Let me remember

I am grateful for Darce Fardy.
Is he an acquaintance of yours? A friend? If so, you are the better for it.
Darce Fardy is a former CBC journalist. Let me rephrase that. I would declare that when we write, we write until we no longer can hold a pen, so I would rearrange the words in my earlier statement with a slight adjustment.
Darce Fardy is a journalist, who formerly wrote for the CBC.
Mr. Fardy has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (dementia he calls it), and he has decided to share his thoughts and experience until he no longer can.
He is a story-teller, has made a career of telling stories that need to be told, so he approached the Halifax Chronicle Herald and suggested the newspaper be his instrument of light.
He has been writing, and will continue to write, of his journey and “The Herald” will publish his story.
I admire Mr. Fardy’s courage and I am grateful for it. Mr. Fardy is 81 and one could assume his courage is perhaps not that noteworthy when he is of such advanced years.
Not so, for to discuss this miserable disease at any age takes real tenacity and guts.
I think it fair to say that most of us fear being robbed of our memory, of our ability to think clearly, of our knowing where we are and how we got here. For those of us who have had a family member(s) struck down by Alzheimer’s, the fear is heightened—sometimes to the state of paranoia.
My mother developed Alzheimer’s in her early 70s—a diagnosis that didn’t come until after years of looped conversation, of repetitive tales, and statements started with “I may have told you this.”
She kept detailed notes on what she wanted to say and where she put things and what was on her day’s agenda, and she consulted those notes as though they were a lifejacket in a stormy sea.
Not once, in all the years of her sometimes gradual and other times hastened demise, did she say a word on the subject of Alzheimer’s or her failing memory, nor did we ask.
My mother was a force; one whose mere schoolteacher look could put me in my place and make my feeble self-assuredness tremble.
I am certain that though this wretched disease comes with a reflex of self-preservation, a need to hide its effects from others, the responsibility is on us to ask, to be open, and to not let its victims hide in fear and shame.
The image of my mother waking in the night in a wave of lucid thought, and being washed over with fear as to what might have brought her to this place, brings me to my knees.
I let her down. I let her fierce armour repel my obligation to let her share her fear; to pass that fear on to my shoulders so she could rest.
There are few families that haven’t been touched by the casualty of Alzheimer’s, as with many other crippling diseases. The truth is that life comes with these inherent risks and we somehow must navigate through them as best we can.
We don’t want to lose our recall of the smell of our newborn baby, our first kiss, making it to the top of whatever mountain we climb, symbolic or real; we don’t want to lose the memory of our joy of discovery.
Alzheimer’s has had a name since 1906. In 2006, 26.6 million people were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s across the globe and it is predicted the rate will increase to one-in-85 of us being struck with Alzheimer’s in the next 25 years—a disease that has no cure and very limited treatments.
Those statistics are frightening, at the very least.
Mr. Fardy is one of very few trailblazers hammering at the wall of shame that seems so intrinsic in this disease. He and his wife are maintaining as normal a lifestyle as they can, with friends embracing Mr. Fardy’s decision to go public.
We all will benefit from his courage; from his willingness to light the path that many of us will follow.
wendistewart@live.ca

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