Thanks Scott. Your aunt sounds rather amazing. I’m happy for her that she could see her situation that way!
Alzhemer’s is indeed terrible. I have no way of knowing, but I wonder if it’s worse for those who love and have to take care of the one who has it. At least the one who has it is constantly forgetting whatever terrible experiences they’ve had! But I don’t mean to be flippant. My brother works in a long-term care facility, and some of the residents have alzheimer. One of them is constantly afraid and disoriented because he has so often confused about what’s going on and everyone is a stranger to him.
The loss was very dramatic with my friend. Just weeks before he was diagnosed with ALS we’d gone on a 6 day backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. It was our 2nd hiking trip together, and we were both looking forward to many more. We were able to take one more, to Havasu Falls, which was spectacular, even if marred by the evidence of the disease his body presented along the way.
The thing about such forms of imprisonment of the body, though, is that ones experience is heavily dependent on ones reaction to the situation. If one dwells on the loss, discomforts and near impossibility of stopping or even slowing down the degeneration, it could be a particularly terrible form of hell, filled with anger, anxiety, helplessness, isolation, etc. My friend coped with the situation through Buddhist learning and practice. He came to appreciate and be aware of things that before had gone unnoticed.
When the Bible says that God uses for good what is done for evil, I think this points not only to God’s nature, but to the nature of reality. Both God’s interventions in the system of material reality AND that system exemplify that assertion. I think this is why so much of what Buddha said about reality, the mind and the results of the practices he taught are true. He observed and came to understand reality very deeply and, even though he did not believe in a personal God, he saw God’s nature in God’s creation, far more accurately than anyone had at the time. Basically, in my view, Buddhism is as close as one can get to salvation through works.
And the implication of this, I think, is that no matter how terrible something looks from ones own perspective, no matter how hopeless or unchangeable, if one accepts it as God’s will and surrenders to God, rather than dwelling on ones own negative perspective, one will come to see the good it makes possible. Jesus’ crucifixion is the greatest example of that, but there are many others, such as Paul’s response to being beaten and imprisoned and Joseph’s response to being betrayed by his brothers and imprisoned in Egypt.