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Written by Anonymous

Unfortunately, there are many illnesses and diseases in the world – whether physical, mental, psychological, etc, there are plenty of varieties of each. Arguably one of the most painful is an illness called Alzheimer’s. Though it is widely spread (about 5 million Americans suffer from it), it causes death (it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the USA), and has no current cure, the pain that we associate with Alzheimer’s disease comes from a different direction entirely.
Unfortunately, nearly everyone knows someone or someone’s relative who suffers from Alzheimer’s. And the most painful thing is the loss of memory that results. I have a relative who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and it is painful to hear them ask who their family are and needing to remind them again and again. And what does it help? They only forget again next time, only to remember for indefinite periods. Thank G-D my relative is still in the early stages of Alzheimer’s; they actually do manage to recall things now and again – they still know who I am. At least most of the time. Sometimes when I have spoken to them for twenty minutesthey turn round and ask me ‘who are you again?’ or ‘are we related?’ But I understand it is not their fault and they do not mean to hurt anyone. I feel even more sorry for people who have it in worse condition than my relative. Some people cannot remember who their family are whatsoever, let alone who they are/were married to and what they have been doing all their life.

This is where the pain comes in I think. As far as I know, my relative does not suffer from any physical pain because of their Alzheimer’s; thank G-D they are in quite good physical shape actually. And I do not think that they suffer so much mentally either. I could be wrong, but I do not think that they are too pained when they cannot remember things – that’s just how they live. So where is the pain? It is the pain of the relatives and friends and whoever is taking care of them. Let’s take my relative. It is painful to see someone who has lived their whole life as a strong-willed individual who has done lots for their community across the years, and how they are now reduced to someone who finds it hard to remember their family. To see someone so capable descend to incapability hurts everyone close to the victim of Alzheimer’s.

And you know what the worst thing is? It’s for the people really close to the sufferer. The people who have spent years developing a loving and caring relationship with the victim of Alzheimer’s [well before they had the illness], and seeing the victim just forget about you. Just like that – they forget. And I don’t understand how my relative could forget something so central and important to them as their family – that hurts the most. In fact, I’ll tell you where the pain lies here the most too? It is the fact that I can see my relative forgetting their family, and they do not even feel that there is a lack when they forget. They just forget. They do not feel upset or depressed that ‘a loving relationship has gone or has been lost.’ They do not even know what they are missing. That is the most painful part of all.

I suppose there is probably one thing more painful than someone with Alzheimer’s, and that’s a whole group of people with Alzheimer’s. The more people, the more people you feel sorry for and the more pain there is. Again, I don’t know if those who suffer from the disease have the pain. The real pain is saved for the loving ‘onlookers’ who watch their loved one gradually forget the people who love him, and ultimately forget who they really are at the same time. They do not know what they are missing.

It’s not good to complain or wallow for no particular reason other than for some goal of self-motivation. Bnei Yisrael have national Alzheimer’s. Napoleon once famously walked past a shul in Paris on Tisha B’Av and heard Jews crying hysterically, so sent a soldier to see what was happening. The soldier came back and reported ‘the Jews are crying over their temple which was destroyed many hundreds of years ago.’ Napoleon responded by commenting ‘now I have no doubt that the Jews will survive this.’ How many of us can truly say that if Napoleon would have walked beside us on Tisha B’Av he would have even noticed anything?

We forget what we had when HaShem had His Home amongst us, because we never really experienced it ourselves. We forget the kindnesses HaShem has done to us over the ages; whether personal or national. We forget our roots. We forget that we came from Avraham, who was not afraid to call out and stand strong to his faith no matter what the consequences are. We forget that we came from Yitzchak who never went out of Eretz Yisroel and clung to kedusha all of his life. We forget that we came from Yaakov, who learnt non-stop for years in yeshiva, worked faithfully for Lavan, and fathered the twelve roots of the Jewish people.

We forget our goal in life of reflecting HaShem in our everyday lives. We forget that HaShem takes care of us constantly, saving us from our internal and external enemies. When there was a miracle in 1967 and we were victorious against six enemies six times our size in six days, nobody could believe such a thing was possible. We forgot HaShem’s Kindness – we said that ‘it was the power of tzahal.’ In 1991 we sat back and saw the Arabs fight on our behalf against our enemy, and we saw 39 scud missiles fired against Israel – many hit busy city areas. Yet only one person died as a result. We forget our roots – we forget who we really are. We tend to forget things. An onlooker would probably feel sorry for us.

We had a Beis HaMikdash and a direct relationship with HaShem. But time goes on and we forget. We do not know what we are missing. That’s something worth crying about.

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