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Some Old Chestnuts

October 7, 2011

Ode to Butterbean

Ode to Butterbean:

When I was 23, I worked as a CSN at a nursing home. I worked with Alzheimers patients. It was the most rewarding job I’ve ever had as well as the closest I’ve ever been to absolute horror. I can think of no other time in my life where I have been impacted so deeply and profoundly. My experience there allowed me to realise that a human being has an infinite capacity to love.

Zen and the Art of Alzheimer’s Disease

My memories of the nursing home are astoundingly preserved, so much so that I can still smell the air in them. I was forced to confront the possibility of my entire lifetime, 80 years perhaps, of passions and of soul-mates found, of continuous cyclic beginning ends, of adjusting and growing, deepening, widening, loving fully and hiding out and self-loathing and guilt over everything and wasted time. Years spent accumulating my experiences and my exprience of those experiences and of my emotions and realising every one of the decisions I made were actually responsible for my “choice”. All the shit I cried about and all I fought to forgive and the moment I forgave myself for being me, damn that was one fine moment because it was when I chose to live. That I could live just to forget it all really pissed me off. I die, I rot, the end? That’s like having to sign a false confession. An end is a finite in an infinite universe. How does that make any sense?

So this is my ode to Butterbean. That was her nickname, butterbean, not because she liked to eat them, rather it was simply one of the few words she could still say. Her name was Connie Spencer and she is the woman in the photo, on the front of the motorcycle. I remember the day she arrived in the ward. She was 83. She wouldn’t wear shoes and she danced all the time. She was glowing and mischeivious, with sparkles in her eyes and a huge toothless smile for everyone, but mostly just for her. We tried to keep slippers on her feet, they’d get so cracked and dry, but she’d free them and off she’d go to twirl and spin and sing again. Through her I began to see the beauty of such a design where you leave this Earth the way you arrived, unfettered, and truly free, where memory is the sole burden of your DNA. It was not that I felt her oblivion made her “lucky” to forget all pain and sorrow. It was that I found it a more befitting way to honor your life by letting it go, to be fully present to the next possibility. I love you Connie. I took her picture because she had no family or friends that ever came to visit her. It reminds me that I am exactly where I am supposed to be every moment of my life. Right now anything is possible.

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