I interviewed a former cabinet minister once. He was remembered as the do-or-die front liner during my country’s early tumultuous years. A man who with the other founding statesmen, created a new nation that was to become Singapore today.
A giant of a man. A hero. My childhood vision of a dignitary – till this image of a lonely man sitting in the patio facing the garden at mid-morning. The slanted sun rays cutting through a glass of clear apple juice casting golden lines on his pale frail hand, his thin legs crossed like those of a stuffed doll, one foot dangling above a dropped slipper.
He looked at us casually. We bowed in an awkward fashion and greeted him with the old honorific. Unnecessary protocol, his eyes spoke. He smiled nevertheless. I tried to find resemblance of this person to what I’ve seen on TV and the papers. This was a very different man.
A younger aide in his late sixties accompanied us and filled in the details of all that we asked of the great man who sat placidly close to us yet so very distant in a world of his own. When the interview ended, I said goodbye to who he was, saddened by what he had become – an empty shell.
Last Friday I was out with a friend who is facing challenging days with her mother-in-law who doesn’t remember things anymore. I listened, told her I understood what she’s going through…..but I honestly didn’t.
What do we go through when the brain wastes away? It’s a scary thought. There are tomes of information about dementia and senility, and yet there’s nothing one can do about it. Knowing doesn’t make it go away or prevent it from happening. That troubled me all weekend.
What happens when the ability to think is gone? Is there no past and no future? Is every waking moment a new experience? Does one live only for here and now? Does that make one undeniably happy? Is this a blessing or a curse? Is ignorance truly blissful?
I decided there’s no point worrying. Que sera sera. Whatever will be, will be.
In the meantime, carpe diem, my friends.
If we do lose our minds tomorrow, at least we have a good time today.