Affirmation: I am fully open to love, human and divine. Love surrounds me and permeates every aspect of my existence.
When I went to visit Paul I noticed the wedding pictures on his wall. He was one of the few men in the Alzheimer's unit and he was a flirt. He was good looking, tall and lean and always had on a baseball cap. He was in the beginning stages and I could easily have a conversation with him. Then I also noticed the memorial card with what I guessed was his wife's name. I asked him if I were correct and if the card referred to his wife. It did. "Were you married a long time?" I asked. I didn't really expect an answer. I was just making conversation. "Sixty-one years," he replied. "Wow" I responded, “that’s a long time." He came right back at me, "Not long enough!" That was several years ago but even as I write this my heart aches and my eyes tear up. "Not long enough." What a lesson! It came at me like a speeding train and left me dazed by the side of the tracks. Life is precious and life for many is "not long enough."
One of my dear friends recently lost her mother to Alzheimer's. It was a long, difficult battle. My friend lives in North Carolina but her "mum" lived I England. She would often fly over to visit and to care for her mother. When her mother was finally admitted to a care facility, my friend would get up every morning she was there, take the bus and spend the entire day visiting and helping with the other residents. The facility eventually offered her a job. Her mother stopped recognizing her daughter but one day she told my friend, "I don't know who you are but I know you love me very much."
"I know you love me very much." "Not long enough." Words spoken emanating from a place deep within, nothing trite or superficial. The murmurings of the heart, not just of the mind. If I were to look at my life today, search my soul, what heart murmurs would I hear? And if I lost my mind would the messages be about love? I've dedicated this, my 68th year, as The Year of Love.
My church, the Catholic Church, dedicates each year to some worthy theme: The Year of Faith or The Year of the Eucharist, etc. Why not let it be an example for me and dedicate a year of my life to some worthy concept? The Year of Love! It's my ultimate goal, to love deeply, unconditionally, non-judgmentally and without attachment. It's the work of a lifetime. It seems worthwhile and appropriate to take at least a year and to focus on love.
One more Alzheimer story. In the video for the song "Raymond" by Bret Eldridge an elderly woman has the mistaken idea that the maintenance man is her deceased son, Raymond. The video shows that Raymond died in the Vietnam War but Kathryn, the lady in the video, has no memory of that. Her memory only goes back to 1943. She's a blessed woman. She appears comfortable in her surroundings and the cleaning man is kind and gracious. "I bring her morning coffee every day," he sings. "Sometimes I find myself wishing I'd been there." He seems to love her, this woman who believes he is her son. He knows she loves him. It's such a small act of kindness but it's such a grand act of love. The video reflects love in its purest form. It seems to seep from the page out into the room. I never fail to weep when I watch it.
What is more important than creating a life filled with love? Once we can learn to accept love, we can more generously give love. We may not like everyone, that's a given but it is possible to still love them or at least to hold them in a space of love. You can pray for your worst enemy and I don't mean for evil to invade their lives. It is possible to find a place in our hearts to ask for the best for everyone in the world, both those we find easy to love and those who challenge us. Remember, you can't make your world any brighter by blowing out someone else's light. The heart is a muscle. If we want it to become strong and healthy, we have to exercise it just like any other muscle.
If I lose my mind, which I must confess seems more threatening some days than others, I want to know that my heart is still full of love and my body, my spirit is filled with the blessings of a life filled with love. I want to live a life where I can say "not long enough." A life where one day someone will look at me and say, "I know you love me." Hopefully, they will also know who I am and I will know who they are.