Seeing Beyond

When I first look at this photograph, I see a brick wall. Despite the clues: the water meter cover, the manhole cover, and the foot, my mind and thus my experience is fixed. For me, there is only the wall. I am stuck with no place to go.

Similarly when, I walk into Thetford and all I see are the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and not the people who are living with the disease, I know that I am standing before another kind of brick wall.  I create this barrier.  I don’t want to be reminded that someday my body and, perhaps my mind will fail me.  I don’t want to think that I may have to leave my home and the life that I have lived. To say that this doesn’t frighten me would be dishonest.

To widen my view means acknowledging the truth of the situation and searching for other, less visible truths. The people at Thetford are not their diseases – they are full, human beings, with a lifetime of experience and wisdom.

There is a gentleman at Thetford who wanders around the house without purpose and without making contact with those around him. Every once in a while, for reasons that no one knows, he slows down, and pulls out a memory that he wants to share. Sometimes this clarity will last a minute or two and on occasion has lasted for hours before he recedes to a place I cannot know and he cannot share. His moment of clarity is a grand reminder that somewhere among the tangles and plaques of a diseased brain, a person is still there, still able to return, if only for a moment, to express, the whole of his life. If I remember that the essence of this man still lives behind his disease, then I reconnect to him and to myself.

The photograph reminds me to look beyond what I think I see. At first, there was only a wall that blocked my vision. When I allowed myself to more playfully engage with the photograph, I saw that the wall was the ground on which I was walking, and this ground became my way forward.

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Comments

  1. Barbara Goodrich-Dunn says:

    Love this, Emily. I’m passing this to clients and colleagues who are caring for loved ones with dementia.