I passed exams and am currently on field education in a 700 resident elder care village as a student chaplain. People here range in ability from independent residents in their own units and apartments through to hospitals and secure dementia units.
Most of my time is spent ministering to those in hospitals and with some level of dementia. It has been an amasing experience and I have found within myself a love and care for those living with dementia that I never expected. The challenge of how to nurture the soul life of those who forget I ever spoke with them moments after leaving sometimes has begun reshaping how I view God and Ministry.
Any way here are a couple of pieces I wrote as I contemplated meeting with residents and their families.
You tell yourself,
– sorrow draped in angry shroud,
“It doesn’t really matter if I don’t visit for a couple of weeks or month’s maybe...
“It’s not like she’ll remember I came tomorrow”,
-That doesn’t change.
“By this afternoon she’ll be telling all insundry I never visit”
-that I never cared.
Yet in that moment
when you sit awkward on the edge of the bed,
primed to make the great escape at the first hint
of tiredness or distraction,
there is JOY!
As you begin the family litany
I see a spark
set deep in your mothers eyes,
that none of us can elicit when you’re gone.
At such times I ache to interfere,
to beseech you to look into that parchment face
to read the love written there
in a language only you can understand.
I wonder then, if you can see her lean a little closer,
her hand twitch nearer,
when I invite you to take it in your own
“I took it once... but she wept like a baby”, you protest,
so you don’t touch her now...
save it cause embarrassment
When you go
and she falls over into despair
a paid caregiver will rock her gently.
I will resist the temptation to growl
“Hold her man,
she wont bite this forgetful mother of yours...
today she’s just a baby”.
Each Day Anew With Eve
It’s hard to define this relationship
when each day I have to remind you
who I am.
A little unbalanced in the extreme
when I get to keep the stories you tell
and you get to remember nothing.
That painful moment in me lessens,
when you tell me once more
how glad you are we’ve found each other
In your hand extended
I meet the confident teenager
-a wicked glint of possibility in your eye.
In another time I would have been honoured
to join you in
summer adventures long passed
but for today I will sit them on the shelf
beside your china tea cup
I am informed it is a ‘necessary cruelty’
to tell you each day
your beloved is dead
-not waiting up the way as you suppose
to take you home to a life of happy ever after.
To see your grief
Your stubborn chin raised in certainty,
-surely they must see that for today at least they are defeated!
Today their distractions
will not pull you from your vision of a brighter day.
Instead you sit straight backed
handbag at the ready,
Waiting for your good mother -long passed,
to take you home for tea
and warmth born of the inside out,
Her butterfly kisses the softest imaginable, on your cheek.
Good for you Eve
believe what you must
to get through this endless day.