A few weeks ago Marc and I somehow ended up having a completely free night. We spent the night watching two movies! One of the movies was Awakenings, which is a quality movie and should be watched if you’ve never seen it. In the middle of the movie after seeing many moments where the audience and characters are wondering if the patients in the hospital are actually aware of anything around them, I paused the movie in tears.
I thought of Marc’s mom and dad. Marc’s dad has been in a nursing home for almost two years now because he has front-temporal dementia and a number of other medical issues. He has faded rather quickly in the past few years, and Marc’s family has told us that he rarely, if ever, speaks anymore. Marc’s mom visits him everyday, however. I know this is difficult for her on so many levels. But she has remained faithful and caring and loving to her husband, even though “her husband” is no longer really there.
But that’s why I stopped the movie. I told Marc, “What about the spirit?! Isn’t it possible that, though your dad’s brain and body no longer allow him to communicate or recognize what’s going on around him, their spirits still connect?” The thought, which I’d never had before, made me happy and sad all at the same time. I know the “spirit” is sort of an ethereal concept, but I think we can all think of experiences that have left an ache or a joy that we could not articulate, or moments where you’ve felt a deep connection or maybe cold isolation. I think those are spirit moments. And I think it’s possible for our spirits to “know” what our brain may not be able to articulate or even take in. (And, yes, I understand that this may be on the verge of heretical, but I think I’m okay with that.)
The picture I had in mind that night was a connection that was passed on between Marc’s mom and his dad from the chest. It’s like all of the love and care went from breast to breast so the brain didn’t have to be a part of it. It was pure love, and love has always been better felt in the heart than examined by the mind. And because it doesn’t even pass through the brain, Marc’s dad can both know it and express it. Because, though his brain has been damaged, his heart and his spirit aren’t.
Now, I don’t know if this is “the way” it is, but I like to think that it’s possible. In the last scene of Awakenings, the doctor Robin Williams plays talks about what it was like to see his patients “wake up” and find out all of the things that they had actually experienced while they were “sleeping”. And he talks about the human spirit. And it made me think that my little insight maybe wasn’t too far off.
“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Cor 13:7