I stopped by to see mom a few days ago, planning to take her out with me to run errands.  It doesn’t sound special, but she seems to enjoy just browsing the grocery store or hardware store with me.  I had errands to run, so that was the plan.  But mom had showered early and was in her pajamas when I arrived.  Thus, I had to slow down, sit down, and just visit in the living room with her.  She was sitting next to a lady who moved in just a few months ago.  Since the first time I saw her, I thought this woman looked familiar.  I’m bad with names, but it wasn’t just that… I truly couldn’t place her, had no idea where I might have known her.  So I just assumed she had a familiar face but that we had no previous relationship.

I sat with mom and her friend.  Let’s call her Bessie.  That’s not really her name, but I need to respect the privacy of the people mom lives with if I’m going to write about them.  Bessie and mom seem to sit together often because they are among the more verbal people in the assisted living facility.  We made small talk for a while, and because I had errands still looming before me, I will confess that I wasn’t finding the small talk very engaging.

Then Bessie said something like, “Back in Caroline, we used to…”  And I snapped to attention.  Caroline County is the county just north of where we live now.  I used to pastor two rural congregations there.  I loved the people and the community I got to know there.

“Are you from Caroline County?”  I asked.  “Oh yes… Signboard Road,” she replied.  A smile crept across my face.  “Really?  Do you know St. Paul’s Church?”  She did.  She wasn’t a member, but it turns out that her really good friends were and she sometimes attended special events or services at the church.  Undoubtedly we had crossed paths many times.  The next 15 minutes was a lively exchange between us as I asked if she knew one person or another.  She knew them all, well.  She told me stories from the past, things I never knew, neat treasures about things people had said or done mostly long ago.  These were all people I loved dearly, most of whom have now passed away.

Before I realized it, I knew that I wouldn’t be running errands that evening.  Listening to Bessie’s tales made me laugh and smile and remember and appreciate people I haven’t seen in a very long time.  Let me say that again more clearly:  A woman with dementia gave me the gift of remembering. 

I forget sometimes when I drive up to the assisted living home each day, but the residents there have something to give to me, to share with me.  It’s not just me (and others who come to visit) who are offering something to them.  When we think of relationships as “one way,” where all the giving comes from one party and all the receiving is done by another, those relationships are never very deep or meaningful (for either party.)  Bessie not only gave me the gift of remembering and appreciating some amazing folks from my former church, she also reminded me what I should have already known.  Their assisted living dementia-care community is full of people who can give me gifts and enrich my life.  I just have to slow down, sit down, and look for what they are offering me:  a smile, a hug, a song, and more.

Thanks, Bessie!  Thanks for helping me remember!

2 thoughts on “Thanks for helping me remember!

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