Gone are the days when Dorothy and I would plan ahead, together, for our next shared adventure, be it home and family related or, in later years, a wider travel experience. Gone, too, are the times when we could share remembrances of those times – all those shared years, together.
But that doesn’t preclude my solitary recall of them, nor does it diminish their importance, it simply means I can’t re-share them with Dorothy even though she’s still with me, but apart. And they are no less real, and I can still recall and savour those times. Dorothy’s ability to reminisce slid away some years ago and those memories totally elude her; nevertheless, those earlier shared experiences most certainly have shaped us, in our behaviour and attitude to others, even in our now different lives.
As we move on in our lives, all of us do so in our own personal way, and with every breath we are the masters of our thoughts, our actions, and reactions. What we do and say, is who we are, and affects everyone we touch – it’s what makes us unique and, to varying degrees, precious to each other. The way I personally respond to the swings and roundabouts of life now is conditioned by all of my earlier experiences, not only with Dorothy, but with each and all of our family and friends, those we worked with and, in our case, prayed with. Our journey just like everyone else’s was, with all its ups and downs, often burdened with emotional baggage; the baggage of past mistakes, of wrong decisions, of attitudes, or behaviours, or of things done or not done, and some of it difficult to forget, even if we’d rather!
Dorothy is no longer encumbered by that sometimes-superfluous load, she is free to know and feel only the present, and to savour each moment just as it is, right now. Her Alzheimer’s condition highlights the importance of the ‘now’ when she and I are briefly together these days, and that helps me to accept how precious those encounters should be. The joy of the moment implies that every visit is a time of mutual happiness when clearly that cannot always be so when verbal conversation is not possible. I do know that there are times when we each feel a special bond, an undefinable presence of minds, felt and unsaid, which often lingers after I leave and leaves me unsettled, and Dorothy seemingly untroubled.
To help retain my sanity I have learnt to take some time out, to stop and grab hold of my swirling mind, to reflect quietly and to pray. That absolutely essential and positive activity continues to be precious for me; it’s a place where I can find solace and strength to face the next moments and the next day, even though I cannot know what that might bring. I am grateful to have my Christian belief of a caring God; insecure, imperfect, and uncertain as it may be, my faith gives me purpose and meaning and the strength to keep loving. It also helps me to recognise that my experience of personal adversity is as nothing compared to the afflictions and deep hurts of so many others, now exacerbated by the current awful consequences of the coronavirus. Does my belief help me, and Dorothy? Yes, it does, even when sometimes I think, like so many others before me, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”. The enigma of humankind!
I reckon that’s answered in part by recognising that belief engenders grace, and grace empowers many people to respond with intervention and care, sometimes called service, but it’s really love and, with God’s grace, that’s what enables me to stay travelling on this journey, no matter how rugged at times.