Desmond O’Grady is a Jesuit priest who served in many prominent positions throughout Ireland. He was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He shares what living with the disease has taught him and how it has changed the way he lives life.

[Interviewer] You have a great sense of, first of all, honesty. You tell the truth as it is. You then have, you’ve come, it would appear, to an acceptance of that through awareness. And then you take action. That’s a powerful way of dealing with anything in life, and particularly with something potentially as debilitating as Alzheimer’s.

[Desmond O’Grady, SJ] Um, yes, I think that’s true. My own way of thinking it more is the life I have, whatever it is, from the time I was an infant, up to now, is the life I have. And either you can bemoan its shortcomings, or you can delight in that you’ve settled in it. I’ve set to delight and get settled in it. Having, I think, started off as a kid feeling, ‘Oh my God! I wanna do this. I wanna do that. And I wanna do the other. And I don’t have a way around it.’ Miserable myself, annoying everyone else, and alienating them. So I says, ‘Well, this ain’t no life. What have you got?’ And I’ve found that I have an awful lot. I live a very happy life now, thanks be to God, and it hasn’t been diminished by Alzheimer’s. I think, in some ways, because Alzheimer’s has restricted my activities I have much more contemplative space. And that has done me a world of good.


Ludovina Pacheco

DeathThe day before he died, my grandpa gave me a gift and asked me to pray for his soul because he was on the way to our Father’s house. We talked a lot that evening. Very lucid, he repeated once more: ‘My dear, pray for my soul.’ I went home, and at four in the morning we received the news that he had died. I remembered then what he had asked me. Before she died, eleven months later, my grandma asked me the same thing. I was 18 years old.


Alice Waua Mwololo

WorkMy passion is making baskets out of beads and jewelry. I also make rosaries. I work from my house. I cannot afford to rent a shop. My clients come to the house to buy what they want. However, during the day, I hawk my wares around the area I live in. People love beaded jewelry, so I am able to make a few coins.


María Dolores de Guevara Ribadas

StruggleMy parents would make everything stretch like a piece of gum. I remember my parents having only bread soup for dinner from the leftover ration bread. Even in this situation, my mother would share with an old lady who often came to beg. Despite what this might look like, there was always happiness at home. We sang and looked at life with optimism. Overcoming challenges was a constant in my parents’ life.


Carlos E. Obando

LoveI grew up without a dad. We went through a lot with my parents’ divorce. When I came to the United States, I was bleeding all over the place. But I didn’t want to recognize it. It was very easy for me to love somebody, but it was extremely difficult to be loved by somebody. Because I was so hurt, I was not able to pull down all the fences that were protecting my heart.


Andrea Mendoza Chiviliú

WorkI create traditional fabrics that I sell to tourists who visit the town I live in. My mother taught me how to work with fabrics. She used to tell me I should learn to work so that I could cover the family expenses when I got married. My work did help my husband and me cover our many needs.


Kerry Egan

DeathSix years ago, I met Jim. I was his hospice chaplain. At our first meeting, he told me he had a message to get out to thousands of people. ‘I know what it feels like when the Holy Spirit has a job for me,’ he said. ‘I’ve got to get a message out, but how can I do it when I can’t even get out of this recliner?’