I am often asked about where I discover ideas for stories or content in general. I have posted over on www.dataanddonuts.org about a few of those sources but I don't think I shared about podcasts that I listen to while I am running. I typically have a few hours to kill so I try to use the time as a resource. One of the best podcasts for just resonating in the beauty of words and agnostic spirituality is On Being with Krista Tippett. A particular aspect of the podcast that appeals to me is the option to listen to the unedited cuts of the broadcast. The pre-conversation of what the guest may have had for breakfast or just a little chat before the session starts serves as a luscious peek behind the curtain of creativity. Today's episode as luck would have it was titled, Alzheimer's and the Spiritual Terrain of Memory. I can't encourage you enough to just indulge yourself and listen to the story and perspective of Alan Dienstag a psychologist. As we, as a society, or even just within our small audience here look at value and meaning in the final years of life conversations like this are imperative if we are going to speak of health, healing, and quality in care outside the medicalization of any disease but specifically Alzheimer's Disease with its pending $300 billion price tag.
This story is simple and was one of my favorites. You can see how she struggled with finding the right words but the memory is so vivid and beautiful. It connects with the human side of her and not the diagnosed patient--"I can remember picking a fig from a tree in Athens. My lover watches me with delight."
The beauty of starting a writing group for people with Alzheimer's disease was discussed as Dienstag shared his experience with the Lifeline Writing Group. It never would have occurred to me that other types of memory can serve as a way to connect or communicate. We seem to focus on the loss and not the opportunity to visit with the identity that persists.
Writing is a form of memory. The phrase stayed with me for some time. I repeated it to myself and told it to others with whom I worked. I realized that for all of my work with people with memory impairments, I had thought very little about memory. To the extent that I thought about memory at all, it was in fact about the loss of memory. It had never really occurred to me to think about other forms of memory and the possibilities inherent in them. It was a writer's insight on the nature of memory that suggested these possibilities, and although I still had only a vague idea of how we might put them to work, I saw the potential and committed to working out an intervention plan ...
If you have been touched by Alzheimer's disease you are aware of the surprises along the way. A brief momentary return to clarity can seem to arrive out of the blue. Dienstag shared a poignant one that reminded me of similar moments with my father. One of his clients was slipping into frequent nonresponsive trance like silences. Looking forward to his upcoming beach vacation he recalled that his patient had also enjoyed the sea. He asked her what she liked about the beach and I imagine he wasn't expecting much of a response. Suddenly she looked towards him and answered "There's some kind of music that lives there"--Isn't that the truth?