A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dementia: Melting the boundaries

There are many things in this world that make me wonder what a loving God could possibly be thinking.  One of those things is dementia.  I don't like that word.  It sounds too close to demented which seems a label for serial killers not innocent victims of a disease.  Dementia, Alzheimers, whatever one calls it, why would a loving God allow such suffering to be?

In my experience, those with dementia are often confused by time and identity.  The when's in life roll in and out like the tide, though not as predictably.  Sometimes those suffering from this disease know who and when they are and other times they fade back to the past or simply become confused not being able to find a touchstone to tell them when they are at all.  It is also difficult to remember the who's of life: are you my daughter? my sister? my mother? What is your name again?  The pain that this brings to those suffering from dementia and their loved ones flares so brightly I can rarely bare to look at it.  It seems so wrong that these things that are so basic to our living and our relationships could be taken away.

Is there any way such a horrific disease could fit into the plans of a loving God?  As I read about quantum physics, I am beginning to learn (though not to understand) that time is not as linear as we once thought.  Time is much more fluid.  And there are hints that perhaps identity is not so set and individualistic as we would think either.  Field theory suggest that particles are connected by fields, that they are not just individual particles but parts of a field.  Some scientists go one to theorize that the entire universe is in some sense one.  Perhaps one might say each particle, person and so on is a part of one body.  Sounds familiar doesn't it?

In a sense then people with dementia might be moving toward an awareness that time and individualism are only our current understanding.  Perhaps there will come a day for all of us, as we pass from this life to the next, when we see time and identity as part of a much larger whole.  This does not change the painful nature of dementia but perhaps makes it seem less a stripping away of all that matters and more of a melting of boundaries in preparation for a new reality.

It's not that I believe that this is true.  I realize it is nothing more than my half-hazard way of trying to explain the inexplicable.  But if I can conceive an idea that begins to make sense of something so horrific, then my heart begins to hope.  My heart begins to open to the possibility, maybe even the belief that what God is up to must be so much more profound, so much more healing to our every agony, so much more satisfying to the longings of our souls than I could ever imagine.  God, let it be so.

Someday we will see face to face and the longings of our hearts will be satisfied.  Until that day, what can we do?  We can bring our questions to God with as much honesty as our tremulous hearts can muster.  We can pray for the victims of dementia.  We can care for these victims with love and compassion and pray for forgiveness when we fail to do so.  We can use our resources, including prayer, to work toward a cure.  And we can hope in a God whose love is deeper and wider than we could possibly comprehend.

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