I received a lovely message the other day. It was from a social media friend, someone I have never met in person but someone whom I feel I know via conversations of 140 characters or fewer. My “virtual friend” talked about how she’d lost her mother to dementia and how, after the initial diagnosis, this blog had helped her.
It’s always gratifying to discover that my ongoing fumblings to make sense of dementia can bring a measure of comfort or support to others. It feels like a reciprocal arrangement because, often, I have found strength through the writing of others: people I have never met in person but whose experiences resonate so strongly with mine.
I’m writing this on the train back from London after a meeting at the Alzheimer’s Society. We discussed the Society’s new, ambitious, strategy. We talked about cost, about how we would measure its impact, about the risks associated with some bold statements. I’m very glad we also talked about people – people living with dementia, people directly affected by this pernicious disease, people who care. It must always be about people, individuals whose lives are inextricably linked to dementia.
It’s been a busy few days but meetings like this offer a sense of purpose.
Busy. It’s a word I often use:
“How are you?”
“Oh, I’m busy.”
The question is about my health and well being but I often choose to talk about what I’m doing. On Sunday, I asked Mum how she was.
“Quite busy,” was the answer.
“Good,” I replied, for want of something better or more profound to say. “What have you been up to?”
“Lots of things.”
Needless to point out that Mum could tell me about her busyness. No matter. “Busy” is what she might have replied to the same question a decade ago. Then, she was always involved in some project or other and people were always at the heart of what Mum did. Firstly, it was her family, immediate and beyond. Then it was her wide circle of friends, but it was also about people she didn’t really know. People whose lunches she delivered once a week, people she served in the local hospital’s coffee shop.
Busy helping people, that was Mum.
Writing that reminded me of a line from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:
“Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” (i)
Mum knew it, just as the Ghost of Jacob Marley knew it. It’s always all about people.
(i) A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens Ward, Lock & Co (1843)