Excerpts from a sermon preached on Jan. 27
All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, CA
Too often, people with dementia seem to just give up, thinking, “I can’t do anything.” Unfortunately, this attitude is reinforced by a world that approaches dementia from a deficit perspective – noting all that is lost and anticipating what is often called “the long goodbye.”
I resist the urge to give up nearly every day.
Instead, I choose to approach dementia from an assets perspective. I’m going to do what I can do until I can’t. And then I’ll do something else. For instance, I’m not driving much these days, but I still ride my bike (now with electric-assist) with great enthusiasm. And when I can no longer ride a two-wheel bike, I’ll get a three-wheel bike, and when I can’t do that, I am determined to have fun with a walker or wheelchair.
I’ve read about writers who lose their grasp of language and become potters, physicists who become pianists, and CEOs who become gardeners. As I’ve witnessed in so many people living with dementia, and now see in my own life, there are amazing opportunities to be had in this journey, if we are willing (and allowed) to claim them.
When Jesus went to a wedding in Cana, he turned water into wine. My journey with dementia is becoming like a bottle of fine wine. While I would have never, ever wished for this diagnosis, in a strange way, I am profoundly grateful.
Dementia has opened up my world in ways beyond my imagination. It has helped me to see the preciousness and uncertainty of life. It has provided Emily and me with a new adventure in togetherness and introduced us to new friends all over the world. It has forced me to slow down. It has humbled me. Like the Dalai Lama refers to his exile, as “an opportunity to get closer to life” so is my dementia.
What if we all decided to receive whatever life has to offer as we do a bottle of fine wine, a bouquet of exquisite flowers, a jar of precious oil? A gift from God to get closer to life - the life that Jesus showed us. And what if we treated each other as precious gifts, recognizing that each one of us is a manifestation of God’s Spirit and an integral part of Christ’s Body? This would certainly be the good news and freedom that Jesus came to proclaim.