists of remembering what brings you joy and hope.
And most of all, I hope your new tomorrow brings you simple pleasures that cannot be taken away – the joy of rediscovering your favorite meal, the happiness of a smile on someone’s face, and the delight of just being you in an ever-changing world.