In my mind, I'm about 38 years old. My body feels like it is about 80. Course, that's only a guess because I've not experienced 80 yet. I didn't realize how tired I had become. For now, I've decided, NO LONGTERM COMMITMENTS for a year. This year will be focused on getting myself healthier physically, mentally and emotionally. Being a caregiver for twelve years was an experience that I cannot really explain. It was life….the way it was; a gradual decline into a very small world. The best part was that our relationship was so "perfect". Not perfect in the since that we had all the material things or that everything "went our way", but, it was perfect because we were "one" in this battle together.
I've learned so much about the meaning of life….or what it means to me. I am surrounded by impending death so much of the time. Especially when I go see Jerry. It makes me think about all those years trying to accomplish things…..a life that spelled out success: an education, high end job, a title, 401k's, accomplished children, material wealth: two homes, two cars, boats (bought and sold), occasional vacations, and so on.
When I go see Jerry, I see accomplished people reduced to "nothing." Their nothingness is not on the inside, but it is on the outside. Their lives have been reduced to a small hallway, a dining room, an activity room, and a bedroom that is shared with another dementia patient. Their insides, however, are not nothing. Inside and behind those eyes are wonderful human beings that, no doubt, were quite accomplished. Hilda, for example. Hilda recently passed away. In the early 1900's, she was a college graduate and civil rights activist who was well travelled and spoke several languages. Not many people knew about the accomplished life she had lived. And who would know that Jerry's roommate is an accomplished dentist, yet, now can barely hold up his head, much less those hands that once performed such delicate work. There are many stories behind those eyes and many gems to be treasured in the memory care unit.
On Sunday, it was blindingly bright outside and when I opened the door to the dark hallway, I could see Jerry's long lanky silhouette running towards me with arms open wide. We embraced and I could feel his bones. My arms circled his waist, it seemed, several times. The nurse looked up at me with her dark dreamy eyes, and in her soft voice said, "He's such a gentleman." At first she thought she was the only one who noticed. But, when she was talking with one of her co-workers they both noticed how he would stand whenever a woman entered the room. They also noticed how he did not like conflict. She said that when he hears anyone quarreling, he comes in and makes them laugh to break up the tension and that Jerry is the only one who can convince Larry, his roommate, to come down to the dining room at mealtime.
I was quickly reminded of how, even in this "mindless state", the spirit of God is still evident. Oh, how I love his eternal spirit. Accomplishments have faded away…they seem so trivial now. We are now in the "here and now of the human spirit." The servanthood of Jesus, even to the point of death, left his impact on Jerry and is in his core. Twelve years ago, Jerry asked, "How do you have a relationship with God if you've lost your mind?" God is performing at his best and this relationship of peace, gentleness, and service is the relationship in it's purest form.