Editor’s Note: We are saddened to inform you that Dick’s wife, Ginny, died on December 13th. She was surrounded by several of her children. Dick wrote the following A Farewell Breath to precede A Living Death which follows below.
A FAREWELL BREATH
In the blog A Living Death, I wrote of the effect upon my wife, Ginny’s, brain by the rapacious ravaging of Alzheimer’s. I predicted how her struggle to be would end: her inability to walk, to talk, to eat, to chew – and still to come not being able to swallow and drink – and finally the brain will forget to breathe.
I was wrong in my prediction. It wasn’t Alzheimer’s that stopped Ginny from swallowing and drinking – it was she. For a brief infinitesimal moment in the murky stream of her consciousness, she had the clarity of vision to say No! She chose to clench her teeth, to slide the water out of the corners of her mouth.
Ginny lost the fifteen years battling with Alzheimer’s, but she took back who she was – a tough minded, determined, but gentle, wife and mother. Now she could squeeze a hand, take a farewell breath, and pass silently out of the fog of Alzheimer’s into a clear day.
I watched my wife disappear into the fog of Alzheimer’s Disease.
It started innocuously in 1998. She experienced a brief “senior moment.” But Ginny was only sixty-two, not yet eligible for Medicare. That momentary lack of remembrance changed to forgetfulness. That, in turn, changed to memory loss. Then, lack of recognition. Then, absence of awareness. Then inability to walk, to talk, to eat, to chew – and still to come not being able to swallow and drink – and finally the brain will forget to breathe.
I have yet to see the future events. But I have witnessed the incessant, the ineluctable ravaging of the mind; the tumbling and tangling of the fibers of Ginny’s brain. I have been company to the muddying over of the mind’s pathways of personhood. And I have not been a silent observer. I have observed the progress – a cruel word – of the degeneration of a persona, and I have screeched my emotional responses. I’ve taken the journey from the early days of mild forgetfulness, with hope of reaching a stopping point, to the despair of the foreknowledge of the darkness that lies ahead.
You’ll get to read these poems, these cries from the soul, in this blog. The blogs to come will place you in my mind and in Ginny’s.