It changed my whole perception of reality.  It only took thirty minutes to do it.  Nothing has looked the same since.  “A Time to See” is the name of the educational film made by Reinholdt Marxhausen and published in 1985. 

Reinholdt Marxhausen was extraordinarily gifted in the visual arts.  He saw things others could never have seen had he not pointed them out.  There were bottles on the window sill in his kitchen over the sink.  They were just bottles — not to Reinholdt Marxhausen.  They were an adventure in light and shadows and colors and darkness, changing character at different times during the day, different times during the year. 

Alzheimer’s Dementia has stolen from him his extraordinary gifts in the visual arts.  His impact has continued in many of his students and all who have known him.  I only know him through friends and that film that made such a lasting impression on me. 

What brought the film to mind was writing the sermon for the ordination of Karl into the ministry.  Karl has been a student where Marxhausen taught.  Karl was influenced by the legacy of Reinholdt Marxhausen when he was the the peak of his ability. 

For me, the center of the legacy is the recognition that what a person sees depends on his/her ability to look past the object to its relationship with what is around it.  The capacity to really see, allows the most ordinary found items to become extraordinary as shadows and colors and shapes and textures suggest something far more than ordinary. 

There is a commonality about the story line in the lives of Reinholdt and Karl and PeterT (author of this blog).   Reinholdt has seen his ability to make art diminish as Alzheimer’s has taken its toll.  Karl’s mother died at the age of fifty.  At one point she was diagnosed with Pick’s Disease, a form of Alzheimer’s.  Karl’s Grandmother died of what appeared to be a form of Alzheimer’s Dementia.  My wife, Mary Ann, has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia. 

The objective realities in our lives hardly present beauty to the beholder, at least at first glance.  There is a painful ugliness in the world of Dementia whatever the specific diagnosis.  Karl and I have learned from Reinholdt that it is a time to see.  It is time to look at objective and sometimes very painful realities and see more than the obvious.  We need eyes to see what lies behind, above, below, and beside what we have experienced and are experiencing.  We need to see how what lies before us and around us looks from different angles.  We need to see the colors and shapes and textures, listen to the sounds of what we encounter.  We need to allow the possibility that there is more than meets the eye lurking what we have and are going through. 

There is beauty to be found, there is meaning to be found.  It can be seen if we have eyes to see.  It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I don’t suppose beauty really exists until we add the capacity to see it, to hear it.  If there will be beauty and meaning in our lives, especially those of us who deal with dementia, the beauty will come from within us as we look at what we are experiencing and see it for more than what first meets the eye.

My life has been enriched by taking time to really see what is around me.  Karl has seen what his Mother and Grandmother with through and has grown a gentle strength and wisdom beyond his years. 

Having said all of that, I am now struggling with finding the beauty in three hours of trips into the bedroom every few minutes to deal with one need or another, moments ago (1:30am) the need for some food, followed by the need for some water, after multiple turns in bed, trips to the commode, adjustments of the sheet and blanket and a few concerns with the wildlife in the bed.  Right now, I would find beauty in a wife finally getting to sleep!!

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