Here I visit a concept that a man with Alzheimer's wrote about before his recent death.
| I remember reading a story that was linked to Facebook through a personal friend of mine. The author was a man who suffered from Alzheimer’s who, in one of his lucid moments, wrote what was dubbed a ‘poetic masterpiece’. A nurse found it after the man’s death, and sent it circling the globe. I wish I still had the piece; it made a bigger impact to me than I thought at the time, and I can’t find it now. I loathe the thought of doing it an injustice so I can’t include it here. I will surmise, though, that the piece centered on the man pleading with the reader to remember him as who he used to be before the Alzheimer’s had him continuously looking for his left sock.
We all have dreams. We all aspire to heights that seem so glorious from where we sit. We read about the people who served honorably in war, and listen to their stories through scratchy, gravely voices. Thousands buy and read books front to back about characters that traverse the world and explore new ideas and themselves. We are all inspired by these people, and our lives are better for it. But how many of us stop and look just as often at the achievements we have done? Even with Facebook and Twitter, where adventures are posted daily, how many of us can recognize our own? We are so often inspired by those around us, and perhaps a little too hard on ourselves, to realize that we inspire others just as much.
I remember the particular scene where this revelation came to me. I was coming backstage after finishing a concert where people received awards for ‘most talented’, ‘most improved’, and ‘most inspirational’. I had received none of these, and I didn’t expect to. Those who did were so far above me I couldn’t dream of catching up. But there was one girl who sought me out, just to tell me she had put my name in for the ‘most inspirational’, and that I was the only reason she had continued to play her instrument. I thanked her, of course, but the thought floored me. I could very clearly remember the man who had given me that very inspiration, and I just couldn’t picture myself in that position.
The lesson continued as I grew a little older and joined the Air Force, and listened to not one, but a few kids tell me they wanted to be like me when they grew up. I am not a hero, though. Perhaps joining the military was a big accomplishment, but it’s not like I am saving the world every day. I am a mechanic with a fancy name and a (rather unflattering) uniform. I have so many dreams to see the world, and meet new people and do amazing things. I haven’t started yet, so how can I be inspiring?
Perhaps the author to this poem, unable most of the time to remember the things he has done, was crying out for someone to remember it for him. Perhaps he wanted to see the inspiration in their eyes again, and feel a bit of that glow of pride. The eyes that pity must sear him to the bone. He is still there: a mind that tells him he’s 25 and should be able to function, trapped in a body that doesn’t respond. I am not even at that age yet, and look back on a full life with so many adventures just waiting to be told and remembered.
A person is made largely of the actions and reactions of his or her life. To lose that is terrifying, both to those who watch it, and those who experience it. Yet even now, the man with Alzheimer’s inspires those around him. He lived a little while longer, still smiling and enjoying the life he had, save the few moments that plague us all. Yet while he begs others to see him for who he was, it is who he ended up that has inspired me the most. The power to inspire lies with us all, he showed me. Even ourselves.