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The Last Anniversary

I went to my favorite restaurant this morning for breakfast and had the privilege of sitting across from an older couple who were celebrating the forty-fifth anniversary of his marriage proposal to her.

From the moment they sat down, I could tell this something was different about their relationship. She spoke to him gently; almost as one would speak to a child. She asked if he wanted his usual breakfast, and then ordered for him. Then she pulled out a hardback book that contained pictures of their memories over the years. Whether she had the book made or someone else I do not know.

As she slowly turned the pages of the book, she explained to him each picture, the people who were in each picture, their relationship to him, and where the picture was taken. Her words were soft and kind, and she was very patient with him as he strained to remember their past.

From what I could hear from their conversation it was clear that he had some form of cognitive impairment. It might have been dementia, or it could have been Alzheimer’s disease. Still it was clear that after forty five year together, he struggled to remember any of it, and she was having an equally difficult time facing the reality that their time over breakfast might be the last anniversary  he would be able to recall anything from their past lives together.

While her love for him was evident, so was her pain. A couple of times her voice began to crack as she went through the pages of their book. She would pause briefly, take a deep breath and regain her composure. There would be time to cry later when they were not in public. And for that reason I abruptly finished my breakfast and left as tears filled my eyes.

As I drove home, I could not help but feel grateful that I was still creating memories with my wife and kids. Still, I was in no way unaware of the possibility that there might come a day in the not so distant future when either my wife or I, or both of us, might forget those memories. Until then, if that day should come, I will do all I can to cherish the time I have with the ones I love, and pray that God will allow me to keep them until the day I die.

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