My first experience visiting a Memory Care facility has left me with a heightened awareness of the spiritual practice of emptying oneself. I am left with an urgency to learn how to let go while I can still choose. I want to store up the Light that will warm me and guide me if I come to a place of unawares. May it be so.
The young woman at the lobby desk welcomes my sister and me to the memory care unit with genuine enthusiasm, happy that Gloria has visitors. She invites us to enjoy refreshments from the sideboard while we sign in, then we embark on our journey into another world.
The door opens onto the movie theatre. Comfortable chairs face a giant screen, flanked by posters of actors in their 1940’s heyday. A few residents watch, while others sleep or stare inwardly at movies of their past lives.
The theatre morphes into a small dining area, the brown floral Persian rug seamlessly connecting the two areas. Three small tables host residents and their care-givers slowly enacting the ritual of eating. Bite. Sleep. Bite. Stare. Bite. Tears gather and I choke up, overwhelmed by the question stalking me on this first journey, ” What if the disease takes me? What if…” The words of the biblical character Job bubble up as if emblazoned on a marquee,”The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” What an emptying this would be.
Moving down a hallway, windows look out on a garden and period musical instruments don one wall, while 1950’s fashion prom dresses decorate the other wall. When the hallway enters into another area we see Gloria seated at a table eating lunch with another resident. She still knows who we are and her delight at seeing us is reassuring. Also reassuring is her increased appetite and genuine affirmation of her new home.
After a brief stroll around the halls we say our goodbyes, happy that Gloria is happy but dreading the fast-approaching time when she will no longer know who we are. We, however, will know who Gloria is on our next visit and we will love her in whichever dimension is claiming her that day.
PHOTO CREDIT: https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2017/01/25/learn-about-alzheimers-disease-and-dementia-research-at-public-forum/