Two steps and I enter a place where time slips away not within the normal confines of ticking clocks, but in large Titanic ice berg portions, inconsistently ripping apart, falling into the sea, and slipping away on the waves.
The people who live here are as diverse as any random group. Each has multitudes of memories as unique as themselves, but the ability to share them rapidly diminishes with each passing day.
I have entered a care unit for individuals with late-stage Alzheimer's disease.
“Alzheimer's worsens over time. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, where symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer's, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer's live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from three to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions.”
~ quoted from the Alzheimer’s Association website article:
distorts past, present, and future,
and skews time.
and skews time.
Time becomes crumpled
like a discarded paper in the waste basket.
"Oh, good, you're here." Glancing up from the charts and medicines, the nurse, a fellow worker, quietly acknowledges me, and begins relating the day's events, what each resident's day was like, and how each is doing. It is a daily occurrence, casually meeting to glean essential information.
Nodding toward an open doorway, she finishes our conversation with, "we can't get her to lie down and rest." Her eyes pleading for help.
"I'll sit with her for a bit," I answer.
"Thanks." She turns back to her work.
I turn and enter a room. An elderly woman is facing the window. Her rounded shoulders sag as tired eyes gaze out the window onto a courtyard of green grass, bright flowers, and blue sky; a scene of serenity.
With minimal adjustment, two empty chairs face the window. I touch her hand gently, lower my body slightly to gain eye contact, and greet her, "Good afternoon, mind if I join you?"
She focuses on my face, smiles, and speaks. I listen, watching her face, creased and aged. Countless wrinkles etch her face, each a line in a story, her story. She welcomes me to join her.
"Would you like to sit for awhile?" I ask, motioning toward the chairs. Slowly, she shuffles to the closer one and lowers her tired body. I sit beside her.
She speaks of times long ago, but 'recent' to her. I wonder who she thinks I am, a friend from her youth? She finishes, satisfied that I listened, and rests in comfortable silence.
Several minutes pass, marked by ticking wall clocks. Then, softly, she begins to sing..."I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses..."
I sit, waiting and listening.
Steadily, the sound of heels hitting the laminated floor resound as someone enters the room. Glancing over my shoulder, I see her daughter. A woman, compassionate and caring, torn between her life's roles and responsibilities. "How was she today?" she asks me, seeking honest answers.
"Fair," I respond, rising to greet her. We step toward the door. "She has done quite a bit of walking today, but is finally resting. I was just sitting with her."
Tears form in her eyes. She struggles to stop the flow, and glances down at her hands. "Thank you...," she pauses unsure how to progress. We are both quiet, listening to the singing. The daughter begins anew, voice calmer, "Her faith was always so strong..." Again, she falters, and quietly adds, "I remember." Her eyes, vulnerable, searching for answers I do not have.
Her mom's voice resonates through the silence, "and He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own..."
Faintly, the daughter smiles, and moves toward her mom. "I think it still is," she says as she sits in the chair I vacated only minutes ago.
The events described above happened years ago
while I worked as part of the therapeutic team in a long term care facility.
The song sung: "In the Garden" by C. Austin Miles
This post is linked to Walk With Him Wednesdays at A Holy Experience.
This week's discussion topic is time.