By Sara Hastings
Some people find their identity in work, others in possessions, family, appearance or their independence. Losing just one of these would be devastating. Yet for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease their identity is slowly, painfully and progressively stolen from them. First they forget the small details; where they placed the book they were reading or why they had driven to the store. Next they get lost and the world becomes so large, confusing and frightening. Finally they forget those they love the most like a spouse, child or grandchild.
My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age sixty-five. For fifteen years I watched her slow decline as she progressed through each stage of the disease. Through this painful deterioration she faced the disease with strength and courage. My grandmother never complained or pitied herself but adapted to each loss with humor, humility, grace and reliance upon God.
I created this series in memory and honor of my grandmother.
In each consecutive piece the brain matter deteriorates but is replaced with a growing vine, representing that beauty can be found even amidst pain, suffering and loss. While it is easy to see beauty in new life it is difficult to see it in decay. When I visited my grandmother in her final months and held her hand though she could not open her eyes, she taught me lessons in patience, compassion, kindness and sacrifice. I learned that life is not solely about making yourself happy, or giving for what the person will give you in return. Sometimes we learn the most about true beauty in the shadow of suffering.