When I was born, my paternal grandparents were 44 years old. 2012 marks my 44th year and my grandparents are nearing the end of their lives. For them, life is coming full circle and I’ve been helping with their end of life care.
Last month, I visited my grandfather. In advance, I’d been told that his memory wasn’t great – probably due to a combination of age, a recent injury and either Alzheimer’s or Dementia.
Facing a reduction in our mental capacity carries all sorts of biases and stigmas. Even writing about it, I’m cautious, as I don’t want to create needless suffering for other family members.
If we live long enough then we’re likely to be impacted by a gradual, but steady, reduction in our capacity to concentrate and retain the information that we use to make sense of the world. There’s value in sharing what I experienced as it was different than I expected.
My grandfather’s short-term memory is shot but a warm spirit continues to live inside. His capacity to feel happiness runs strongly through him. He surprised me with the strength of his handshake and the radiance he’d periodically direct towards me. Turns out you don’t need much memory to feel very, very happy at seeing your grandson.
Before I met with him, I primed myself by reflecting on favorite memories. You’ll come across this pshycological technique in everything from spiritual texts to manuals on how-to-sell anything. If you are with someone that’s truly suffering then sharing pleasant memories is a way to ease their pain.
When we were together, I focused on his warmth rather than the conversation, which was circular. I was surprised that he retained a good sense of humor, despite his condition.
What most surprised me was how his warmth has lived on within me. Since my visit, I continue to feel happiness and can recall the touch of his hand in mine. The visit gave a very, very strong imprint from him to me.
His time is nearly done but I continue to carry the love he showed me into the world.
Worth remembering as we move through our brief lives.