When I went to my local YMCA this week, I ran into a man from my parish, a deacon who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. His wife recently insisted on a Y membership for him in hopes that the physical exercise would help his mental state, but he is quick to admit that his memory is fading fast.
A deacon for 30 years, he can no longer assist at Mass without a cheat sheet. At home, if his wife asks him to get something from upstairs, he has to write it down. Although he keeps his mind active by reading and doing crossword puzzles, he knows that this is just the beginning of what is likely to be a long decline into a place none of us wants to imagine we might go, a place where we can’t find our way home, don’t know our own child’s name.
And yet, as we stood talking, this man was smiling and complimenting the trainers at the gym for being willing to re-train him every time he comes in since he can’t remember their instructions from one day to the next. He talked about the seniors he visits at a local nursing home, and praised his wife for being his “angel.” Not one negative word came out of his mouth; no fear or self-pity flickered in his eyes.
As our conversation wrapped up, he smiled at me and said, “God is good.” I walked away amazed at the way some people are able to meet life’s greatest challenges with grace and trust. Instead of asking, “Why me?” people like this understand at their core that the real question is “Why not me?”
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Monday, March 14, 2011
'Every day is a gift.' Do we believe that?
My latest "Life Lines" column is now up at Catholic New York. I'll start you off here: