COMMENTARY: Life and Love and Alzheimer’s
I can’t remember the last time I got out of my chair and stood up and applauded a politician’s comments.
But it happened this week, after listening to the heartfelt words spoken Lisa Raitt, an Ontario Member of Parliament and former cabinet minister who fell in love again not very long ago.
And not very long after she did, the love of her life, a fellow named Bruce who was barely 50, was given the news nobody wants to hear at any age. Early-onset Alzheimer’s.
LISTEN: Life and Love and Alzheimer’s
Lisa Raitt stood up in the House of Commons with her prepared message on this day in September, which is World Alzheimer’s month.
She did not say very much, but when she was done everybody was standing.
This wasn’t about politics.
This was about life and death and love.
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She talked about the more than half a million Canadians with Alzheimer’s, more than 25,000 newly diagnosed cases every year.
And then she made it personal, and once she did, she was no longer a politician standing in the House of Commons making a speech.
She was a Canadian citizen beseeching a country to listen to the pounding heart of a woman who loves her husband more than she hates the foe that is taking down his mind and tearing up her heart.
So what’s not to stand for?
You’re hearing the voice of a professional politician who isn’t trying to score politician points by lathering up her side of the aisle or spearing her opponents on the other side.
You’re listening to a wife very much in love with the man she’s losing.
LISTEN: A conversation with Lisa Raitt about life, love and Alzheimer’s
And while she’s competitive and he’s competitive neither can compete with a foe that has never been defeated.
There is no real treatment or cure.
So the word “final” becomes seared into the healthy mind trying desperately to endure the demise of her husband’s.
When you love an Alzheimer’s person, you are given no reason to expect anything but that life will be more and more visibly and vividly difficult as the intruder chews up more of the essence of a human being, altering how they see things and hear things and feel things.
But one feeling that has not changed, and won’t for Lisa and Bruce, is the love that made their relationship extra special.
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Yes they had a lot of interests in common and friends they shared.
But it was the love that made them want to be together ’till death do them part.
And as you could hear, both in her voice and in her words, it does get difficult when your mind no longer allows you to do some of the things that you used to do, things that made life fun and adventuresome.
Alzheimer’s gives old and familiar adventures the back of its hand and reinvents the world in ways that nobody wants to experience.
But it’s okay, said Lisa Raitt.
Living with someone who has dementia is tough but it can still be okay.
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As she informed the country, more than half a million Canadians have Alzheimer’s.
And then there are the millions who know them, know that while the medical industry cannot do much for them there is but one way to try to heal that gaping psychic wound.
It’s called love.
Nobody who has known me for years through radio and TV visits has any doubt about the love I felt for my father, one that grew as I saw him suffer, and struggle and stumble because while the worst brutes of World War II, Hitler and Stalin, couldn’t bring him down, the most brutal dictator of all, Alzheimer’s, did.
And it did make me a member of one of those clubs nobody wants to belong to.
For now, I just want every member of an Azheimer’s family to know you have my support, my thoughts and my love.
Here’s to Lisa Raitt and her husband Bruce Wood, and everyone else in this country who has walked a mile in their tough, tough shoes.
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