Printed on a plain card with no attribution of authorship is an “Alzheimer’s Poem” that a friend of mine sent me the other day. My friend’s memory is fine. So is mine. But his wife’s is not. She has Alzheimer’s disease and he cares for her, gently and without complaint. He reads this poem for reinforcement every day:
Do not ask me to remember,
Do not try to make me understand.
Let me rest and know you’re with me.
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.
I’m confused beyond your concept;
I am sad and sick and lost.
Do not lose your patience with me.
Do not scold or curse my cry.
I can’t help the way I’m acting,
Can’t be different though I try.
Just remember that I need you,
That the best of me is gone.
Please don’t fail to stand beside me.
Love me ‘til my life is done.
He and I have been friends for 75 years, going all the way back to freshman year in high school. He and his wife have been married for more than 60 years. Her beauty can still, as we used to say, stop a clock.
“She has always been by my side and nursed me through many illnesses,” my friend said. He is grateful to be able to be with her now. No scolding. No patience lost. Nor is he prepared to admit that “the best” of her is gone, because she, although diminished, is still here.
Pope Francis gave the world a great gift recently, an apostolic exhortation titled “Amoris Laetitia,” (“The Joy of Love”). Chapter 4 is titled “Love in Marriage.” It should be prayed over in every marriage preparation program and integrated into the spirituality that sustains every Christian marriage.
In a section titled, “Our Daily Love,” the pope writes: “In a lyrical passage of St. Paul, we see some of the features of true love: ‘Love is patient, love is kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7).
All these features of true love are etched in my friend’s experience of marriage right up to the present moment. Pope Francis would be proud of him. And so am I.
Jesuit Father William Byron is university professor of business and society at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.