I will preface this thread by saying that this is not purely academic, but is very personal.
I am looking for any Catholic teaching or philosophy regarding people with advanced Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc. Is their soul still in their body until physical death?
My mother is in the last stage of Parkinson’s disease. I love her dearly, but to be blunt, I hate seeing pictures of her as she is right now. My sister posted pictures of her today, and she looks like a mournful zombie. I mean no disrespect to her by saying so, and it really broke my heart. I live too far away to see her in person.
A related question, could this unthinkable suffering she is experiencing be a penance for her? She made some big mistakes in response to a horrible life, but I would like to think that she can make it to heaven.
I pray to the mother for her. Is there another appropriate saint as well to reduce her suffering?
Our Lady is as good an intercessor as you could ever have.
When I see a person who is very old, or disfigured in some way, or just showing the signs of aging…I often imagine them as they were when they were 25, because I have heard from a few saints this will be our age in heaven. This is not dogma, mind you.
I have heard it said that it is harder to see loved ones suffer than to suffer one’s self. I have not yet experienced this, but I can believe it. Try to trust in the Providence of God. Keep praying for your mother. And take heart. Suffering can have a very purgative/purifying effect on a soul, but it comes at a great cost to our nature.
if the person is still living than yes the soul is still in the body.
because of the very personal nature of this thread, let me say some things.
look to Christ, I know it can be difficult to deal with suffering, but the beauty of suffering as ugly as it looks is that it is redemptive. Christ’s suffering on the cross brought our salvation, when we see suffering in this way it gives us hope. It may still be painful but it gives us hope.
I think you can look to mary too, she experienced much sorrow at the foot of the cross.
In suffering hold on to the two polls of Mary and Jesus, they will guide you through this. I know it is difficult but trust in them.
Now the more academic stuff
The Body and the Soul are one they are not separate things. Our soul is not trapped in our body, our soul is necessary to our body and visa versa.
the beauty about the resurrection of the dead is that we will receive a glorified body, there will be no suffering. But we will receive a real body, that has been glorified by Christ.
To put it simply, the body and soul are necessary for Each other, and that makes it beautiful. Our body helps us be redeemed by Christ, because he too took on a body.
May God be with you in this time of Struggle, and may Our Lady of Sorrows be your comfort in strength in this time.
My father had Parkinson’s and slept 23 hours a day, waking only to be fed, and not speaking for months. I saw him daily at his care home, but the last Christmas we brought him home he sat asleep in his chair virtually the whole day. But at tea time he suddenly woke up and started to laugh and talk…his voice was rusty from misuse but he recognised everyone and chatted as though he had never been ill. An hour later, whatever light had come on in his brain went out and he never spoke again…I had assumed that his illness had destroyed his essential spirit…what in fact it had destroyed was his ability to access his mind and his memories…they were all still there locked inside him…it was the oddest experience to have him back for an hour but somewhere he was still “Dad”…
The human person is both soul and body, that is a heresy promoted by *Arian *and Gnostic heretics. We are meant to have bodies and everything that happens to us in this life is allowed to happen to bring about a greater Good.
What you are probably looking for is the reason for suffering in this life.
It really proves that your Dad was intact all along, but, in a sense, trapped by his body. My sister recently died, and she was very silent until the priest came to give her last rites and then she prayed aloud with him.
I think the OP has a very valid point. When people are dying or extremely ill, they are in a sense trapped in their body. But the soul is very much still alive.
My former co-worker had almost the exact same thing happen. His father, who had always been the patriarch of an extended family, very much in charge, had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and gradually lost the ability or desire to communicate for years. Just before his death, he was in his bed when he suddenly sat bolt upright, yelled for everyone to gather around, and in the old loud and commanding voice, started giving everyone his last thoughts and advice, just as if he had never been sick. Then he went back to sleep and died the next day. It freaked everyone in the family out, in a good way.
I’ve often thought about that, and whether as you say, the soul remains whole even as the brain it uses to see and feel and communicate becomes ill or damaged. At the end, it may find a way to make a final communication, working its way around the damaged portions of the brain.
My own mother gradually faded away due to Parkinson’s and Alzheimers’s (no last minute reprieve for her though, sadly.) I suspect that physical touch is the first sensory experience we know, in the womb, and the last one to leave us. Just sitting and hugging, holding someone who no longer seems like the person we knew and loved, is probably the best way to connect with the soul that still is part of the body, and the wounded brain.