March 7th is my dear grandmother’s birthday… but I do not think she remembers it. She has been suffering from dementia for a few years now, and she has forgotten much about herself. These days, she hardly ever recognizes any of us next of kin visiting her, making it difficult for us to recognize her as the grandmother we knew.
But, it seems there are some things that have remained etched deep in her memory. I find them in the way she carries herself – for example, in her witty choice of words when she speaks (though we can hardly make out what she is talking about), in her elegant manner when she eats (though she even forgets she has food in her mouth so we have to be careful she does not stuff in too much), and in her graceful smiles and charming chuckles when she laughs (though most of the time we are not sure what is making her laugh).
When she was first diagnosed with the illness, we were told that her personality might change, making her a more angry and aggressive, rude and selfish, and/or suspicious and deceptive person from the confusion and frustration caused by memory loss. And, to an extent, she did become all of these… but in her witty, elegant, graceful and charming way.
Maybe it was because, although her declarative memory (memories of events and facts) were slowly slipping away, her procedural memory (memories of habits) remained largely intact.
Or, maybe it was because that is the kind of person she is from the very core, and she would remain so even when she is stripped of all memory on how to be herself.
Some say that your true nature is revealed when you face death. Although dementia is not an illness leading to imminent death, I see it killing my grandmother little by little. Yet, while she dies a slow death, she continues to be the same good-natured person she always has been. Then, she must be a truly good-natured person… and it must be good evidence that she has lived her life well.
As I make this post on March 28, 2017, I have been informed that she has recently slipped away a little further after she fell ill mis-swallowing food, now spending most of the day in bed sleeping on and off and responding less and less to outside stimuli. But I am told she is still witty when she speaks, elegant when she eats, and graceful and charming when she laughs. I am convinced she will keep on living her life well.
Happy birthday, grandma – maybe you do not remember it, but we want to wish you many more years of living your life well!
P.S. I am very sorry to hear that your dear Mr. C. has passed away, N. From your blog, I could tell he lived his life very well… may he rest in peace.
Sympathy flower, and a medallion for a life well lived, for the great illusionist feline