It is 3 o’clock in the morning and my thoughts are too busy for sleep, so I pick up my pen. Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Harry McAvoy: Holding on to the things that matter

By  Harry McAvoy
  • October 2, 2020

It is 3 o’clock in the morning and my thoughts are too busy for sleep, so I pick up my pen.

It has been three-and-a-half years since my memory troubles began. My world has changed dramatically. It has literally shrunk. I have gone from a daily commute into work, in Canada’s largest city, to now, because of the pandemic, navigating the streets in our neighbourhood and the rooms in our house. The meetings I still attend are online.  It doesn’t matter whether I like it or not, it is what it is.

While I can see beyond the pandemic, there is less certainty about memory loss. I am still without a diagnosis, but I have seen up close, through my father’s journey, the progression when it is the bad stuff, and it usually is.

As my mind wanders it occurs to me that living through this pandemic has been similar to living with early memory loss. Each day we live in a world of increased uncertainty; we are left wondering what is next, as weeks fold into months. We still connect with friends, but it is different, there is distance even when we are together. For many, income has been replaced by government programs that can’t provide what meaningful work once did. And sometimes we wonder where is God and why has He abandoned us?

I wait patiently. I wait to see where memory loss mixed with a pandemic will take me. It is a bitter combination over which I have little control; however, I can still choose my attitude and how I will respond to both. 

I move to a comfortable chair next to a dimly lit lamp. With rosary in hand, I acknowledge my journey towards end things has begun.  Yes it is true, but as a wise friend recently reminded me, it is true for all of us, although serious maladies push it more in your face.

Rather than languish in the darkness and scary unknown, I choose wisely to move on to the certainty our Catholic faith provides. In response to fear that is ever so close, God comforts me, reminding me of an expression I first heard years ago: “When you know where you are going, you know what to pack.”

Forgive me if I sound too confident of my destination, but I choose to believe my beliefs, and I believe I am headed towards a long, loving embrace with Jesus, my Lord and Saviour. This belief changes everything.

What it will be like beyond that embrace is less clear, but I can surmise based on God’s handiwork all around me and the great joy I have experienced through the years. On the bad days, I almost can’t wait. 

Just today, I was given a book, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember who had given it to me or why. I thought and thought, and then I waited, trusting the name of the gift giver would come to me. It didn’t. In the evening I asked one of my daughters. Clare responded, “Dad it is from your niece, she dropped it off this morning. Don’t you remember?” 

I almost spoke sarcastically, “Why would I ask if I remembered?” but instead I spoke gently, “Thank you darling.” It was a small win.

The packing process involves simplifying and focusing. Simplifying is about getting rid of what isn’t necessary and focusing is about keeping what is essential. In quiet prayer I ask God to help me know what is no longer needed, and what still matters. I will keep those things of God, reminding me to be patient, grateful, forgiving and compassionate; and also those that help me love and accept being loved. I will also hold close anything that reminds me to keep contributing and sharing the many blessings God has so generously given me.

It is now 4:30 a.m. … I return to bed, rosary still in hand. Cuddling beside the Bride, I focus on my blessings and pray for sleep. Soon it will be a new day.

(McAvoy has been sharing his journey of dealing with memory loss with Register readers.)

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