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Alzheimer’s and the Here and Now

December 1, 2013 | by Rochel Spangenthal

My grandfather taught me to live in the spectacular now.

My grandfather always smiled when I visited him. He would emit a surprised, "Hello Rebecca! I haven't seen you in a while!" and reciprocate my hug.

I sighed and gently reminded him who I was. "No, Grandpa Eli, it's me. It’s Rochel."

I sat down. Our eyes met. He laughed.

"Where are you in life now?" he asked.

A response was given and he invariably replied, "That’s lovely."

My grandfatherMy grandfather

The conversation continued. His tone rose and fell. My attention was again drawn to the mosaic of veins and bruises on his skin as I heard him ask, "So, where are you in life now?"

I repeated what I had said and offered to take him for a drive. An offer he gladly accepted.

As we got in the car his head tilted in curiosity and he said, "Rebecca, it has been so long! Where are you in life now?"

The day was cloudy. He only saw sunshine.

He was delighted with my reply and gazed at the passing scenery.

"The day is perfect, isn't it? The weather is beautiful. Look at the sky!"

"Yes, Grandpa, it is. It’s perfect."

The day was cloudy. He only saw sunshine.

A few moments passed.

He placed his hand gently on mine and his eyes lit up as a question occurred to him. "So, my darling, tell me – where are you in life now?"

The Spectacular Now

For my grandfather, every moment was created anew. It was tied neither to the last minute nor the moment following. His Alzheimer’s disease caused him to live in an everlasting present, surrounded by the potential to begin afresh, and he was delighted there.

We are taught that God brings the world into being at every moment. Our lives, though they may seem to run independently of external forces, are nothing but a constant pulsating flow of Godly energy. In a similar manner, a ball thrown into the air appears to rise of its own accord. Physics, however, dictates that the ball continues to rise only as long as the force from one’s hand continues driving it upward. As soon as that force is exhausted, the ball falls to the ground. So too, an ebb and flow of Divine light creates and recreates the world numerous times per second.

Normal people don’t feel their own recreation on a consistent basis. At least, I don’t. But perhaps my grandfather did. He belonged to a world in which a person is never stuck in the mire of his situation. One need not wait for tomorrow to have a better day; from one second to the next, one can take a deep breath and begin again.

My grandfather belonged to a world where it was normal to comment on the beautiful weather nine times during a 30 minute car ride, because each time it was true.

He belonged to a world where it made sense to repeatedly ask me, “Where are you in life now?” as if I didn’t answer the same question two minutes prior, because I was a different person back then. I had been recreated. So much had changed.

Life is challenging sometimes. I accept that. But my grandfather taught me to be here. To be present. To live in the spectacular now.

He taught me to just close my eyes, smile, and ask myself, "So, where are you in life right now?”

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