Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Clark Pinnock with Alzheimer's disease...

For those of us who know about or read his works are sad to hear the news. To me personally, Alzheimer's disease is extremely demoralizing and one of the most horrible kind of slow-deaths. A person who has contracted severe Alzheimer's may even forget his or her own name, one's life works and experiences, family members, friends, all the good memories and even God. If the meaning of life is to be understood, then Alzheimer's is the anti-meaning of life. Hence this disease poses the question whether can life still be meaningful regardless of our understanding? And are we still Christians when we don't even remember or know we are?

Christian theology points out that the meaning of life and our identity are not so much pegged on our individual and subjective understanding of life and memory. The meaning of life and our identity are situated in the relationship that God is constantly relating to us, through Christ. This constant relating is known as 'Love' (Romans 8.38-39: "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord"). Hence even if we do not cognitively recognize anything, the meaning of a human life is nonetheless secured by God through Christ. Our memory may fail and we do not remember, yet God is faithful and God remembers.

In a parallel way, for the patient of Alzheimer's, even if he or she does not remember or know his or her own identity, family members, and friends anymore, nonetheless, the family members' and friends' relation to the patient secures the patient's identity. Pinnock may forgets his wife, but she does not forget him. Pinnock may forgets his friends, but they do not forget him. Pinnock may loses all his memories, yet his identity does not lies in his memory alone but lives on in the memories of those around him. And so his persona stays alive through the others. When one's memory fails, the Others' memory make up for it.

When we don't remember ourselves, we haven't lose our identity because the ultimate Other, God, makes up for it by the divine's constant relating to us; loving us. We are secure in the divine love.

In any case, Pinnock is still highly positive over his condition even though he might gradually forget the fact that he has written this letter, not to mention losing the memory of his friends whom the letter is addressed to. Here is the letter (H/T: Thomas Oord):
Dear Tom and John:

I want to inform you that I am now middle stage Alzheimer’s. I will not be able to do my writing etc. I am 73 years now, and I've enjoyed my biblical three score and ten. I am not bitter. I have had a good life. I'll meet you over Jordan if not before.

You are free to make this news known.

With love,

Κύριε ἐλέησον, Χριστὲ ἐλέησον, Κύριε ἐλέησον...


Kar Yong said...

Hi Sze Zeng,

Thanks for this - I was in the midst of writing a similar post, struggling with some of the issues you highlighted. This is because my father, who is now 81, is also suffering from Alzheimer's disease. But I must say that as we care for our father, I have learnt the meaning of patience, love, and how to cherish every sober moment my father has when he remembers all of us. I have learnt a new meaning of life. To me, this is where I discover theology and praxis collide with each other.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Kar Yong,

I'm sorry to hear about your father's condition. Grateful that you share your own first hand encounter with this disease here. It is encouraging to see how the encounter shaped your perception of theology and praxis. I understand that it is not an easy journey at all for the patient as well as the family. May you & your family be continually be taken care of. Peace & blessings.

reasonable said...