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God’s Purpose in Dementia and Melancholia

(ROCKWALL, TX — January 1, 2018) Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus are all put away.  Even the Santa Clauses, snowmen, silk poinsettias and greenery are stowed ‘til after Thanksgiving ’18.  I get melancholy when I put all those things away.  Most of the doodahs (that’s what my family calls them.  They are sometimes referred to as chochkies.  I’m not even sure that’s a word!) remind me of an occasion or the individual that gifted me with them.  My mind is always filled with sweet memories of the occasion or time well-spent with that friend or family member.

As I look into the faces of my dear Broadmoor residents I wonder what their memories are of the year gone by.  Do they remember that beautiful tree decorated for them at Thanksgiving?  Were they able to write something on the gold or green ornament…something they were thankful for?  For those dear ones who are unable to leave their rooms or even to be lifted into a wheel chair…do their minds return to Christmases gone by…happier days when their bodies were able to respond and their minds were still collecting data, adding to the storage of Christmas celebrations?

I allow myself a few minutes of melancholia when I look into my Mother’s eyes.  I’m there to remind her that we had sausage squares Christmas morning.  She actually smiled when I showed her the little crocheted door ornament that she made so many years ago; days when her fingers would fly through rows and rows of yarn.  The pounds and pounds of “Trash” she made each year continue to make us thirsty.  Her recipe is still THE BEST.  She doesn’t remember “Trash”, and thinks I’m wanting to throw something out.

She and our other residents haven’t thrown their memories out, they can just no longer recall them.  That part of their brain that stores those memories is affected by the dreaded disease of dementia.  It takes all forms.  It’s hard to watch.  It breaks my heart.

But I remind myself and you that God has purpose both in their dementia and my melancholia.  All forms of disease are reminders that we live in a fallen world.  Adam and Eve’s first choice started a spiral of consequences that we live with even today.  Job’s response to his dilemma gives me hope that, “The Lord gives.  The Lord takes away.  Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”

As I look into the faces of our sweet residents, I am reminded that these are folks who had New Years to face with hope and anticipation, decisions to make for their families, jobs to maintain and yards to mow.  All those events are still in there, but not able to be remembered nor articulated.  But I must still look into their faces, greet them, straighten their collars, return a shoe to its foot, and offer a prayer.

My reminder for 2018 is Matthew 25:40. “The King will say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to even the least of them, you did it to Me.”  I’ve got a few more minutes for melancholia (I only allow myself about 5 minutes upon occasion).  Realize those you care for are considered in His eyes as opportunities to be serving Him.  Behind those sweet faces lies the face of God.  He loves for you to consider serving Him.

By Paula Lively. Paula is a Volunteer Chaplain at Broadmoor Medical Lodge in Rockwall.  She is a VERY retired RN who loves serving the residents at Broadmoor.  She and her husband, Fred, have lived in Rockwall for 15 years.

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