Here, in England, I get asked these two questions quite often; do you miss home? and What do you miss most from home? I usually respond too quickly with I don’t so much miss home, only miss people. What do I miss most from home? My mom, my dad, my brother, my aunt Tudy, my dog… The list could go on and on of people I genuinely miss. I came upon the strange realization tonight during my prayers that some of them don’t miss me.
It is quite a harsh realization to realize you aren’t missed.Here, I sit daily in prayer for everyone back home, friends, family, my church, social issues, justice and the wellness of my friends debilitated by Alzheimer’s disease.I regularly spend time lifting these people up in prayer and it just occurred to me that they don’t have any recollection of me. I miss them so much, yet I am not missed. It’s remarkably sad to reflect on the fact that they have touched my heart so profoundly and will never know their work.
Before coming to serve, I worked as a nurse aid on a memory care floor for a little over a year. It was one of the most heart breaking and beautiful experiences of my life so far. I was a witness to God’s abounding grace and his deep love in so many miraculous times. I had the unique experience of not just being an aid; to help them to the bathroom, get ready for the day or make sure they got from point A to point B safely. I was also whoever their mind perceived me to be; often I was a daughter, a neighbor, a niece, a grand-daughter, a friend. I smile at this because they weren’t just my residents, they were my grand-parents, my friends, my teachers.
I’d like to share a poem, which I carried with me as an aid in my scrubs daily.
Do Not Ask Me to Remember
BY Owen Darnel
Do not ask me to remember,
Don’t try to make me understand,
Let me rest and know you’re with me,
kiss my cheek and hold my hand.
I’m confused beyond your concept,
i am sad and sick and lost.
All I know is that I need you
To be with me at all cost.
Do not lose your patience with me,
Do not scold or curse or cry.
I can’t help the way I’m acting,
Cant be different though I try.
Just remember that I need you,
That the best of me is gone,
Please dont fail to stand beside me,
Love me ’till my life is done
I remember my last day of work so vividly. I did rounds of the unit eighteen times avoiding the end of my shift. I went into each room and sat with each resident affirming to them how wonderful it was to meet them and care for them. I felt God walking with me in those emotional moments, saying goodbyes to people not just for the evening, or the weekend or the holiday but forever. The residents always responded with a polite, “It was great meeting you too.” and many did the lovely, soft things that older people do, like hold your hand in theirs and pat it gently, wave and a nod, a smirk and hug. I am so glad I took the time to have these moments with my dear friends, I took mental snap shots of them and hold those in my heart. I carry those with me to remind me that they were teachers of profound lessons of patience, grace, forgiveness, innocence, joy, trust, dignity and above all Christ’s love.
I may have cared for them physically but they cared for me spiritually. My residents, my dear faith filled friends with Alzheimer’s were my caregivers.
Here is a poem, I wrote in response to Owen Darnel’s poem and dedicated to all of the residents at Bethany Retirement Living.
I Will Never Forget
BY Chelsi Argabright
You may never remember,
please know, I completely understand.
I will move on and carry you with me,
I will recall holding your hand.
You may never hold these memories,
The good times or the low
But I will cherish them all
that you lead me and taught me to follow.
Your mind was in another time,
Your heart was in another place,
You taught me to meet you and be present,
To accompany you in this space.
Thank you for showing me you,
that was the “you” before
That I had the privilege to see your heart,
And find God’s love at your core.
You may never remember me,
know that that’s just fine,
Because you changed my life, you see,
and taught me how to love mine.