Following is an excerpt from Losing My Mind: An Intimate Look at Life with Alzheimer's by Thomas DeBaggio:
My father would have been ninety-one this year. I wish I could tell him I am sorry, sorry he died before his time and before we could know each other as adults. I wish I had not had to see my mother die slowly of cancer in the little hospital in Eldora, so ruined by life she could no longer suck water from a small ice cube. I am sorry it took so long to find myself and understand how much I loved them. All I have left are a few weak memories, and now it is too late for their boy.
It is frightening to lose control of your body in any way. It is especially tragic when the body's central control system, the brain, is the target of an angry destructive process that science has been unable to tame or reclaim, Memories tell us who we are and where we have been and they warm us and provide direction. In later years, the old memories remain to offer familiar anecdotes and the safety of the past.
As the brain is slowly devoured and gradually succumbs, turning the body into an empty vessel, remembering and writing are more than difficult; they are cold receptacles emptied of content. My memories are slowly disappearing from places inhabited for so long. In themselves, my memories do not compare with the great sagas of this century, the births, deaths, tumult, madness, great art and music, and the intense suffering of so many human beings. Our immortality, such as it may be, is not contained in what we dreamed or the secrets we kept; it is how our friends and loved ones remember us.
The struggle to find the words, to express myself, has become insurmountable. I must now be done with writing and lick words instead. I will soon be stripped of language and memory, existing in a shy and unsteady forbearance of nature. I am on the cusp of a new world, a place I will be unable to describe. It is the last hidden place, and marked with a headstone.
I must now wait for the silence to engulf me and take me to the place where there is no memory left and there remains no reflexive will to live. It is lonely here waiting for memory to stop and I am afraid and tired. Hug me, Joyce, and then let me sleep.
From Losing My Mind by Thomas DeBaggio. Copyright 2003 by Thomas DeBaggio. Reprinted by permission of The Free Press/Simon & Schuster Inc.