“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.” Maya Angelou
When I was in college, I spent a stretch of vacation time working as an aide in a nursing home. My assignment was with those patients near the end of life, immobile, and mostly in the throes of dementia. I learned as a young person that these folks at the end exhibited either the joys of their lifetime exclusively or the pains of their lifetime. The lesson to me was that how I live now will determine how great a patient I am at the end.
Now that I am the daughter of a 91 year old Alzheimer’s patient, I continue to see that lesson played out. My father was a humble yet considerate, joyful, humorous man during his many years prior to this illness. As a patient who loses a little more of his memory each day, he still has the glint in his eye, the respect for those around him, and the love radiating from out of him. I miss many of the parts of him that are gone or are slowly disappearing, but that core of his character continues on with strength. May it be so with us all.