I had come to spend some time with the participants in SCH’s Day Break Program. Day Break is an event hosted by SCH every Tuesday, for senior adults with varying stages and/or types of dementia. I had been there all morning: making friends, and learning a lot.
For instance, I learned that “back in the day” (not sure when “the day” was but, just go with it), people wore “beer jackets”. Ms. G. informed me that, “oh, nobody really drank back then, they were just these white jackets that people would write on, you know, put their signature, and the more signatures you had, the more ‘with it’ you were.”
Also, did you know that if your windshield gets hazy, you can wipe it with white vinegar and then rinse it off? Or that the best way to clean your windshield wipers is to wipe them with a paper towel and rubbing alcohol?
Throughout the morning, we had done some word searches together, and listened to the volunteer coordinator read some funny emails, and Valentine’s day one-liners. My favorite? “If you were a chicken, you’d be impeccable!”
When I told my sister about that one, by the way, she said “Sara, the sad thing is, the first guy to use that line on you will be the one you marry. That would SO work on you.”
Sad yet true facts….
Anyway, after the word search and one-liner fun, we had a delightful lunch together of salad and pizza followed by a super fun square dance performance by the Christian City Square Dancers, a square dancing club. Everyone really enjoyed them.
Then, we progressed into worship time, which brings us to the highlight of my week.
Dementia (from the Latin “de” :apart or out of and “mens”: mind), refers to a number of symptoms that impair intellectual and social functioning and is marked by a progressive deterioration in cognitive functioning.
Ms. N and I had the same conversation, with slight variations, three times over lunch. It was like a continual loop. I met several people “for the first time”, quite a few times.
But, when it came time for worship, as we sat gathered together in a circle to sing, dementia in its varying stages had no place there.
I looked over at Ms. N. “What a fellowship, what a joy divine” her lips mouthed the words she was singing with her eyes closed.
” Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms” sang Ms. G. and Ms. S. at the top of their lungs, not once needing a hymnal.
By the grace of God through the gift of music, the words in their hearts and minds found free expression, unfettered by impairments.
We said our goodbyes and parted ways. I spent the drive home praying for my new friends:
that they would make it safely back to their homes, that their families would have wisdom in their care for them, and
that on the most frustrating days, when thought and word don’t seem to come together, when no one understands what they are clearly trying to say,
that they would lean into the safety and security of the everlasting arms,
holding them tight.