Apr 8, 2014

The Profound Innate Joy of Human Life – Alzheimer’s or Not

His extreme joy to see me and his intense love for the little stuffed animal affected me to my core, and I realized that people with Alzheimer’s have the capacity to experience joy.

Marie Marley
Alzheimer's Reading Room

I went to visit Ed one Sunday and took my little Shi Tzu, Peter, with me.

It was a very special visit.

I wish I were a great writer and could really describe the essence of the visit, but I am not, so I will just do the best I can.

After a pleasant drive to the Alois Center on that crisp fall day, I arrived and walked down the hall to Ed’s room, wondering what type of mood he was in that day.

When he first saw me his eyes lit up and he said "Oh, it's you! Oh, I am so happy to see you! You are an angel! I am overwhelmed to see you! Oh, I am overwhelmed!"

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He moved with his walker from his rocking chair to his Early American sofa and patted the empty space beside him, indicating that I should sit there, so I did.

He took my hand and kissed it several times, continuing to say he was overwhelmed and didn't have words to say how happy he was to see me.

His eyes were shining, his face was full of joy, and he held my hand, kissing it again from time to time. That was so typical of Ed - ever the quintessential European gentleman.

He was so happy that he was near tears. Now I don't have words to describe how his joy and his being near tears both at the same time combined to make a unique emotional experience for me.

 He was so happy that he almost cried.

While we were still sitting on the sofa I picked up The Little Yellow One, one of his beloved stuffed animals, and handed it to him. He reacted joyfully and as though he had never seen it before.

“Oh, the little one. I love him so much!” (He referred to all of his stuffed animals as ‘him.’)

His eyes lit up again and he petted the little animal with loving strokes and then kissed it several times on the top of the head with an affectionate expression on his face.

Then he turned his attention to Peter, who was lying down on the floor next to my feet.

“Can I hold him please?” he asked.

“Sure. Go ahead.”

Before Ed developed Alzheimer’s he loved Peter but never wanted to hold him on his lap. He always said he was afraid Peter would lick his pants and get them wet.

But then he reached down, picked up Peter, and put him squarely on his lap.

“Oh, the little one! I love him so much,” he said, repeating word for word the comment he’d made about the little stuffed animal.

Then he began calmly stroking Peter, beginning at his head and moving slowly down his back to his tail. Then he repeated that motion several more times.

Suddenly he stopped and looked up at me expectantly.

“Does he like it when I pet him?” he asked.

“Yes, he likes to be petted.”

“Oh!” he said. “I’m so happy that he’s happy when I pet him!”

His extreme joy to see me and his intense love for the little stuffed animal and for Peter affected me to my core and I realized that some people with Alzheimer’s have the capacity to experience joy that can't be put into words by a normal writer like me.

I was so happy to see Ed in that wonderful state of being, and I felt warm inside all the way home.

If only we all could feel such joy from a simple visit from a friend or a pet.

Does anyone else have stories to share about joy with your loved one?
Marie Marley is the award-winning author of the uplifting book, Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy. Her website (ComeBackEarlyToday.com) contains a wealth of information for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

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