[This is a true story, and I have changed the names]
…feeling forgotten….sitting in a wheelchair…leg extended…feeling confused…wearing colors bright enough to attract honey bees…bored out of one’s mind…sitting among the throng of bored invalids, surrounding the nurses’ station (reminiscent of the pool of Bethesda)…feeling alone…feeling abandoned….feeling forgotten…
I entered Beatrice’s world. She recognized me (or was it the attention raised by my smile what caused her to perk up). Within a few minutes, I realized that she acted as she knew me, but in her state of dementia, she would be hard pressed to place me.
I had entered her world. I was surprised how easy it was to get in. I don’t mean, physically, but psychologically. Physically, I merely checked in at registration (making sure I had written down the code that allows me to escape when it would be time to leave). I held Beatrice’s hand and looked her in the face.
“Humphrey is supposed to come to see me. He left me here two weeks ago, and I just don’t know what he is doing at home. He could drive over to me and see me (I had last visited Beatrice there six weeks ago…Humphrey is at home, waiting for a bed to open up in the same facility). “
“I think he has another woman.”
Now I understand that one of the best ways that I can minister to the elderly is to listen to them, but I couldn’t just sit by and let this woman bash her husband. I spoke up, “Humphrey loves you, and he wouldn’t do this to you.”
“Oh, men never think that others would do this, but I know…I’m his wife…I know him.”
She continued to talk of how she was better and didn’t need to be in the hospital anymore. And she said that Humphrey had forbidden the children from visiting her.
I had entered Beatrice’s world, but didn’t like it. I changed my approach.
“Beatrice, you love Humphrey, right?”
“Oh, yes, of course!”
“And you love him enough to forgive him, right?”
“Yes, of course I forgive him.” Tears welled up and her face turned red.
“Then let’s do what Jesus said to do when someone offends us…let’s bless Humphrey, he needs it, don’t you think?”
“Oh, he needs it alright.”
“And it will do you some good, too.”
“OK,” she responded with glee.
I had entered Beatrice’s world. I was not comfortable, as I am so empathetic, that I feel what others feel, to some extent. But what I realized, while I was praying with her, was that even in Beatrice’s fictional and demented world, there was room for the Holy Spirit, too. And for that moment, I felt at home in Beatrice’s world. Her head was bowed and her heart was stilled. Her “Amen” followed mine.
“Thank you for visiting me,” she smilingly said as I was leaving.
I stepped out of Beatrice’s world as I walked down the corridor, entered the code and stepped back into mine.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.