This is my second update on dementia—the first I wrote about two years ago. At that time I shared that I have vascular dementia. Fortunately it is not Alzheimers, which is a pretty awful illness, but simply a form of dementia that was probably caused by a series of mini-strokes that have left me with a number of deficits. I am trying, as I always have, to take care of my health, including my somewhat elevated blood pressure; hopefully, though I cannot reverse the deficits, this will keep them from getting worse.
Before Shabbos this week, as I was getting ready, I realized that I couldn’t figure out how to do my tie! Whatever I tried wasn’t getting there. I asked my wife and at her suggestion tried the internet, but still wasn’t getting there. Finally though, I got it. I’m not sure how, but I got it.
Two days later, on Sunday morning, I was learning with my very dear friend Simcha Katz. I was very deflated and upset with my dementia. To not be able to do my tie after doing it for more than 65 years—that was too much! As we were talking, my wife came down and joined the conversation as it turned to Simcha’s mother, an unbelievable woman who is 94 years old. Though she gets down sometimes, every time we visit her at her home at Fountainview in Monsey she gives us chizuk and makes us remember how important it is to live life to its fullest every day. She is an inspiration to everyone and never fails to remind me that when I was 10 years old I used to ride my bike over to visit her “Stevela” at their home in Chelsea all the way from my home in Malden. She is fortunate that she gets constant visits and calls from her many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There are even great-great-grandchildren who will soon be dialing her number.
And I finally realized that that is what life is supposed to be. As we get get older, some of us have somewhat minor problems—I have certainly had my share of those—but with it all, I have still been managing my difficulties while loving my life, my wife, everyone in my family and the increasing number of friends that I make every day. This might seem strange to many. I have met many people but unfortunately I do not know most of their names. Some I recognize but still don’t know their names. This, despite the fact that many of them tell me their names every time I meet them. I am most grateful to those of you who do that. In spite of the fact that I still won’t remember your names the next time we meet, I really do appreciate it. If more could do that, it would be wonderful. By the way, there are countless people that I don’t even recognize. As I see them more and more, I will probably recognize them eventually but will still not know their names. But it doesn’t matter, because I am grateful to those who realize my disability and I would very much like to get to know you better.
Though I was somewhat down on Sunday morning, I was able to get over it pretty quickly. I love this magnificent world that is unknowable or at least un-understandable, and most of the time it is beautiful. Occasionally it is not—some of the time it is frightening and horrible—but in spite of all that, it is awesome. I am typing right now (Monday morning) as it rains on and off. I keep looking out the window at the indescribable beauty of the fall trees, some of which are already barren, and some of which are still awesome and magnificently colored. So it is with God’s world—it is one of the many great mysteries of life. Thank God we were given the great privilege to be able to experience a small part of it.
I’ll close with one final thought. Every one of us commits the terrible sin of judging others. It is one of the worst things that we can do. It causes terrible jealousy and even hate. We are in this world to leave it a tiny bit better than it was when we came into it. Though you may have your doubts, it is undoubtedly better than it was very shortly after Creation or, if you prefer, the Big Bang. Enjoy life and accept suffering (it is a part of life). May each of us merit to leave it a tiny bit better than it was.
By Rabbi Mordechai Glick