Monday, July 14, 2014

Do This In Memory of Me

"Do this in memory of Me."

These final words of the consecration have been haunting me for days.  About a month ago I agreed to give two talks in Naples, FL, one to the Collier County Alzheimer's Association, where I've spoken in the past, and the other at a Presbyterian Church in Naples.  Mary Ann, med school lab partner, has had me visit Naples to give talks to the Alzheimer's Association several times over the past years.  While I'm going to rework a talk I've given to the Alzheimer's Association on dementia and spirituality for the Presbyterian Church, I have to write something new for the association.  Indeed, that is one of the reasons I agreed to give the talk.  It will force me into writing something new.

About three weeks ago I was walking home from class when, as the e-mail to Mary Ann explained, the miracle happened.  The title for the talk blasted into my brain.  "Loss, Grief, Anger and All The Rest:  The Emotional Roller Coaster of AD."  As thoughts for the talk are gradually forming the role of memory is assuming an important role.  Thus, the words "Do this in memory of Me."

Dementia affects memory.  Memory loss is the single most common presenting symptom of AD and many other forms of dementia.  However, the focus of my talk is not going to be on memory loss in the patient with AD.  The talk is going to focus on the loss of shared memories and the subsequent emotions for the husband or wife, children, family and friends of the patient.  I haven't seen anything in the literature on this though I suspect a rereading (planned as soon as I get home) of Colin Murray Parkes book Bereavement in its most recent edition will give some good leads. 

I read somewhere that who we are is in large part determined by our memories.  Shared memory is the foundation on which any close enduring relationship with others is built.  The shared memories that are lost not only by the patient but, more painfully because of the degree of insight remaining, by those who are in relationship with the patient.  When a memory can no longer be shared does its nature as memory change?

There are some memories that are so diffusely shared that many people in the patient's life share them and can thus share them amongst themselves even when the patient is incapable of remembering or entering into the sharing.  This is not as much of a problem.  However the loss of the unique memories that were shared only by the two members of a dyad or a very restricted and small group of others, is painful.  When we lose the ability to share those memories we lose a part of ourselves that is integral to our self-definition.  We lose some of the joy of life.

One of the great sorrows of living to extreme old age is losing all those with whom one could share memories.  I never thought to ask Aunt Irene what it was like to be the last surviving sibling of four. Bad and good memories of growing up at the corner of Blair and Main were no longer shareable except through a long explanation of the back story.  Mom outlived most of her friends and all but Irene in her birth family.  Many of her memories died with them well before she died.

All I have to say to my friends Al and Karen for hilarity to break out is a well-timed, "Yeah, just like the policeman's hat."  The memory is unique to the three of us.  Some day one of us will be stuck with it because there will be no one with whom to share the laughter. 

The pain of the lost memories because the other person sharing them is no longer remembers is great.  It is frustrating.  It is one of the drivers behind the grief and anger that will be covered in the talk.

Catholicism is about memory.  The Eucharist exists only because of memory.  Without the mandate "Do this in memory of Me" there would be no cause for daily Mass.  The Holy Week Triduum is far and away the most emotionally draining, ecstatic and fundamental liturgy in the Church because we remember, recall, and even, in some ways, reenact yet again Jesus' institution of the Eucharist, passion, death and resurrection.  Without that ecclesial memory we are lost.
Photographically it has been a frustrating week and infuriating weekend.  The weather forecast was optimistic a week ago.  Sunny, dry, lovely . . . .Didn't happen that way for the holiday weekend.  Since Tuesday the sun has not been out for more than five minutes in any particular hour.  And those hours were few and far between.  The skies have been a flat gray that makes photography an exercise in futility.  I've been wanting to go to the Parc de la Tete d'Or for the past ten days but the only day there was adequate sun was one on which I was exhausted.  Outdoor gardens don't photograph well in flat gray light.  A flash is never the answer, at least for this amateur.

Today is 14 July, the National Holiday, and thus far it looks like more of the same.  Saw a few small patches of blue and sun while responding to some e-mail but I'm not racing for the camera.  Yesterday during a lovely 15 minute interlude I was preparing to go out with the camera when a twenty minute downpour followed by gray skies hit.  

Unreal.  Three minutes after I wrote the above that I'd seen a patch of blue and sun it began to rain.  Three more minutes and it turned into a downpour. 

Somewhat random photos. 

A Moroccan tea service on display at the international festival at Bellecour a few weeks ago. 

A cafe up toward the end of the shopping district.  I think every cafe in Lyon has outdoor seating.  It may be simply two or three tables but there is always the option for eating al fresco.  This past Friday the weather was more drizzly October in Boston than summer in Lyon but people were eating outdoors in their coats.

This is the sort of photo I enjoy taking on a morning where I am free.  It is the facade of one of the French Courts overlooking the Saone in Vieux Lyon.  It is a study in contrasting geometry and texture.  Have been playing around with it in black and white as well. 

The spires of the Cathedral of St. Jean that is very near the above court building. 

The Eglise St. Georges where Mass is celebrated in the extraordinary form.  I went there yesterday morning as the weather was sufficiently lousy that I didn't want to risk the mile plus walk to St. Bonaventure. 

A corpus hanging in the foyer between the chapel and the large conference room.  The huge chapel was split into a smaller domestic chapel, the foyer, and a largish well-equipped conference room.  

The view from the garden in what would be a cloister garth if this were a monastic community. 

Three first-year novices after an evening of entertainment and recreation. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

No comments:

Post a Comment