Tears sprang to my eyes yesterday when I saw Ann Chamberlain peeking through the door into our church’s sanctuary. For decades Ann, an unpaid volunteer, kept everything and everyone in order at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Yesterday she looked fragile and confused. It’s clear that Alzheimer’s has punctuated her mind with holes and spaces that she can no longer connect.
As I looked at her yesterday, I remembered how she used to walk quietly and quickly in her immaculately tailored outfits. A point of her finger or the nod of her head would silently direct acolytes, priests and parishioners. She always knew what needed to be done and exactly how to do it. She brought comfort when she prayed with us at the hospital bedsides of our loved ones. She brought calm out of chaos, and she demonstrated daily what dignity looks like.
The impact Alzheimer’s has on the people we care about breaks our hearts, but if we can accept that the disease is in control, it may help us stay calm as it progresses. If you are caring for a spouse, parent or friend who no longer knows your name, I hope you can remember who they were before the disease struck and why you loved them. They may not remember you, but if you can hold onto those special memories, they will never be completely lost.