Neuro Changes

When They Happen To Your Friends

Tom Nickel


Nuance and individual variation is slowly entering the conversation about death and dying.

How we look at the changing mental states that accompany aging is still pretty one-dimensional. We see it as awful.

Maybe we can grudgingly accept a little bit of purely cognitive decline, forgetfulness. But anything beyond that and into the different forms of Dementia that mean personality change along with major memory loss — no nuance to our reactions at all — just sadness, and fear.

We see some of the things gramma or grampa say as funny, but I know for myself that it’s a shield. Grandparents and then parents acting strange is where the fear starts because they’re where you could easily be headed. The humorous reaction deflects the in-coming fear-bomb.

I was diagnosed with cancer over ten years ago and I have pretty much stopped deflecting Death Thoughts. I created my own curriculum for learning to accept and appreciate my personal extinction and I’ve been following it ever since.

I’m in my 70s, no parents left, lots of good friends have died.

No good friends had shown signs of dementia that I knew of, until we learned what was going on with one of our best friends.

All I felt at first was overwhelming sadness, no bottom to it.

He could juggle so many balls mentally, under pressure, and figure out what to do. He exercised. Played sports.

I thought if you used it you wouldn’t lose it, at least not for a long time. Turns out it’s not that simple.

I wanted to spend time with him as soon as we could.

I set up a little travel, just me and him, like we might have twenty years ago except we were too busy then working and raising our families. Back then he would have taken charge of everything because he was much more competent than I am. This time I led the way and I don’t think he perceived that shift.

We had an excellent time. Writing about it helps me sort out why. Here’s what I’ve figured out so far:

You Can Prepare.

I talked to people about what I was going to be doing. I talked to my wife. I talked…



Tom Nickel

Learning Technologist focusing on VR, Video, and Mortality … producer of Less Than One Minute and 360 degree videos