In The News: As his mother’s health fails, a son reflections on the gifts of her life

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Last Christmas, I gave my mom a letter. I suspect it was the kind that every son spends a lifetime composing in his heart. I thanked her for years of unquestioning love, guardianship, and silent sacrifice. I reflected on the two great gifts she brought into the life she created: an abiding sense of humor that leavened the darkest days, and an unshakeable faith in the dignity and promise of every human being.

I am profoundly lucky that in a world where so much between loved ones goes unexpressed, my note of thanks was written and delivered. And I’m grateful it reached my mom in time, before her illness takes control of her eyes.

My mother, Marcia, suffers from Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) a little-known but devastating neurological disorder. It took doctors years after we all knew something was wrong to make a proper diagnosis. PSP often rumbles ominously in the distance for years before the lightning strikes. When it does, it takes from its victims the ability to walk, and often, to use their hands. It slows cognition and effaces personality and self-control. In its final acts of cruelty, it can rob sufferers of the ability to recognize loved ones, to read, and to swallow.

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