Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas at Arbor Terrace

I have been blessed with the opportunity to help at a memory care facility with a life enrichment group.  In some ways this 'job' has given me purpose.  I feel like they help me more than I help them.  I feel like the lessons that I have learned are priceless. I am learning how to just be and be completely where I am, at that moment. My counselor hopes that can spread out into my life as well. Some days are harder than others.  It is a very emotionally demanding job which is a bit ironic coming from somebody who faces so many internal struggles. The priceless moments where I feel like God is speaking through these people definitely outweigh the days that I leave and just cry on the way out to get the boys over what this disease is doing to these amazing people. It is fascinating to me what remains when this disease starts to take over.  The mental functions they lose, the memories that they can't recall....yet everybody in our group has that fear of abandonment. It's like separation anxiety with a baby all over again.  It does not seem fair to me that they lose their memories and mental functions but the fears remain. I don't know that it would be any better if they lost their fears too, just seems more fair that way.  But who am I to say what is or isn't fair?  I guess in one sense I am grateful for the disease because if it wasn't for Alzheimer's then I may not have ever had this opportunity or met these incredible people. We had a little Christmas party for them yesterday, they all had reindeer antlers and snacks and we sang Christmas Carols. They also had some children come in and do some caroling for them from a local church. They sure did light up when they saw the little people and let me tell you - what an incredible sight for me to soak in.  The old and the young.  One is just entering life, one is near exit. One is learning how to walk and talk and eat and smile while the other is forgetting these daily life tasks. The magnitude of that moment was like nothing that I can put into words. It was intense. It was profound.  It was moving.  It was sad. Yet they brought so much joy to each other, regardless of how brief that moment was. I have connected with the people in our group, over one thing or another.  The lady I work with has told me she is grateful for my hard work and dedication and willingness to connect with each person.  I have learned that you have to join people where they are. With being there weekly I have gotten to know some of the residents. I look forward to seeing them.  They each are unique and special in their own way.  Ms. Helen tells me that I have such a gentle nature, that it is nice that I help could she know?!?! I wonder if there is any coincidence in that my grandma Helen told me that I would help a lot of people one day. They share the same name and tell me the same thing?  Or is it my grandma Helen, speaking through this Helen who is currently residing at Arbor Terrace? One lady, Ms. Betsy always tells me that she is happy to see me.  Maybe she tells everybody that but hey, some days its what I need to hear. I think to myself, 'somebody is actually happy to see me? Most days I avoid the mirror because I can't stand to see me!'  I asked her this week what was one thing she wanted for Christmas.  She looked at me and clear as day she said, "Why I would like peace and happiness.  I want my family to be healthy." Then just as easily and she said that, she then went back to mumbling, couldn't make out exactly what she was saying but I listened until she walked away. I thought about what she wanted - peace and happiness...  Freedom from disturbance, tranquility, and a feeling of contentment.  I suppose that is what we are all looking for, no matter the age, no matter the life struggles that we face. Never did I ever think that this is what I would be doing at this point in my life, but I can't imagine not doing it now. It's not easy, but nothing in life worth doing is ever easy. Connecting with people, no matter where they are in their life journey, is truly a blessing - don't take it for granted. The word of encouragement yesterday at Arbor Terrace - "Encouragement may be the greatest gift we give this Christmas."

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