“Precious memories, how they linger, How they ever flood my soul. In the stillness, of the midnight, how the sacred scenes unfold.” Our lives are lived through our stories and memories. The tragedy of any form of dementia is the tinkering, tampering and erasing of our precious memories. Everyone exhibits different behaviors. Try not to put them on the spot to answer “test” questions. Help them keep their dignity. Some people lose themselves and become a different person in speech, manners or emotions. Others step deeper into their memories, reliving their good old days.
“Precious father, loving mother, fly across the lonely years; and old home scenes of my childhood in fond memory appear.” How do you talk with someone whose memories have been mixed up or hidden away? They may want to hold a conversation with you, but the pressure on both sides can be very frustrating. We have all learned the art of small talk (how are you, what’s new, how are you feeling). Some do not know how to respond any more. It is okay. Ask simple yes or no questions to see if that helps: Are you comfortable? Do you want anything? Are you thirsty? Can I pray with you?
“As I travel on life’s pathway, know not what the years may hold; as I ponder, hope grows fonder, Precious memories flood my soul.” Sometimes people retreat deeper and deeper into themselves. It can be part of the process. As they go, what they need to hear the most is that they are loved. A good way to demonstrate this is to talk about your life, tell your everyday stories, and bring some pictures to show them. Don’t worry them with trying to remember these people. Let them see your love and hear your voice. Listen with them to songs of faith. It will bring healing and release to both of you.
“Precious memories, unseen angels, sent from somewhere to my soul. How they linger, ever near me, and the sacred past unfold.” Acknowledge your own grief; it is very real and sad. Know also that God is with them, however far away from you they may go. Always remember God’s promise to you and to them: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Share your precious memories. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
I have found myself in a number of discussions recently about “old-timers disease.” It can be pretty funny, but mostly it’s not if it’s happening to you or one of your loved ones. Old-timers disease is one name for Alzheimer’s disease, senility, or a number of forms of dementia. I prefer to use the general term dementia when talking about this subject.
It always starts with denial, both for the individual or for the closest ones to them. A period of self-doubt quietly haunts. As things might progress, depression, fear and anger begin to express themselves. At this point some people learn to socially cover-up their more frequently occurring incidents, prolonging the ever building pressure to go to the doctor. This can be a very humorous period, so enjoy it. Sometimes depression, fear and anger make themselves known in more frequent family arguments or stubborn uncooperativeness. Recognize the inner fear and battle that is taking place. Be gentle. Be kind. As much as possible, love them anyway and love yourself. Recognize your own pain for having a loved one going through this wilderness. Try to understand their own fear of their world growing smaller, their ability to think clearly growing faultier, and their dread/anger/horror about their future life.
I suggest three action steps for all of us to consider. (1) Talk honestly with a doctor, both as a patient or family member. Express your concerns. Follow the doctor’s advice. (2) Do not go through this alone. Gather a team around you that listens to you, encourages you and will really help you. If you are the patient, trust your team. (3) Draw close to God because God has drawn close to you. God does listen to you and knows your heart. Tape Romans 8:26 on the mirror over your sink and read it every day: The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Know He cares. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
PS To read an earlier post on the subject go to Present Memories.
No one should give a commencement address unless they have personally listened to fifty commencement addresses by someone else. I say this on behalf of all students and their families. A corollary to this would be: a kindergarten graduation does not need a commencement speaker. On a positive note, there are about twenty-five remarkable commencement speakers in the world today. Pop quiz: who was your high school/college/graduate school/tech school commencement speaker? Bonus question: What was the point of the address?
Have you ever noticed that attending a graduation ceremony is a whole lot like going to a formal church service? That’s because universities were born of the Church. The earliest European and American colleges were extensions of spiritual education, both for the training of the clergy and for the creative development of the individual. Ministers and lawyers were the first graduates of the university system.
My alma mater, Samford University, was established 170 years ago in rural Alabama as part of a Baptist missions and evangelism effort to reach more people for Christ by training and equipping ministers. For nearly three-hundred years of American history the local pastor was one of the most educated people in the community. Even the public colleges and universities of today remain wedded to the traditions designed to inspire their graduates to a high calling (vocation), lofty goals, and noble ideals.
My college commencement speaker was a U.S. Representative and Baptist minister, John H. Buchanan. He was a last minute substitute for Joseph Blatchford, Director of the Peace Corp, who had taken ill. Buchanan’s point was: “Follow the truth wherever it may lead you…change what is unjust or unworthy. Change does not mean ‘to destroy.’ Be a realist…and do something about the problem…but don’t be a problem yourself.” This was the challenge to the Class of ’69.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Seek the high calling. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
My mother had a treasure chest. It was disguised as a file cabinet. Within the drawers were file folders with the names of her children and grandchildren. These were different from the photograph albums and boxes of pictures she collected. These were her treasures about each of us. Mother died in her sleep the weekend of their 60th wedding anniversary. My father died a few months later. Cleaning out a parent’s house is not easy. My sisters and I opened the file cabinet and boxed the items with our names on them, and moved on to the next project.
I do not think I had ever really looked closely in her folders with my name until just recently. I was overwhelmed. I wrote of this recently for it was in these treasures that I found my baptismal certificate. She saved bits and pieces of my life for herself, and I believe, for me. There were complete programs from when I graduated from kindergarten, high school and college. My early attempts at poetry, news clippings, my first published article, the complete tuition bill for my first semester in college (totaling $444.50!) and the detailed doctor’s report from my near fatal car accident.
As I slowly read each of her treasures I came upon an undated Mother’s Day card written on elementary school paper when I was learning to write:
I probably copied that from something the teacher provided for us, but she treasured it. Thank God this Sunday for the mothers, and the women who have been like mothers to you.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Honor a mother. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
There was a beautiful regal red cardinal perched on the foyer windowsill last Sunday. I was struck by his beauty and thought at first he was not real. He was, after all, perched on the windowsill in the foyer just above one of the red couches. I walked over to him. He turned and decided to fly out toward the trees. He did not understand the concept of plate glass windows. He was inside not out.
I have some experience handling birds in church. One weekday morning in the mid-1970’s I was heading up the north stairs to the third floor when I startled three pigeons that startled me. A window had been left open. Pigeons are not clean birds. I found a large apron, dampened it and captured the birds one by one. Various birds, even a bat have managed to find their way into the building over the years.* A damp cloth thrown over them works every time.
The rules are simple: 1) close the doors into the sanctuary to keep the birds out; 2) open the main outside doors to let them out if they would rather not wear the damp cloth; and 3) remember they are more confused or panicked than anyone else.
I followed the rules for capturing the cardinal, less the cloth. After banging into the window so many times trying to get out, he was dazed and confused. I gently scooped him into my hands, escorted him out by the trees, and released him. He never looked back. The flash of red against the clear blue sky was spectacular. Birds belong outside. People belong in church.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Go to church this week. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
*No creatures were harmed in the telling of these stories.