I see them almost everyday in my building. We ride the elevator together and I always notice the kindness in her eyes. More often than not, she has a far away look that tells you she’s physically there, but her mind is elsewhere. Sometimes she gives me a smile. I don’t know if she’ll remember me the next time we see each other but it really shouldn’t matter, and so each time I see her, I smile back as if it were the first time, all over again.
Whenever I encounter patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s, I remember the line from Lisa Genova’s best selling novel “Still Alice” : “…just because I’ll forget it some tomorrow doesn’t mean that I didn’t live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean that today doesn’t matter.”
I once told a friend whose father had brain cancer and whose memory was fading fast that though the time would come when he would no longer remember them, what mattered was that he would always remember the love that was given to him until the very end.
Today, the old lady’s daughter took her to the pool for a quick swim, and as I watched them walk hand in hand towards the garden, I could hear Alice’s words to her daughter:
“You’re so beautiful,” said Alice. “I’m afraid of looking at you and not knowing who you are.”
“I think that even if you don’t know who I am someday, you’ll still know that I love you.”
“What if I see you, and I don’t know that you’re my daughter, and I don’t know that you love me?”
“Then, I’ll tell you that I do, and you’ll believe me.