Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.
How many times have we gazed out into space without remembering the reason for our hesitation? I would guess more times than we care to remember. It is scary because we do not know if we are forgetting everything or just having a temporary memory lapse.
Some people I know will purposely leave their keys or some such object in a non-familiar place to see if they are losing their memory. It is an exercise destined to frighten even the most secure.
I recently watched a movie titled, Still Alice. I sat there glued to the screen, not only because of the superb acting, but also because I see so many instances of what was depicted.
We think of the past, but the present fades from view. People abandon us; families find it an endless journey into a darkness that sees no light. And we are left with emptiness because we do not know who we are, or who we were.
Do we understand what is happening? Can we function normally? Can we find the place we want to be? Who are you? Where are we? Rational people of sound mind will ask all these questions. Not us. We can’t even express our feelings, let alone ask sensible questions.
We endeavor to hold onto the last remnant of our memory. And as the memories fade the darkness gets brighter until there is no day, just the endless night. I cannot function as an adult person. I am once again a child, dependent on others, back in the womb of time. I cannot even reach out to ask for help, because I do not understand what that means either.
How about those who watch this once vibrant life ebb until there is no more? How do those closest to this journey of nothingness deal with the reality of a disease so daunting that we would like to also disappear into the abyss? Who will console the caregivers? Who will offer the comfort and solace needed to accept the inevitable?
The questions are endless, and the answers are few. Sure, there are support groups and the usual sympathizers, and then the realization that no one will be there except those who truly care.
I would suggest that help is found in Scripture. The Psalmist explains that the Lord will help us lie down in green pastures; God will restore our souls; God will be with us. God will shepherd us so that we will have no needs or worries.
The lesson is that things happen, some of which we have no control or understanding. God’s role is not in preventing suffering or despair, but rather to help us bear the burden and gain the strength to endure.
Perhaps, now we should remember the good times, as well as the bad. Perhaps, now recalling our experiences will enable us to appreciate that which we had and that which is yet to be. Perhaps, now the love we display in the care and concern we show those afflicted will help us realize that through love can we forgive and be forgiven.
Still Alice can be an instrument in learning the greatest lesson of all: There is no darkness in the light offered by God. It is called faith.