While standing in front of a building in Trinidad a few weeks ago, I noticed that the building on the other side of the street (which houses a 40+ year old credit union) had been renamed. It's now been named for the credit union's first president. He is now an Alzheimer's patient.
So often, Alzheimer's Disease is spoken of in whispers. Indeed, in my own family, there are those who would prefer that we not speak the name of my mother's illness but what's the point of that? Personally, I refuse to be silent. Alzheimer's Disease is just that - a disease. It's one that some people get and that others are fortunate to avoid. Others have had this disease before her, others will have it after her. There are others who have it now. I am far more focused on the fact that while the disease may significantly change Mummy's future, it doesn't affect her past.
Those who suffer today were once healthy and while they were, they made their mark. The credit union man, a former high school teacher, my mother. All of them had vocations through which they served a greater good. When he was well, Mr. Q the credit union president, built that credit union and built the wealth of the credit union's members. He did so by spending many years working at his vocation. My mother spent 15 years working at a school for lower performing students ages 12 - 14. She was the first prinicpal of that school, and one of a very small number female principals in the 1970s. She made her mark. There are many men and women now making their own marks in the world because of work she and her staff did. None of that changes because she now has a disease that will rob her of the memory of the great work she did. When I speak of my mother, I do so with no small measure of pride. She's still who she was for the moment, but even when she isn't my pride in her accomplishments will be no less.
The song Mummy chose as the school song, "The Impossible Dream" served as a guide for her work, the work of the staff and the efforts of the children. My sister and I now have our own Impossible Dream, our own "unbeatable foe", our own "unbearable sorrow" but difficulties aside and in spite of the uncertain future, we will "run where the brave dare not go". Mummy's vocation is now her legacy. Alzheimer's may take her memory of who she was, but it matters not. She dreamed her impossible dream and lived it. So did a good many other Alzheimer's sufferers. Why whisper their names when you should shout? Name a building dammit if they deserve it.
Here are the lyrics to The Impossible Dream. The song was composed by Mitch Leigh, with lyrics by Joe Darion. It was originally written in 1965 for the musical Man of La Mancha. Enjoy.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause
And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star!