Going Away


She wandered his office, examining its

Contours and borders

The way she wandered her own mind now

Looking for familiar shapes, for doorways

She had walked through before, and

Windows that opened on familiar scenes.

He the doctor, but not here the healer;

She the wife, mother, grandmother, friend,

Here the patient, here the one carrying

The ever-increasing weight of the ultimately empty burden

Someone names Alzheimer’s disease.

Now and for some time, Ann’s disease

Called sometimes the great unlearning

Unlearning from this moment backwards

Until: who was this man at home (was this home?)

who cared for her with devotion but

whose face and voice were those of a stranger.

“I’m going away for a little while, Ann,”

the doctor said, “I’m going to the beach.”

That stretch of sand, that moving tide in full light

United both their hearts, and she smiled.

“Ann,” he asked, “what is it you love about the beach?”

Silence and distracted glance; regretted question

He thought she could not answer,

Not frame a structure to hold the words,

Nor find the words to hang there, to

Bring meaning to light, intention to expression.

But then she spoke, quietly, looking eye to eye

Directly.  She said, “There is a kind of music

That lives there.”

His heart leapt for the wisdom singing full

from the ruined choirs of this human brain.

One radiant moment in a darkened room

When the patient healed the physician.

John P. McGinty


2 thoughts on “Going Away

  1. John – this brought me to tears.. as someone whose parents both came to the end of their lives in that strange country called dementia from which messages of clarity and wisdom still could be telegraphed and received with gratitude and awe.

    You are the best,


    John McDargh, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor

    “Live in fragments no longer …. only connect!” E.M. Forster

    Department of Theology
    Boston College
    Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

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