A Perceivable Soul

By Robert Root

May 20, 2019

A Perceivable Soul

The last time we saw her, two weeks before she died, her dementia seemed to have taken everything from her. The traits we thought particularly hers were no longer visible to us. We could discern nothing of her intelligence, her compassion, her vitality, her humor, her charm. Physically and mentally, she’d been reduced to her barest essentials, virtually immobile, inarticulate, non-communicative, inexpressive except through the intensity of her gaze. In my mind my brother-in-law had become a widower while his wife still lived. He had lost her and she had lost herself and he knew and surely, somehow, she knew that she wouldn’t come back. Before long, her physical existence would end, but already her personality had vanished. It was hard to know what still functioned in her mind, how much she still knew who she was, still knew what was happening to her. She seemed to have been reduced to the core of her existence.

But, watching them from her doorway that morning, we saw him stand smiling at the foot of her bed, gazing raptly at her, we saw her gaze fixed on him, and we realized something about the nature of love. We couldn’t recognize the person we had known in the woman before him, but her husband could. He could still see her essence, and, mutely, she seemed to know it. Though so much had vanished, for him, her soul was still perceivable, and he still welcomed the sight of it.

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