Journalist and EWTN television host Colleen Carroll Campbell has written a heartfelt remembrance of her father who died recently after a protracted battle with Alzheimer's. This column is a must read.
Dad's diagnosis came on a bleak January afternoon in 1996 during my last
semester of college. In the years that followed, I watched a brilliant man once
heralded for his articulate defense of mentally disabled children become
disabled himself. I grieved as the wordsmith father who had rejoiced at every
article I ever wrote struggled to read my name or sign his own. A paragon of
strength in earlier years, Dad gradually grew weak and dependent before my eyes.
Yet Dad had joy — immense, contagious joy. Everyone he met noticed it — from
the hairdresser he serenaded with Irish songs during their appointments to the
adult day-care aides who marveled at his good humor and quick wit.
Even in his last years, after his condition forced my mother to move him to a
nursing home, Dad provoked smiles with courtly bows and tips of an imaginary
hat to the elderly nuns who stared at him from their wheelchairs. "Great to see
you," he'd say, as he sauntered the halls. "You're the best."
Led into a room full of dementia patients, he would find his way to the corner
where the most distressed one among them was muttering incoherently. Plopping
down next to her, he would whisper, "We're all in God's hands" and stroke her
arm until she grew quiet and calm. "I like to take care of people," he would
tell me, when he could remember what he had just done.
Alzheimer's eventually robbed my father of everything a disease can take from a
man. But it could not steal his joy. Cultivated through a lifetime of putting
people before possessions, principle before prestige and love of God and family
before his own desires, Dad's joy seemed to spring from some inexhaustible
source, from a place the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer's could not reach.
(Full article here.)