Stages

Now Dad has “gone quiet,” they tell me.

He hardly speaks at all anymore, and is almost completely withdrawn. Soon after we saw him last month, and took him out for that ice cream he enjoyed so much, he slipped into this new, dark, silent place.

I keep thinking of submarines “going quiet” as they submerge ever deeper below the surface.

And of icebergs “calving”—how big pieces simply break away, and fall into cold darkness, lost.

Alzheimer’s seems to work that way: a ruthless falling to pieces, the ongoing helpless losing of parts of oneself.

The nurse I spoke with on the phone at Dad’s “home” last night called it “staging”— moving to a deeper stage of the dementia, part of the inexorable process of disintegration.

That word—new to me in that context—now makes me think of the way a space ship loses parts of itself—aren’t they called “stages”?—on its flight.

I think that’s what I’ve seen on television of all those rocket launches from Cape Canaveral.

The first stage fires first, and then it falls away. The second stage fires, so the now-lighter rocket can fly even faster. Then the rest of the stages ignite and fall away in turn, allowing the core to achieve escape velocity and leave the atmosphere of the earth altogether.

Maybe Dad’s journey is not just deeper into darkness—like the pieces broken off an iceberg—but higher, into light.

He is certainly losing himself, steadily, in big pieces.

But perhaps not purposelessly.

Maybe he is jettisoning the inessential—and eventually even the essential—elements of himself in some mystery of renunciation or surrender.

A kind of dying before he dies.

Lightening the load as, ever more swiftly, he climbs the sky.

4 Responses to “Stages”

  1. Thanks for these thoughts. My mother-in-law had alzheimers and we witnessed the same dying before she died you describe. May we all rejoice as we pass through our own stages into the eternal light.

  2. linda marie says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece. It rang so very true to me.

  3. Lynn says:

    Thank you for writing this. My mom, age 69, has been slowly slipping away from us for the past 7 years. Not a true alzheimer’s diagnosis, but dementia secondary to a TBI. She is in a stage now where she is progessively losing her expressive ability, but not her smile or spirit, yet. Prayers are with you as you travel this flight with your father. I wish I could jettison the grief as easily. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. Deep gratitude for your poignant sharing. What a perfectly beautiful way to see this process. Let us all hold this image as we minister to those whose lives are touched by Alzheimers or other dementias. Namaste

Leave a Reply

Web Statistics