Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Lest We Forget

Last week I was impressed to hear that Terry Pratchett, a recent diagnosee, was donating half a million pounds to research into finding a cure for Alzheimer's and I was horrified to hear that as many people suffer from it as from cancer but it gets about 3% of the funding. This is an atrocious state of affairs. I've talked about this disease before and about how it terrifies me witless (and may well do in the future). Endlessly we're subject to dire health warnings about what we eat and how much we exercise and how to avoid the horsemen of the apocalypse: cancer, stroke, diabetes, heart attack. And yes, they're all scary, but at least when you die of them you're still you. With Alzheimer's you're not.

Terry Pratchett is going to go on writing as long as he can, even though his abilitiy to touch type has already gone. I admire the spirit he shows. With typical bloody-minded feistiness he calls the disease 'an embuggerance'.

I wanted to mention this last week but didn't get round to it. But I have reason to today. My beloved Aunt Isa, with whom my sister and I lived in the immediate aftermath of the deaths of our parents when we were children, who was strong and pious and fun to be with, who was good of heart and sharp of brain, died this morning, suddenly, of a heart attack. But death had already taken pretty much all that she had, because for a number of years, Alzheimer's, which I will call in Chaucer's words, the 'secree theef', had stolen away the sharpness, and the sense of who she was, who anyone was. It's the kind of situation where when death comes, you find yourself, to your horror, about to use the phrase 'blessed relief'.

But it isn't. There's nothing blessed in it, and for the life of me I can't see how people can maintain belief in a kindly deity when the deserving and the devout have such treatment meted out to them. I'm told that she looked peaceful. There you go.

So I feel grief and loss and anger - and at the moment it's the latter that holds sway, futile though it is.

No comments: