This is Pastor Tim’s article that appeared in the Evening Leader on Tuesday, May 30
It is a professional hazard that I’m around many people who are ill in a wide variety of ways. None of you need me to explain to you that illness and disease are cruel. They have absolutely no respect for the person infected with them. They also don’t have a single care about the damage they do. They wreck people’s lives in all kinds of ways and they never show remorse. Thank God for the miracle of modern medicine because that gives us a fighting chance against many varieties of illness and injuries that generations prior to us did not have.
I have observed that there are two kinds of illnesses in the world. There are the kinds that take something specific from you and leave you otherwise ok or there are the kinds that debilitate your life until you can no longer function. An example of this is arthritis. While, by itself, arthritis is not a fatal disease, it does take something from you that costs the victim dearly. Quality of life diminishes and abilities and opportunities are taken away, but most of the rest of the body still functions. Compare that to aggressive cancer. Cancer attacks the whole body until life can no longer continue. Some cancers are very slow to develop, but we have all heard of those nightmare scenarios where an otherwise healthy person doesn’t feel right one day and 2 months later, they are gone.
While there is no good illness, there are many illnesses that are less bad than others. There is a big difference between the common cold and pancreatic cancer. Yes, they are both illnesses, but they are very different. Earlier this morning, I was running through my mind about what I would consider to be the cruelest disease. There are plenty of illnesses in the running for this distinction for a variety of reasons, but the disease I would have to say appears to be the most cruel is Alzheimer’s. This disease attacks the brain and causes the person to have no short-term memory. They can remember playing games as a child or singing songs in church growing up, but they will not remember anything in the last few years. If the disease progresses long enough, the window of experiences the person remembers gets smaller and smaller. Eventually, their spouse and their children are just other faces they don’t recognize.
The cruel part about Alzheimer’s is that the rest of the body can be totally fine. Alzheimer’s does not kill you, it only robs you of everything you ever knew. The disease is cruel, and it is something I would not wish upon my worst enemy. It is a terrible thing to live with this disease because it forces you to live with no past, no history, no traditions, and no connection; nothing to define who you are anymore. Without a past, there is no present and there is no way to determine anything about the future. This is why Alzheimer’s patients need constant supervision and care. They have no basis to take care of themselves or solve any problems because there is nothing there with which to function.
The danger of loss of memory is not only witnessed in individuals, where it has physical explanations. You also see the result of a lack of memory in organizations, families, and groups of people. They can be just as aimless and lost as a person can be if they lack the ability to remember anything about what brought them to this point.
This danger even extends to countries. Countries without memories and shared experiences and traditions can also end up being aimless and without direction. They have no idea what brought them to this point, so there is no respect of the past nor is there any understanding of what came before to provide guiding principles.
That is why we must actively remember. That is why we engage in memorializing. That is the purpose of Memorial Day. It is a time to check and make sure we have an accurate memory of what came before us, because that memory will define where we are going and what path we will take to get there. A country without a memory is a country without a foundation. While the United States may not be perfect, we have a proud history of brave people who made sure we could continue to build a bright future.
It is a fad right now to want to erase our memories; to tear down statues in the name of erasing the past. If we do this, we will be a country without morals or direction because we will have no idea what got us to this place.
The poor people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s have no choice, and it is a terrible thing. What is even sadder is if a country gives itself intentional Alzheimer’s. We need to be better than that. Thank God we have a history worth remembering. Happy Memorial Day.