I am still steamed at Pat Robertson’s blessing of abandoning a spouse with Alzheimer’s and moving on with life, so long as custodial care is provided, lamely excused by his claiming that Alzheimer’s is a “walking death,” and that such patients, “are gone, they’re gone! They’re gone!.” Robertson meant that the “till death do us part” was fulfilled in such cases. Baloney, he was actually espousing a “till sickness do us part” marriage ethic, since people want to enjoy their lives and sticking with a catastrophically ill person is such a downer.
I thought about Pastor Pat when reading a column in this morning’s SF Chronicle about a family caring for their beloved husband/father whose Alzheimer’s is really biting. From “As Alzheimer’s Robs Minds, Hearts Open,” by Michael Collier (behind pay wall until tomorrow):
At twilight, he is overwhelmed with anxiety, a common symptom of Alzheimer’s. His face twists in confusion. He wanders to the outside doors, hoping that one will open and he will be able to go back home with Mom or to go to work. I tell him that the door that is always open is the one to his room. Other residents are agitated, too. “Son of a bitch,” a woman snaps.
But Dad’s miracle is that as he suffers from a brain breakdown, he is living in his heart more than ever. He reaches out to help a housemate grasp a spoon; he holds a door so a woman can pass through in her wheelchair; he openly yearns for Mom. I am saddened by the passing of my old Dad. But I am comforted by what is happening between us. I bear-hugged him at the end of our visits, and he clutched me like never before. While it would be hard to convince anyone that dementia is a gift, I can say that in an unexpected way, it has allowed me to feel his love like never before. Thanks, Dad. I love you, too.
I once heard Rabbi Harold S. Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People) say in a speech, “There may not always be a chance for a cure, but there is always opportunity for healing.” Even at the depth of the end stage of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, catastrophic brain injury, etc–love heals. Alas, that is a lesson that Robertson apparently skipped in pastor school.