Sometimes I think the multiple sclerosis is causing Don a complete personality change.  Perhaps it’s the depression which seems to permeate all day, every day, with feelings of despondency and an untypical lack of interest in life, church news and current affairs.  Perhaps it’s the lingering effects of the methylprednisolone treatment which caused such huge and volatile mood swings.  Perhaps it’s the MS itself, that causes confusion and fogginess in the brain and means he often can’t follow conversations where previously he would have relished the repartee, or get the point in jokes where previously he would have been the one to make the witticism.

So it was vastly encouraging when Don was made the target at a little exercise they did at church the week before we moved from Muswellbrook.  The only church he can get into with wheelchair access at Muswellbrook, is a sort of of ecumenical informal family service at the Anglican church on Sunday evenings.  A couple of people were secretly selected by the minister, and for each one, the three defining characteristics of that person were read out.  Everyone had to guess who the person was.  (…. This of course led naturally to the defining characteristics of Jesus, and of his followers.)

The minister read out:  “Who is the person defined by these three adjectives:  interesting, compassionate, humorous.”  A brief pause, then a chorus of several people saying at once, “That’s Don Dufty.”

Interesting?  Yes, the most widely-read person I have ever known, prides himself that whoever he meets, he can immediately find a point of contact with that person and talk about their area of interest.  But nowadays he can’t read (bad eyes) and often loses the point of an article when I am reading it to him (the MS).

Compassionate?  Yes, in fact his whole ministry was grounded in compassion, and he has often found himself on the outer — yes, even in the church!  — because of his championing of the underdog.  But nowadays the debilitating condition means we are both wrapped up in our own problems and not so aware of others.

Humorous?  Definitely — that dry humour and the quirky unexpected remarks were part of an inimitable style.  But nowadays the sharp wit has gone and it can be hard for him to follow even the most obvious humour.

And yet, for people who have only known him over the past few years, he was instantly recognisable by those three adjectives.

Very reassuring, that little exercise.  What it meant to me was, that all the difficulties and changes brought about by the multiple sclerosis are nothing but an overlay, and he is still the same person underneath it all.  That the defining characteristics are still recognisable.  That there is an unchanging core at the heart of a person.  That the qualities that made Don be Don, do still define him even when buried and hidden by the changes made by this insidious disease.

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