The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once stated, “We must no more ask whether the
soul and body are one than ask whether the wax and the figure impressed on it are one.” This
phrase speaks to the idea that the intrigue which constitutes one’s soul is infinitely more
important than the body in which the soul is held. In my life, I have known an individual in my
family whom I have experienced solely through the most critical parts of his soul, and seldom
through his social personality. In knowing my grandfather and his struggles with chronic
dementia, I believe that one’s soul always shines through the physical impediments that have
blocked a person’s ability to communicate with society.
Throughout nearly my entire lifetime, my grandfather “suffered” (he was always happy)
through a mental deterioration disease that rendered him able to do nothing for himself besides
eat and sleep; essentially, the level of an infant. Despite the evaporation of his mind, even in his
worst years, my grandfather always gave those who spoke to him a sense of his sane life. In the
most subtle of ways, I would see my grandfather’s soul appear clear-as-day out of an abyss of
senseless expressions. For instance, whenever I needed laughter to brighten my day, my
grandfather somehow always knew when the right moments were to laugh in a conversation,
even though he couldn’t perform actions as simple as brushing his teeth. Additionally, it was
fascinating for me to look over my shoulder and find my grandfather enwrapped in complicated
prayers committed to memory during the High Holidays. Finally, there was yet another profound
instance of my grandfather delivering his soul to the world despite the ineptitude of his mind and
body. At the funeral of his brother, who died this past year, I witnessed as my grandfather
somehow knew to cry at the right moments, and thus blend in with the rest of the mourners.
Due to instances such as these, I often think about the complexities of life, and how
someone whose brain is nearly nonfunctional can express so much in spiritual ways. Given my
grandfather as a shining example, I realize now that expression in its most heartfelt forms
exceeds all boundaries set by disease or disability. I believe that not being able to perform even
the most fundamental, daily activities that most people take for granted have no impact on what
comes from one’s essence. In the time after my grandfather’s death, I have cherished his soul as a
personal guide to help me appreciate the souls of others as well as my own.
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