I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this before… but it seems I haven’t (or can’t find it – perhaps it was on another blog?). I got into an e-mail conversation with someone who claimed that I had said somewhere on this blog that one should speak the truth all the time. Since I have lied only yesterday to my grandmother, and fully conscious of it – I took issue with that.
Before I explain, I have to say that I do feel truth is an important ideal. Spirituality without truth is worthless, I feel. And yes, where I can, I try to speak the truth. Speaking the truth, the absolute truth, is powerful – because it means preventing extra illusions coming up between people. If everyone lies on their resume, how should a resume be written? I have personally decided that no matter what the cost, I’d rather be honest and poor than lying and rich. I’d rather wear my vulnerabilities on my sleeve, than pretend to be more than I am. Which doesn’t mean I’ll talk about every thing going on in my life online. No harm in keeping quiet. [Don’t imagine dark secrets now 😉 ]
But my grandmother is losing her mind. She’s in that tricky stage of Alzheimer’s where she is sane enough to be able to make some kind of sense. She’s sane enough to wonder whether the fact that her husband hasn’t come down for lunch or tea means he’s not there. But she’s not there enough to remember that in fact he died several years ago. She’s sane enough to know she needs money to get out of where she is. But she’s gone enough to not really know she’s in a retirement home. And she certainly doesn’t realize she’s in a ward for those who, like her, are in varying stages of dementia.
And yes, sometimes she does wonder whether she’s losing her mind. Thankfully she forgets those suspicions as soon as they come – or seems to.
Conversations with my grandmother can become a bit disconcerting. Yesterday she asked me if I would come and bring her money tomorrow, because she wanted to ‘go home’. I’m sure she has no idea of what home means. She also has no clue as to in which city she is and which she’d like to go to. She told me she wanted to go by train. But she obviously doesn’t take into account the fact that she’d need to get her wheel chair into the train to start with. Or her walker – or both.
In responding to her question I took into account that she will not remember tomorrow, what I tell her today. In fact – I’m not sure she’ll still know it an hour after she’s hung up the phone. So I can in fact tell her anything that will calm her down and shut her up. Sometimes that means lying. This time I managed a simple version of the truth. I told her that I’d be working the next day, so I could not bring her the money she’d need for the train. Since I live ten minutes walk from where she is, I’d be very capable of bringing her money in an emergency. But since I feel she’s right where she needs to be, I’m not telling her that.
In her case I limit the truths I tell her to the questions she asks. It’s like dealing with kids and touchy subjects: you have to be age appropriate. And what that means is you let the childs questions determine how much you tell them. With my grandmother it’s the same. If she comes right out and asks me where my grandfather (or father – she’ll usually mean the same person) is, I will tell her he died. But if she merely mentions him in passing I don’t try and correct her.
So do I believe in speaking the truth at all times? Certainly not. Do I believe in speaking the truth as much as possible? Yes, of course I do.