Two weeks ago, on May 24th, my husband, Alan G. Moore, MD, died after a long battle with dementia. In 2009, during a complex surgical procedure, he found himself struggling to remember the steps of an operation he had performed hundreds of times. Neuro-psychometric testing revealed so-called “mild cognitive dysfunction” which was likely the beginning of the dementia that had afflicted both his parents. However, he was a brilliant man, and given his high level of functioning, it was suggested that he might be able to keep practicing if he started taking Alzheimer’s medication. He was only 60 years old with a successful practice, and our youngest child was only 13. He simplified the discussion by asking whether the neuropsychologist would allow him to operate on his wife. After a moment’s reflection, the psychologist said, “No, I wouldn’t,” to which Alan responded, “That’s all I really need to know.” The following day, he closed his practice, to the dismay of his devoted office staff and his patients. He would not risk the health of a woman or her baby in order to make a softer financial landing for himself.
Being an obstetrician gave his life purpose, and he never quite got over having to give it up. For about a year after his retirement, he went to the grocery store every day, a place he had rarely gone previously. It was months before I figured out that he had a busy consultative practice in the produce section. He even kept regular office hours at night. Even sound asleep, I could hear him lucidly explaining the risk vs. benefit of hormone replacement therapy. For nearly ten years, life with Alan was like living in the movies “Finding Nemo,” and “Fifty First Dates,” only not as funny. To the amazement of his doctors and the disappointment of his disability insurance company, the progression of his dementia was inexplicably slow, something for which I am incredibly grateful. During that critical decade, our children grew up and my step-daughter gave birth to two grandchildren he was able to enjoy. It was as if God put up His hand and held back the tide. Then five months ago, he began to decline at a meteoric pace and thankfully, God took him home.
I am incredibly appreciative of all the encouraging emails, calls and texts I have received, the support of our church, my fantastic staff at CHI St. Luke’s in The Woodlands, and the Intellicure family. I don’t think anyone ever had a better support system at work or home. I am proud of our children and the way they have risen to this challenge. In those dreadful last months, I was encouraged by a passage written by my favorite author, C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce, the allegorical tale of a bus ride from Hell to Heaven. A resident of Heaven offers this perspective on Earth and its suffering: “Earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself…..Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even agony into glory. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: …it is best described as the opposite of a mirage. What seemed, when they entered it, to be the vale of misery turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts, memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water.”
I am grateful for the many friends and colleagues who made pools of water for me in the desert. I am confident that for my husband, Heaven has worked backwards, and that the only thing he is now unable to recall is his past sorrow. We will have a celebration of his life on Saturday June 15th.
Dr. Fife is a world renowned wound care physician dedicated to improving patient outcomes through quality driven care. Please visit my blog at CarolineFifeMD.com and my Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbxBv_PCAYkbUCvnCjTzW0A/videos