I used to be curious and independent and confident. I miss being sure of things. There’s no peace in being unsure of everything all the time. I miss doing everything easily. I miss being a part of what’s happening. I miss feeling wanted. I miss my life and my family.
Brian and I have started a fun blog reviewing every film that’s been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar since 1939, so as a bonus I stopped by our local little community theater for a screening of Still Alice in which Juliane Moore does an excellent job portraying an intelligent 50 year old linguistics professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Movies like Still Alice remind me of why I love photo albums: they take our memories and put them on a piece of paper. We can look at them whenever we want to and remember.
As her brain slowly leaves her and her abilities begin to die. Alice says “I wish I had cancer” and everyone watching wishes she did too. That’s the problem with a disease like Alzheimer’s: it doesn’t kill you. It’s much worse than that. It renders you incapable of living, and the simplest things become impossible.
Still Alice is a tough film to watch. It’s hard to watch a loved one slip away and still be standing right in front you. It’s hard to be a witness, all the while thinking, “It could happen to me”. The saddest part though, was watching a family break into pieces when it most needed to stay together. That’s the problem with pain. It’s too intimate. We often think intimacy is joy and marriage and sex, but it’s not. These are just the happy parts. Real intimacy is having your deepest pain and darkest fear stare into your eyes while you stare right back. It’s coming home to someone you’ve spent fifty years sharing every sacred memory with and watching her have no idea who you are. Pain is intimate.
That’s what caught me with this movie. It wasn’t that Alice no longer remembered anything or that her brilliant mind couldn’t recall how to tie her shoelaces. It was that her husband and the academic community that surrounded her for more than 20 years failed. They didn’t fail her; they failed themselves. They missed out on a chance to know what love really is, to do the hard thing and stick it out.
This is where I get so angry about suicide assisted or not). It’s selfish. It’s not one person missing out on an opportunity to live. It deprives an entire community of a unique opportunity; an intimacy that is so rare it’s almost extinct.
Do we even have a conception of human dignity that includes enduring pain anymore?
When we think of it this way, when we stop trying to always be the main character of our lives, it changes our perspectives. A paradigm shifts, and we begin to understand that intimacy, the love that comes from sharing a burden, can only be discovered by sharing the weight too heavy to carry alone.