Brother Lazarus;

I don’t know.

When my dear Aunt Ann  was descending into Alzheimer’s she gave me her diaries and notes. The diaries are the chronicle of a soul of purest innocence observing the doings of the 20th century, ending before the disease really began. Her more recent notes are a dissolving spiral of increasingly incoherent paranoia, mostly consisting of the most generous woman I knew scrawling about the imagined theft of her meager possessions by the staff. What shook me into stillness was discovering the question mark that filled an entire page, its eloquence unbearable.

It was relentlessly cruel. It forced me to confront the God of Job who murders innocents and torments His most faithful servant just to make a point to Satan. Watching someone I love fade away from their own  self was terrifying. It was a painful lesson in compassion to endure. To be there and be present with her was extraordinarily difficult and exhausting but I think it helped her. When all else was forgotten there still was a sparkle of recognition when I walked in or spoke to her because I saw her as regularly as I could. The people who faded were the ones who hadn’t seen her in years or even much less near the end. Even when the conversational loops got shorter and shorter until it felt as if I were in a Samuel Beckett play I kept it fresh like any pro would for the blue hairs at the Sunday matinee.

Everyone responds differently and reacts uniquely and dies alone. Everyone we love and cherish will experience pain and terror and death. Everyone and everything will be taken from all of us. This is the price of life. This is what it costs to love and laugh and be. But what we buy cannot be destroyed or obliterated; through lovingkindness we resonate through each other. Instead of cowering before the God of Job, Christ and Buddha gave me the strength to look that poor old mad bastard in the eye. What I saw with my squeegeed third eye was that it was just nature and not malevolence; there is no sin or curse or reason in it. There are saints who disappear into the fog of dementia. There are Nazis still drawing pampered breaths who have never answered for their crimes. There are innocent children with malignant tumors tearing through their little bodies. This is not the fault of God or you or anyone. This is the world.

But honestly, I don’t really know.

I love you.


6 Responses to “?”

  1. Love her as she was, love her as she is now.

  2. Winston,
    This is incredibly beautiful, and it hits home more than you can imagine, as I just lost my mother this past January.

    Thank you.

  3. Poietes,
    I am so sorry.
    You humble me as always, sister.

  4. lazurus/kenny Says:

    Started to read this again and had to stop. I just couldn’t… This weekend we moved her from her assisted living apartment into a skilles care facility. (Newspeak for nursing home!)

    I will fulfill a promise I made to my sister: She thought this was amazing, helpful and important. She thinks you should send it to the Alzheimer Association so others in a similar situation can read it.

  5. I’m so sorry. I love you guys.
    Normally I don’t submit my stuff but I will ‘cuz you asked me to.

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