I know I already did a double dip with posts about the wonderful film, “Still Alice”. Please forgive me for triple-dipping. I can’t resist. There was a moment in the movie I found particularly enlightening and insightful and feel the need to share. It’s a lesson for nearly all of us. I wonder if it struck anyone else.
The protagonist, Alice, portrayed flawlessly by Julianne Moore, is well into the progression of her early onset Alzheimer’s. Her family is struggling with her failing mind. Most of the time, they have no idea what to do. In one poignant scene, Alice is alone with her daughter Lydia, with whom she already has a strained relationship. Here’s an excerpt, reproduced without permission (sorry):
Lydia takes a long look at her Mom.
What is it like? I mean what does
it actually feel like?
Well, it’s not always the same. I
have good days and bad days. On my
good days, I can almost pass for a
normal person. But on my bad days,
I feel like I can’t find myself.
I’ve always been so defined by my
intellect, my language, my
articulation, and now sometimes I
can see the words hanging in front
of me and I can’t reach them and I
don’t know who I am and I don’t
know what I’m going to lose next.
It sounds horrible.
Did you catch it? Someone actually had the boldness and compassion to ask a person about their illness. I love that scene. It’s called sympathy and it’s not a bad thing. (Pity is, but sympathy isn’t.)
I’d be interested to learn how many people with MS have had anyone besides a physician ask them, “What does it feel like?” It’s a rarity for me. I have great admiration for those who have the caring courage to seek to understand a person’s condition.
I touched on this over a year ago in a previous post about “MS Awareness.” Here’s an excerpt:
Let’s go deeper. Don’t settle for being aware of the disease. Be aware of those living with the disease. Let me suggest a spin on what G. K. Chesterton calls “promiscuous charity.”
Chesterton says promiscuous charity “means the most dark and terrible of all human actions—talking to a man. In fact, I know of nothing more difficult than really talking to the poor men we meet.”
Let me paraphrase that quote to define promiscuous MS awareness: “the most dark and terrible of all human actions—talking to someone with MS.” So many people I know are afraid to ask how I or anyone with MS are doing.
Consider it a dare: Talk to someone who’s suffering any kind trial. Ask them how they’re doing, how they feel.* You don’t necessarily have to do anything for them except ask and listen.
*One caveat: Don’t tell them you know how they feel because, chances are, you don’t.
Imagine if Lydia had told her mother, “Yeah, I know exactly how you feel. I’m always losing my car keys.” Not good.