Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Art of Being in Pain #2

William Utermohlen, Alzheimer Artist, 1933-2007
"Dementia: The Self Portraits" from the NY Times 2006

William Utermohlen, Self Portrait, 1967
I stumbled upon these images by accident, and I've been staring at them teary-eyed ever since. William Utermohlen, a German-American artist from Philadelphia, was diagnosed Alzheimer's disease in 1995. Over the following 8 years, he created this series of self-portraits depicting his diminishing motor skills and sense of self. There is something remarkably cathartic about these illustrations of captivity and helplessness, something almost liberating. What a sad sort of irony.

Lingering ailments of any kind rob us of our perceptions, but none quite so literally as Alzheimer's and dementia: perceptions (hopefully) to be replaced by a Truth greater than who we thought we were. I've watched as countless people on their deathbeds, unable to recognize their husband or wife of 50+ years, recite the 23rd Psalm flawlessly. Because they learned it as a child and the oldest memories remain intact? Which is why dying people of all ages tend to cry out for "Mom"? Maybe. ...though I've yet to hear anyone recite the ABC's. 

Or maybe Mom is just that important, and God is as faithful as He says He is, giving us what we need and taking away what we don't.

Suggested verse to repeat if it's a difficult day is from the hymn
"Now Rest Beneath Night's Shadow" by Isaac Heinrich
Pain Rehab buddies, remember to breathe!
"Lord Jesus, since You love me, -------> 5 count inhale
now spread Thy wings above me." -------> 5 count exhale

The Art of Being in Pain #1

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