E V E N T S
Our lives are filled with them. Easter, Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, first days of school, graduations, homecomings, farewells, weddings and funerals. From the moment we are born to the moment we die each milestone marked. Not just the major milestones but also minor ones fill the calendars; dinner with friends, taking part in sports, watching our kids play sports, art classes, skydiving lessons, paying the phone bill, picking up milk and bread, forever filling our days. Some events stand out, others pass as a blur of everyday life. Most we never make a record of anywhere - except as a scribble in a diary as a reminder, or an alarm on our cellphones.
What will happen if you can no longer take part in even the simplest of 'events' in your life? Even to the extent of just setting that alarm to remind yourself to buy milk and bread...
I picked up a copy of the book Still Alice by Lisa Genova today. It wasn't recommended to me and I haven't watched the movie or seen the trailers. I was wandering around the bookshop and it caught my eye .... I am already nearly half way through and will probably finish the book tonight. I already know it's going to be one of those defining books in my life - a before and after I read Still Alice moment.
In short it is about a 50 year old Harvard cognitive psychology professor with early onset Alzheimer's.
I'm at the point where she has just told her family and the summer holidays are coming up and she will need to start making plans for the future. And she is starting to wonder what the future holds. She had plans for so many future events; writing her book, visiting places, spending time with her family. Now she doesn't know if she'll have another year of good memory, let alone another 10 years of quality memory. The events of her day are noted on little sticky notes and ticked off as she goes along but if not detailed enough she doesn't remember what it was for. It makes me wonder how much of our time we fill with nonessential events. Things that could have waited or should have been shelved. I know by the end of the book she isn't going to recognise her family or know who she is. This is very reminiscent of The Notebook where Noah reads their life story to Allie and she has no recollection that this is her story.
It is a stronger reminder that there is no promise of tomorrow. Of all our facilities our memories are at the core of who we are. They allow us the ability to recall the events of our lives. To pass our histories on to our children. Tell our stories. Make a difference with our voices. If the brain ceases to function then we as a person cease to function along with it. Even if we lose our eyesight, or our hearing or even a limb, if we have our memories we are still whole - take away the brain's capacity to function - finding the way home, or to the bathroom, remember a name or how to tie a shoelace and you take away the core of the person. They become a shell.
If ever there was a reason to record the events that shaped your life then Still Alice and The Notebook are it. I found The Notebook a sweet love story but Still Alice is the gritty reality of life. It scares the crap out of me. I can feel her anxiety with each page. Words form part of my everyday life and I could not imagine anything more horrifying than not being able to write or read because I can't recognise what is in front of me.
This book is giving me a new insight into a disease which is hidden away in nursing homes. The families who suffer watching their loved one slowly slip away from them. The person who loses their identity to the disease itself. We should all appreciate what our brains do for us every day without thought because without it all those events in your life just become non-events.
Take pleasure in the events you choose to fill your life with.