Simon Hoare shares some of his experiences in coming to terms with his dementia.
[New City Magazine – October 2021, page 7]
I was driving home, after the result of my first visit to the Memory Clinic. I had ‘a mild cognitive impairment’. I knew at once, aged 81, that I had started on ‘my final journey’. I had followed two friends, who had suffered loss of memory long before dying in hospital of dementia.
Then, as I drove along it came to me that I could meditate on the three final prayers of Jesus on the cross. The first of these is ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ I spent some time adding up how many people Jesus had to forgive. But just before I sat down for my first meditation, I thought to myself, this will be rather dull as I have no one to forgive. And then came an inspiration. It came to me, just before I sat down: ‘You can forgive your forgets!’
Feeling left out
And what a blessing that turned out to be. Instead of feeling down with every ‘forget’, of which there were, and are, many, I could, and did forgive myself, and was uplifted!
With on-coming dementia I felt myself increasingly left out of conversations. Visitors, for various reasons, called at our house and spoke to my wife, said hello to me and then kept talking to my wife. I listened but felt left out. One reason was that with the onset of dementia I have no responsibilities and could not be expected to answer any questions or confirm any plans. Nevertheless, being left out felt like a darkness. It was an experience of ‘Jesus forsaken’ to be accepted and loved. So, I made an effort to change my resentment and to love Jesus forsaken. Now after a few more experiences with this attitude I can accept the situation and feel much happier.
‘Always, Immediately and with joy’
I had been looking forward to a visit from our younger son. At his last visit he showed he had become a skilled craftsman and there were two jobs in the house waiting for him. I had planned to watch him deal with both. In the event I had to leave just as he was starting one, and when I asked about the other, he had already done it! I admit I was disappointed, but said nothing. In bed the following morning, I was pondering what I had missed. In the face of hurt, disappointment or anger, I understood that I needed to embrace this suffering ‘always, immediately and with joy!’
One day I was called for lunch but did not respond immediately. When I arrived downstairs, my wife said something so sharply that I turned around immediately and went back out of the door! As I went, I suddenly thought, ‘Hey, this is another opportunity to start again.’ I turned back immediately and sat down for lunch. Nothing was said and afterwards I could not even remember what had been said that had upset me!