Someone once told me that to experience the beauty and goodness in the world around us, we have to get outside more. We have to step out of the daily grind of our work and our homes, step away from the shouting comments from our emails and our social media platforms. To remember that the world is good and people are kind, we have to enter the wilderness, feel the sun on our faces, watch the clouds move across the sky. There is something freeing in getting away from all of the expectations and anger and disappointment. Walking into the woods, digging your toes in the sand, taking a nap in a meadow; all of these things have the power to revive the soul and mind. It takes a long walk alone in the fresh air to remember that most people are good. It takes sunshine or rain to refresh a bone-weariness we’ve adopted. Researchers are now saying that 120 minutes a week spent in nature is life-giving and life-saving in many ways.
Alzheimer’s disease leaves the one it inflicts tired, confused, and angry. Alzheimer’s disease leaves the caretakers worn out, grieving, and disheartened. It’s a relentless and cruel disease, and no one left in its wake is unaffected by it. There are many suggestions for how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, or how to reduce the risk of getting it, and those are all important things, but sometimes we need to take a deep breath, let go of all the things to do and research and figure out, and get out in the world.
Grief has a way of wrapping itself around us. It chokes and suffocates. It blocks out all of the light and goodness. Grief tells us to stay in bed, have another drink, just give up already. It prompts us to find comfort in someone’s bed or at the end of a needle. It begs us to let go of the good things in our lives. Grief finds us when the papers are served, the job is lost, or the diagnosis is given.
But grief doesn’t get to tell the final story. Not for you. Not for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. The doctor’s shaking head does not get the final say in your life.
Love has a way of finding us. When things are dire, sad, and unfair, love still finds us. When nothing makes sense, the ocean still tumbles with wave after wave. When anger is all we have left, trees still stretch up to heaven, pine needles still emit their sweet, summery scent. When the diagnosis is final, the flowers still bloom and the grass still grows. The mountains still call to us with their vastness and strength. The desert still beckons with its never-ending landscape. Love is in the beauty, the constancy, the wind.
Grieving is necessary and important. Pain serves to teach us important lessons. But it can’t be the ending point on our lives. There is kindness and compassion and beauty in the midst of all the bad. The Alzheimer’s does not tell the whole story. The dementia doesn’t win. Dancing and holding hands and lying in bed together reminiscing – those are the moments that win. Love in the trial, love in the anger, love in the unfairness of it all.
So today, for just a few minutes, lay it all down and go outside. Find a quiet spot away from all the noise. Hold your face up to the sunshine or the rain, and drink in the goodness to be found there.