Hawaii 2010

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

The loss of identity

Grandma Kennedy and Aunt Wilma standing in our side yard in Oneonta NY. One day I crawled into the middle of this tree and climbed most of the way to the top, pushed through and slid down the branchs to the ground. Crazy but true. I was scratched and scratchy and smelled like pine tar and I loved it and I remember it. I was nine years old.

Memory is identity. When you have no memories you are not living with a sense of who you are, you are existing. The very sad testimony of the men and women in my community who are care giving spouses with memory loss brings this truth to my heart almost every week.

I see the caregiver practicing the part of the wedding vow that many choose to ignore. For better, or worse. The worse has happened and your loved one does not know how to communicate, has no resevoir of shared experience they can call on, forgets to dress, and eat and plan for the day, yet their bodies are not near death. They go on day after day and month after year. Unthinkable loss of quality of life.

That's why we write our histories so others will know what happened, what we experienced. That is why we store our most precious and happy memories to bring back to fill idle moments and create joy in our life again. God remembers, and so do those made in Him image.

I was not alive for my fathers war, but the pictures and stories and movie recreations made it alive in as many ways as possible.
I cannot have every experience or see every place on this planet, but the words and pictures around me can give me a sense of Ireland, or Italy, or the north pole, which is not on my bucket list.

Memory is life and meaning, practice them, keep them, learn from them.

1 comment:

Dixie said...

Tomorrow I get to a prep for a seniors' wellness fair in a nearby city -- at a table for the counselling agency I work at.

I'm going to invite these seniors to think about their story, what parts of their story they would tell if they were to tell it, and the benefit of telling our story (especially at the end of life) for not only ourselves but for those around us.

I'm quite excited to put the content and some kind of leaflet/handout together on the subject. It's something I'm very passionate about and I hope it will resonate. I think it will be more beneficial to do this approach rather than doing a leaflet about stats on seniors with depression. It seems like that (and dementia) gets the focus.

But what stories do we have to tell? And how do they help us reflect on our humanity? And how can these stories of the past offer us hope as we face the future?

That's where I'm going. I'm wondering what your thoughts would be on the subject, especially since you work closely with this population. Or maybe you'd like to read the paper I wrote on the importance of storying at the end of life? :)