A Christian friend reminded me of a couple points I wish I had had room to make in my column "Alzheimer's: It's All in the Family." (The title to this post is a link to that column.)
There is a theory of the mind that I think is consistent with Christian theology, although it is admittedly closer to the Eastern view. This theory holds that the brain does not create consciousness; it receives it. It makes perfect sense to me that as the Alzheimer’s plaques form in the brain they progressively interfere with the reception of consciousness. However, I do wonder if, like a radio receiver with a loose connection or a misfiring diode (or whatever), sometimes, for brief intervals, reception returns to normal or close to it.
I say that because I remember how on my Aunt Jo’s 79th birthday, when the disease was fairly far advanced, she seemed to be her old self for a few moments. When no one else was in the room, she stood looking at the cake and actually initiated a conversation with me. Addressing me by name, she said, “Can you believe it, I’m actually 79 today?” Sadly, it didn’t last. She didn’t say anything to anyone else for the rest of the evening.
I suppose one could also call this a moment of grace. I know that it is a common occurrence for terminally ill people to rally shortly before the end, almost as if they are given an opportunity to say their goodbyes.
In any event, what I witnessed on the evening of my aunt’s 79th birthday may just have been one of those examples of how science and faith intertwine. --Ed