Who are you?


“For the last ten years of his life, Tim’s father had Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the devoted care of Tim’s mother, he had slowly deteriorated until he had become a sort of walking vegetable. He was unable to speak and was fed, clothed, and cared for as if he were a very young child … One Sunday, while [Tim’s mother] was out doing the shopping, [Tim and his brother], then fifteen and seventeen, watched football as their father sat nearby in a chair. Suddenly, he slumped forward and fell to the floor. Both sons realised immediately that something was terribly wrong. His colour was grey and his breath uneven and rasping. Frightened, Tim’s older brother told him to call 911. Before he could respond, a voice he had not heard in ten years, a voice he could barely remember, interrupted. ‘Don’t call 911, son. Tell your mother that I love her. Tell her that I am all right.’ And Tim’s father died …

Tim, now a cardiologist, goes on: ‘Because he died unexpectedly at home, the law required that we have an autopsy. My father’s brain was almost entirely destroyed by his disease. For many years, I have asked myself, ‘Who spoke? Who are we really?’ I have never found the slightest help from any medical knowledge. Much of life cannot be explained, it can only be witnessed.'”

~ From The Wise Heart: A  Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology by Jack Kornfield



8 thoughts on “Who are you?

  1. My grandmother suffered with dementia and Phil’s father had Alzheimer’s Disease. In both cases, I often wondered if the people we knew as children were still “in there” somewhere. Moments of lucidity were rare, but taught me not to discount the essential souls still residing inside the crumbling bodies of these people we loved. Who am I? Who were they? I suppose the answer to that question is as fluid as time.


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