“All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force… We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.” – Max Planck
I was having coffee with a friend of mine last week. I really hadn’t seen or spoken to him in a year so it was good to catch-up on kids, jobs, and just life in general. He was telling me that his mother was suffering from dementia which I typically associate with Alzheimer’s. I learned that is not necessarily always the case.
As he described his mother’s condition and behavior I could see the hurt in his eyes. This was a person he had known his entire life. Think about it, short of his father, he had known or we could say existed with his mother longer than anyone else simply because she carried him inside of her for nine months. Certainly I know being both a son and a father that there is no other relationship that can compare to that of a mother and child. And now, he didn’t know her. She looked the same on the outside but inside something is different, something is terribly wrong.
When I was a young child my great-grandmother came to live with us for a very short period of time. I don’t remember much about it other than the smell of Lysol spray and one odd event when my great-grand was running around our front yard naked, thankfully, in the dark. She had what was described then as hardening of the arteries a catch-all disorder which would be diagnosed as Alzheimer’s today. I remember much later my uncle summing it up with this phrase about my great-grandmother, “she had lost her mind” and infact she had.
In the last six months, two people who I know have died from complications of the Alzheimer’s disease. What was interesting to me though was how different both of their behaviors were. While one remained calm, almost comatose, the other was irrational and mean. But what they both shared in common was the stress and the strain that this horrible disease placed on their families. It was a very sad, and extremely slow journey to watch and in one case, be a small part of.
It would seem if there is anything that separates us from all other living creatures it is our mind. We basically have the same pieces-parts as dogs and rats but it is our ability to not only think but reason, imagine and dream that sets us apart. Some may argue it is what makes us most human. The difference between being and just existing.
My friend and his family are struggling with what is going on with their mother. I see the strain on his face, the difficult decisions he is having to make. Decisions about time and loyalty, concerns about the stress on his father, and the immediate needs of his own young family. Unlike other diseases where some glimmer of a cure may be offered his mother’s future is bleak, a slow road into the darkness. And unfortunately all my friend can do is watch, from the front row.
“If you don’t have imagination, you stop being human; animals don’t have imagination; Alzheimer’s is the death of imagination.” – Devdutt Pattanaik