Marjorie’s Manifesto

With apologies to Martin Luther

In 1517 a monk named Martin Luther nailed a document to the church door in Wittenberg.  It was a passionate statement of an alternative vision of what the Christian faith and church practices could and should be.  His action shook his contemporary world, and eventually led to a new and different way of viewing and living faith.

My claim to the right to use the term ‘manifesto’ lies in recently experiencing personal events which have shaken me to the core, and which will lead to major changes in the way I see and lead my life.

On January 10th, 2013 I visited my family doctor, accompanied by my daughter, Lorna Shapiro.  The appointment was made because my family had brought to my attention that I had suffered a major memory lapse.  This unusual event was upsetting for all of us.  How could this happen to me, and what did it mean?  

The details of the appointment are not important: the results are.  A sympathetic and thorough doctor led me through a verbal examination, and then the accepted test for assessing mental acuity.  It seems that I have a noticeable memory loss.  People in their 90s, in the normal progression of life, do not have memories as sharp as when they were, for example, 70.  However, my tests showed that I am beyond that, at what is medically called the beginning of dementia.  Just hearing that word applied to oneself is enough to produce severe shock.

After a while I surfaced and began to think as well as react.  How does one handle this?  Who am I now?  What is the future likely to be?  Can anything be done?  These queries and many more went round and round in my mind.  Finally, getting fed up with all this I picked up a pencil, and started to jot down thoughts and ideas.  I am not ready to become a basket case, and surely, there must be something to do that will help.  Being only a medical problem is not living.  I am nearing the end of my life, but not there yet.  My challenge is to make my remaining years rewarding.

Morning came today and the sky has not fallen.  I am the same person that I was before that appointment.  The diagnosis is undeniably scary, but predicting the future is much less definite.  The medical folk do not pretend to be able to know how my particular affliction will unfold.  Apparently the range is from a swift dramatic slide, or a slow growth in disability, or staying put with no apparent change, or for a few there can even be a slight improvement.  One thing is made clear, there is no “cure”.  This is not reversible.  A few suggestions were made.  Walk as much as you can.  Stimulate your mind.  Observe good dietary habits.

So here is my plan: Until proven otherwise I assume my particular affliction will be one of the slow-growing type.

I will continue to do activities which I find stimulating.

I have added daily walks to my regime.

My bookcase holds 65 family albums, covering family and trips for as many years as there are albums.  I now keep an album by my chair, and will go through one each day.  This should help me retain memories of past years and people.

 I am setting up a pattern of reminders, to aid my faulty memory, such as a bill board to hold activities, daily appointments, people to contact etc.

 Start a diary in which to jot down social gatherings, gifts received, anything which I feel is particularly important to remember.  A few words, date and place should suffice, and not take much time to do.

 I will be open to any suggestions which will make things easier.

Life has been good to me, and continues to be.  It has not always been easy, but always worth the effort.  It will be so this time.  It would be a crime to waste the relatively few years I have left.  How fortunate I am to have around me here, and at a distance, a family who gives love and support with no hesitation.  I tend to be better at giving advice than taking it, but I promise to listen and weigh what is said.  That’s about as much as I can promise!

Now – on to the future!  2013 will be a great year.  I will have four new great-grandchildren added this year, and the older members of the clan are busily engaged in their lives.  What more could I ask?  “My cup runneth over,” to quote a book Martin Luther would recognize.  Love to all – Marjorie M. Gibson


Filed under This & That

20 Responses to Marjorie’s Manifesto

  1. Jim taylor

    Dear Marjorie,
    Dementia is a terrible diagnosis. A friend of ours received that diagnosis in her mid-sixties; she found it devastating. I’m sure it was for you too.
    Your response to the diagnosis is heart-warming, though. It says that you have looked at your life, and feel few regrets. You don’t feel a need to make massive changes. What you will do is what you have been doing, with a few more deliberate actions for both health and relationships. That’s a powerful affirmation. Good on you, as the Australians might say.
    Jim Taylor

    • Marjorie

      Jim – Thanks for your comments. My situation is different than your 60+ friend. At 90 the dementia will have to step lively to catch me before something else does. With some help and some luck I may make it through to the end of my path with not too much change. Hope things go well with your friend. Keep in touch I do enjoy your column. Marjorie

  2. Wayne A Holst


    You continue to be a mentor. I am 70 years old.

    You have a twenty year head start on me!


    • Marjorie

      And you are not going to catch up Wayne! Thanks for the comments, I am content that things will work out reasonably well. For sure, time will tell. Love to the both of you. Marjorie

  3. Anne Longworth Marshall

    Dear Marjorie,
    Your positive attitude speaks volumes of your character and faith. My father made the same decisions as he declined mentally and physically, and it was such a blessing to all of us. He never complained, but always said “I’m so fortunate.” He chose not to complain, but to look at all the good things in his life. I know you are cut from the same cloth. God bless you as you live your life in faith and hope.
    Love, Anne

    • Marjorie

      Anne – Good to hear from you. I agree with your father. Jack and I both have been lucky people. Your family and the Gibsons shared so much.

  4. At first I was very sad to read about this big change in your life, but after reading your blog post I realize that this is part of your life and you are bringing your own personality strengths to make the most of the challenges. You have, in effect, written a personal code for combatting dementia. I admire you for that. May things go well for you.

    • Marjorie

      Thanks for the good wishes Judith. I am just assuming that things will go well. If my blog gets a bit wacky, you will know why! It will be interesting to see what the next year brings. Keep in touch.

  5. I agree with Judith — And, you have the grace to deal with this possibly bad news the way you have greeted your whole life. Besides, anyone who can write such a cogent, life-affirming post only days after seeing the doc seems to defy that one man’s opinion. Keep calm and carry on. You have a good plan. It will see you through.

    • Marjorie

      You made a mistake, Barbara! The doctor was a woman – but was just as sure of her diagnosis as a man would have been. Never mind, I like the “keep calm and carry on” idea. We will see how that works.

  6. Eveline

    Well Marjorie…; I read this at 3 AM when I awoke sleepless and came downstairs to get some hot milk. I have cried a few tears, Bruce too, and mostly have sat in wonder and admiration at your courage and honesty. How like you to tell us all! How like you to make a plan! How like you to claim humour right now–“the disease will have to step lively to catch me!.” My only suggestion to add to your list — stay in touch with friends. Let’s phone chat more often. Much love, Eveline

    • Marjorie

      Eveline – How very nice to hear from you. A nasty shock indeed and for sure it will keep me alert to try to corral this dementia. However I am quite convinced that the chances are good that it can be done. A year should tell the story, I figure (from no real info, just my guess). Keep in touch you say? Take that as a given. If I ever needed friends, it is now.

  7. I felt sad to hear of your diagnosis, dear one… But I also think, as many doctors and others are suggesting, that there is much to be said about the power of positive living and thinking and that our cells are deeply influenced either by negativity or positivity (if that is a word). So I commend you, my friend, for your positive world view. Who is to say that we would not be affected by illness and other such things sooner if we were not living with a positive attitude? I realize that a positive attitude will not change a situation but it certainly can alter how we chose to experience and live the situation… Marjorie you are embracing and living the above statement and I honor you and your journey. My heart and prayers and energy I send your way and into the universe to sustain you in whatever way it is able. Be well, my friend. Rev Peggy McDonagh

    • Marjorie

      Peggy – I detect Wayne`s work in spreading the word to those who know me, and thanks to him for doing this. It is not what I am pleased with, but life seldom asks one’s approval before acting. Much appreciated your response, Peggy. I hope to see you later in the summer.

  8. Dorothy

    It doesn’t seem possible that someone like you who writes so well and is so mentally active should fall victim to any sort of dementia. My heart is with you. I keep going back to your wise words that we used on our wedding invitation – “Life is so precious, and sad or happy must be lived and appreciated”. You have lived well Marjorie – appreciating all the ups and downs life brings as your wonderful blog reminds us. Your manifesto indicates that you intend to continue to do so. You are a woman of great courage and continue to be an inspiration to all of us. Much love Dorothy

    • Marjorie

      Dorothy – Friends are always a part of life which makes us rich, but never have I appreciated them more than now. The reality of this diagnosis is hard to accept as mine. These things happen to other people, not to us is our usual reaction! However I am making progress and adjusting to what Sheldon called “his new normal” only this time it is my new normal! Arizona is, as usual, a beautiful and fascinating place.

  9. Patrick Hickey

    Hi Marjorie,
    Love the blog. Such a positive attitude always, a life well lived with loving family, loving friends, so much done and so much more to do. Your ‘plan’ just sounds like a good choice for all of us…keep well, keep writing. Love Patrick and Maura and boys.

    • Marjorie

      Dear Hickeys All – I keep saying the same thing as the comments come in – but nothing else comes close to my feelings. I am so grateful for the encouraging messages as I start this new trail. Thank you for caring. I intend to keep writing, and time will tell how long that will continue. At the moment I am in Arizona with Isabel and Ivan, and having a wonderful time. The landscape of this state is almost beyond description. Tomorrow I return to Vancouver, and to living life with my diagnosis in the background. Maura, from your profession, if there is something I can add to my Manifesto, fire away! I will consider anything – well, almost anything. Love to all. Marjorie

  10. Dearest Marjorie,
    We wonder if you realize how many lives you have blessed by just being you. You grab life with such amazing joy and generosity of spirit. Know that you are loved and that we will continue this life’s journey with you through the days that lie ahead.
    Love from Brenda and David
    P.S. Dave was fondly reminded today of celebrations shared with Sheldon, Roy, you and some would-be Scots on Robbie Burns Day. Xoxo

    • Marjorie

      Brenda and David – “Nothing concentrates the mind so well as having no options!” — Samuel Johnson I believe – and so I find it now. To receive messages from dearly loved friends who grieve with me and laugh with me — priceless. One of life’s great dividends. I have spent this last week in Arizona with Isabel and Ivan, and enjoyed every minute of it. Believe ii or not, it is overcast and raining – the first time I have seen rain in the desert. As to the diagnosis – I will panic when I have to. Who knows, time will tell. Much love. I leave for Vancouver in about 2 hours. Marjorie