Love is supposed to be reciprocal. What happens when our loved one stops showing us the love we have been conditioned to expect, when they meet our gaze with indifference, or when they tell us to go to hell? Dementia is an invitation for us to discover the true meaning of unconditional love, using mindfulness and loving kindness as gateway practices.
There is no substitute for actual experiencing, or as close to it as we can get. Only then can we feel from the heart, the extent of what our loved one may be going through. This is much more powerful than just reading about it. With its built-in readiness, caring from the heart is a lot lighter on us and more likely to sustain us in the long run.
It's been over a year since my father's death. In that time, I've struggled to remember him as a well person. He was healthy for my first 45 years of life and yet, hard as I try, I cannot reimagine him as whole. So dramatic was the scenery of his decline, it infected the memories that were amassed underneath.
My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease just after he turned 40. A talented long-distance runner and veteran of many first-place race finishes and successful marathons, he was an extremely athletic and healthy man. When his foot started to drag and a tremor found its way into his left arm and hand, I somehow knew he had this disease but had no idea just what the implications might be.