A Beautiful Sabbath
I came across a quote today from an Alzheimer's account I follow. It is a bold and true statement. It has me paralyzed with so many fond memories with my mom. It also shows me that a universal conversation is brewing about dementia and Alzheimer's challenging topics. Today's quote indicates that not everyone views things the same way when caring for someone with memory loss. With so much division spanning from the world to families about so many things, is it a surprise that there would be division in attitudes regarding Alzheimer's? Hardly.
From an online Alzheimer's community, "There are two kinds of people in this world, those who take an Alzheimer's patient on a joy ride and those that would say it was a waste of gas. Which one are you?"
I like this statement because it is not judging or speaking about someone's comfort level when living with an individual who has Alzheimer's. Or the reality that not everyone is capable and comfortable doing the care it takes to preserve someone's dignity and quality of life with this disease. Instead, the quote speaks of a mentality that exists whether we want to believe it or not. Some people don't see the value and importance of taking a loved one out for drives. What's the point? Will they remember it when they don't know who I am, which day or month it is? Why is it important to keep treating someone with memory loss with respect and dignity? Because they are important and deserve it. They are human beings just like you and me.
Ask a caregiver what, if, when, where, and why they take their loved one on an afternoon drive. It will go something like this.
My drives to my mom and with my mom are never a waste of time or gas. We don't always have a destination planned. We get in the car, and I start driving because my mom always liked getting out of the house before she had Alzheimer's. She wants to get out of the house now. Taking drives are beneficial for the mind and spirit when Alzheimer's invades the function of both these. Fresh air is good for the soul.
I specifically remember a springlike mid-February day four years ago in my small northern Indiana hometown when I took my mom for a drive. We headed southeast and began with our usual pass-by locations. A visit to the cemetery where my dad's grave is under the golden dome. My childhood home, the one they built. A drive through a different cemetery where my mom's parents lie at rest. And past her childhood home in an area that once was vibrant with Italian immigrants.
We continued south and drove past my grade school and the nearby synagogue I remembered taking a field trip to when I was in middle school. What a glorious surprise we saw in this hilly neighborhood in the afternoon sunlight. While we meandered through the streets, remembering old family friends, we witnessed several Orthodox Jews walking to the synagogue. We both were mesmerized at the livelihood and richness of this moment.
We ventured on to a quick stop through our normal drive-thru for soup and sandwiches. I drove to a vacant high school parking lot so that we could eat. Eating in the car is always messy, especially when the restaurant forgets to put napkins in the bag and the kleenex box in the car is empty. Drops from oily food onto your clothes come with this dining location's territory. These aren't the first drippings and weren't the last. They present a special anointing that remains long after the experience.
Across the street is an entrance to a convent, and it was our natural response to drive through. We hadn't visited in years since the last time my dad took us here on one of his Sunday afternoon driving excursions. We went up the hill past a wood carving of Jesus through the gates, His hands extended to the blue sky. Just beyond, we came upon Our Lady's reflective statue over a pond. At the top of the property, we met open fields, breathing quietly like a peaceful prayer of gratitude for this mild-weathered day. On the pavement ahead of us were two nuns strolling together. Dressed in chocolate brown from the crown of their heads to their toes, I drove beside them until my mom wanted me to stop the car so she could talk to them.
We engaged in beautiful conversation. Meaningful conversation. Loving conversation. As the small world would have it while talking with the sisters through my mom's window, we learned one of them is a relative of someone my mom knew from church. The sisters were delighted. My mom was elated. I wanted to adopt them.
The sisters- Kind. Gracious. Patient. Attentive. Loving. Holy. Joyful.
My mom-Inquisitive. Smiling. Reminiscing. Laughing. Happy. Alive.
Me-Living with no regret while giving life to my mom.
Three or four hours later, we were back home, the fresh air and different scenery adding life to the day.
How I see it, the only thing that would have been a waste of time when my mom was alive is if I didn't fill up my tank and make the time to take my mom on joy rides. Even when we anticipated them to be boring or repetitive, we were blessed, in some unexpected way, every single time.
Today, and every day, I send up a prayer for caregivers, especially the individuals who believe in the importance of taking someone living with memory loss on joy rides and other life-giving activities.
May they be given strength when they feel spent.
May they hear a word of support when they feel discouraged or challenged.
May they experience community when they feel lonely.
May they feel joy when they elevate someone's spirit even as that spirit is slipping away.
May they be filled with love in knowing that their work as a caregiver is one of life's highest and most rewarding callings.
God, embrace them, hold them, and wrap them in the blanket of your love.