Monday, April 1, 2013

Age-Old Question

Body and mind.

Body vs. mind?

The Western paradigm of mind-body separation.

My church friend is slowly losing her memory and my hospice friend's body is slowly deteriorating.

And though I know we don't (usually) get a choice as to the time and method of our demise, I am intrigued by both the challenges and benefits of both states.  Who are we as people if we forget everything?  In Still Alice, a portrait of early-onset Alzheimer's, the author Lisa Genova poses questions about identity--if you forget, for instance, that you are a mother, does your love for your children exist even if you don't know you have them?  And so my question:  can love then transcend death if it can't transcend memory loss?  And, once you've forgotten, do you suffer at all?

And why does a body, deteriorating and old, immobile and in pain, still fight so hard to nourish itself, creating appetites and cravings?  I know, rationally, that I would say I wouldn't want to live in such a state, but I can see that the body might not give up so easily, keeping alive even while such suffering seems so unnecessary.  And there is still joy in company, in family, perhaps even just in breathing, sleeping, and dreaming.

I'm not sure I could choose, having now seen a little bit of both (plus the end-stage dementia of my first hospice patient).  And I hope I would approach either, and whatever else, with grace and good humor.

1 comment:

  1. I was discussing this issue on Easter Sunday with a friend whose wife of some 40 years has dementia, she is well cared for can speak and comprehend some things but does not recognise him very often. His point was the validity of that life. If she were in pain it might be argued that a loved one might be offered a lethal injection and shown how to use it. State authorised murder! There mere fact that the suggestion arose means that the thought must have been there. Allowed in Switzerland but if I assist a person like that to get to Switzerland I am deemed guilty of murder. Sound like Alice through the looking glass.
    Our lovely daughter in law had the benefit of morphine so there was little pain but one wonders whether the death was simple death or drug assisted. Have a nice day.