Today is December 2, the first Sunday in Advent and the first night of Chanukah. It really does seem that time is flying by like the migrating birds outside my window.
It has been said that time seems to accelerate as one gets older. According to researchers, it has something to do with perception and relativity. I’m experiencing it, but I can’t comprehend it.
There are a lot of things that I can’t comprehend these days: how migrating birds can figure out where they’re going; how the brain works; how some people can be so cruel, and others so kind; and how come I always lose one piece of every puzzle.
Maybe I don’t have to comprehend it all. Maybe I can just receive the mysteries of life with gratitude and grace.
On Friday, I spoke at the City Club of Cleveland. This venerable forum of public speech was filled with friends, colleagues, parishioners, neighbors, and strangers; and many more were listening on the radio or watching through the live stream. I spoke about dementia from the inside out, sharing my story and the life lessons I’ve learned over the past two years. It was a strange homecoming.
People tell me that I’m transparent, vulnerable, and courageous for publicly acknowledging and talking about my dementia.
I’m being transparent and vulnerable because I feel called to share this journey with others in an effort to demystify and destigmatize it - to demonstrate that there can be a rich and full life post-diagnosis. I believe that preachers are called to live our lives out loud, making sense of them through the sacred text, and in doing so, helping others to make sense of their lives.
But courage? I don’t get it. I don’t comprehend the risk of speaking about my dementia. I really don’t have anything to lose. I voluntarily stepped down from my job, and I’m not going to lose Emily or my family. If I lose any friends because of my dementia, then they weren’t really friends. And most importantly, speaking this truth won’t advance my dementia, at least I hope not. In fact, I think its good for my brain.
I’m fortunate. I know people living with early onset dementia who lost their jobs before they were able to retire or get disability. I know people whose spouses, families and friends abandoned them in their time of need. So yes, I’m one of the lucky ones.
But there’s more to it. When I go to the essence of that word “courage,” what people are saying to me begins to make sense. The root of the word “courage” is “cor,” which in Latin means “heart.” So to be courageous is to speak the truth from one’s heart. That is what I am doing. That is what Emily is doing. We’re speaking about dementia from the inside out - straight from the heart. So maybe we’re both courageous.
What would the world would be like if we all were courageous and spoke from the heart? I think it would be a beautiful place - the realm of God on earth.
So as I light my Chanukah and Advent candles this year, I’m going to start praying for everyone to be courageous and to speak truth from their hearts. God knows, that’s what the world needs now. - Tracey
If you want to listen to my City Club Forum, you can find the link here.