A Fear that Accompanies a Serious Illness

fear by nastyasinitsa

Not my own serious illness. The serious illness of someone that I love.

I’ve written about him before. A couple of times.

He is one of the nicest men I have ever had the privilege to meet. And a few years ago, he was officially “diagnosed” with dementia. What kind of dementia? Who knows. He’s a relatively young guy. All the doctors know (or perhaps, all I’ve been told) is that his brain isn’t working the way it is supposed to anymore.

And aside from all of the sadness and fear that accompany a serious illness – sadness for what he’s lost, fear for what his future holds, sadness for his family members, his wife, his kids, his parents, his brothers and sisters, and his grand-babies, and even, yes, my own relationship with him that will never be the same – aside from all that, I’ve also felt something else. Something I never expected.

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When Great Expectations Are Shattered

When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time with my great grandfather. He’d sit in his wheelchair, his hands shaking, his body frail and bony, and his face wrinkled and pockmarked with the trials and tribulations of life. He would squint his eyes, shake his fist, and tell me,

“Hun, if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.”

As he became older and frailer, those words became his mantra. Until one day, his health failed him for the last time and he left us, finally free of his bag of bones, blissfully moving on to his next great adventure.

It would be many years before I would fully appreciate his words.

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The Man I Love

He is a big man. His hair is matted. His eyes … they are wild. He shakes. Sometimes, he screams. He tries the door. It is locked; he flies into a rage. Dementia has transformed the man I love, but when I am there, he is happy … and so am I.

Holding on to Reason, by Carts on deviantART

Written as part of this week’s Writing Challenge “Fifty”, where the task was to write a story in fifty words. I wanted to show how devastating dementia is, and yet how beautiful life can still be. Showing love, companionship, and solidarity to those who are most vulnerable, especially people with mental illnesses and brain diseases, is so important. Please, reach out to them, fight for them, and be there for them. Love them, no matter how their disease manifests itself. And of course, if you are their caregiver, take care of your own mental and physical health. Don’t be afraid to reach out, you need help too!