I am a 52-year-old woman with a history of Dementia in my family. It is a fear, of mine, that I too will come down with this disease. Especially now when I can’t remember the names of my grand-children or the names for kitchen tools or office supplies. (I’m told this is very normal at my age…but still…)
I have read a few, more science-y books on Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some I’ve actually understood. None of them did I enjoy. THIS BOOK, however, Dancing with Elephants was a JOY to read.
Dr. Sawatsky is an incredibly talented writer. His humor and wit are woven all throughout this book in such a way that it never takes away from the seriousness of the topic and yet, you—the reader—are left with a smile on your face and hope in your heart.
He touches on several different subjects, not just dementia. Chronic, terminal illnesses for example. He himself has been diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease—a terminal diagnoses in which the brain cells are slowly destroyed stealing away the vestiges of who the bearer is and was. It’s a devastating condition. And yet, Dr. Sawatsky is facing it with dignity, resolve, planning and humor. Through his writing, I have feelings of sorrow for him and his loved ones. Yet, I do not pity. I can only hope to face my own end—whenever it may come—with as much wit and wisdom, temerity and courage.
I do not—at this moment in time—have dementia. I may never get it. Who knows. However, the other facet of this book is the fount of information just on aging in general. This book is filled with passages, stories and information that brought me both joy and comfort along with a great deal of information that I can use and understand.
In addition, Dr. Sawatsky’s spiritual underpinning was a delight to see in his writing. Though his background is in Christianity he also leans toward Buddhism and the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh a Vietnamese monk. (While I personally do not follow Buddhism, and am a very conservative Christian—and all that entails—I am wise enough to know there are wiser men and women than I.) Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings are of peace among human beings, human rights and giving… Those teachings are both astute and beneficial. Following your heart to the benefit of others as well as yourself is a main theme in Dancing with Elephants, one that touched my own heart and moved me with emotion.