Maybe it's my age, but I found a recent Speaking of Faith program spellbinding. It's titled "Alzheimer's: Memory and Being," and it features a man named Dr. Alan Dienstag, who has done writing programs for patients with Alzheimer's, programs push patients to write down memories, for the sake of their loved ones, that will otherwise soon be gone.
Maybe the worst part of any such illness is knowing you have it. Once one loses that realization, one may well live more comfortably within the handicap; but the program made clear that that time of limbo--a time when you know you have it but simply keep losing memory--can be simply devastating. That's when Dienstag works with patients, getting them to write their stories.
One little anecdote stays with me. A woman is pained, day after day, as she realizes that her husband is having more and more trouble simply identifying who she is when she comes in the room. With a kind of impertinence, Dienstag says, she tends to confront him when she comes in--"do you know me?" she'll say.
One day, her husband looks up at her when asked the question, looks into her eyes for a moment, and says, "I don't know you, but I love you."
That single line holds so much human emotion that it lifts itself off the page, an entire story, an entire life--two of them, in fact.
You can hear "Alzheimer's: Memory and Being" on Speaking of Faith at
http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/2009/alzheimers/ and downloading the broadcast.