“Those people who say it’s the journey, not the destination, do not know what they are talking about,” begins Pastor Russell Saltzman in our first On the Square column this morning in which he shares his experience of his mother’s recent and rapid decline into Dementia:
She no longer knows me. She remembers the name but can no longer recollect the connection nor place my vaguely familiar face. She makes a heartbreaking plea reaching for my hand, please, would I please tell Russell to come for her and take her from this place. She is living an eternal moment no longer bounded by tomorrow or yesterday. She knows not where she is; she knows only that she wants “him” to come for her. She repeatedly asks, will I promise to tell him.
Visions of mortality dance in my head. St. Paul said death is the final enemy. True enough as far as it goes, but he made little mention of the others, far worse, we encounter on the way. Death, that isn’t a problem. If we go to sleep one night and wake up dead, that’s hardly a problem at all. But this journey is a journey of aging, a ruthless, irrevocable thrashing of faculty, facility, a not infrequent plummeting tumble into a loss of identity and sense of self. We, each of us, are bodies of flesh moving through time “falling, flying, or tumbling in turmoil” aging implacably unto death.