Alzheimer’s Reflection & Mass Prayers

alzheimers-scrabble“What time is it?” your husband asks you as you enter his room and he again wonders who this nice lady is visiting him.

“It’s been an hour since I was last here,” you say to him because you just finished lunch and returned to his room.

His mind is wildly thinking about the time of your visit. Was the time 1:30 in the “p.m.” or was it in the “a.m.”? And was it in 1947 or 2014? And does all this “time-stuff” really matter?

Does it even matter to us today with our minds mildly awake what day of the week or what year it is? The time we spend in church  always makes this a “timeless place,” a place that both erases all of time and also combines all of time. “The Mass.” I hate when I see clocks on church steeples because it denies what I just said, what church is meant to be; without but embodying all of time.

There is no time limit when timeless words are spoken; there is no time limit when time has stopped to hear and remember again and again what Jesus said and did and does for us.

Time. It is a moment spent here and then several moments later, the time has evaporated, is gone.

In your husband’s room, you introduce yourself again as his wife as though it matters because you’ll re-introduce yourself tomorrow morning at your next visit. He may smile back at your answer or he may stare at the floor in a far off gaze that can gaze him for a long time.

We tell young people who don’t do their homework, “That the mind is a terrible thing to waste” but to an Alzheimer or dementia person we attempt to feebly reawaken a worn-torn-tired-diseased mind.

“Wake up!” we say to ourselves as he stares at anything and everything and most saddeningly stares back at us with empty, shallow eyes.

Your family pictures surrounding the room is a nice touch attempting to trigger where there is no trigger to trigger. You may even hold up a photo of your marriage hoping for a smile but he asks you softly, “Who’s that nice looking man in that photograph?” You smile back at him and say, “Why, that’s you, honey.” “I look good,” he responds.

You hold his hand as you did when you married him years ago and you still feel his tight grip and firm handshake. That day,when you said, “I do” to the minister and he said back to you, “I do.”  (Including the “sickness and in health part.”)

You clearly remember that time of day years ago at your marriage, you easily recall what colors were around you, you can still tell us what songs played before and after your mutual sharing of “I do’s,” you remember the toasting and the dancing that led to children, a home, jobs and a lifelong future of happiness.

You clearly remember it all but he no longer can.

But, while holding his hand for a tight second you see his face meet yours in “real time.” You think to yourself that you’ve brought him back to “real time” and you lovingly smile back to him saying with your eyes, “I love you, I’ve always loved you.”

He looks back at you with a warm smile and caring eyes but the light of the lamp catches his attention and time again becomes timeless to his worn-torn-tired-diseased mind. You finish your daily visit and say, “Goodbye” to your husband hoping that that slight, quick, warm smile of his was meant for you and not the lamp.

For us here today, what time is it right now? Should we all look at our watches and tell each other what time it is? You know, I learned early on that priests are judged by their times. “Fr. Joe is a wonderful priest, he has a short Mass.” How sad to talk about time (and me) in this timeless and holy setting. Catholics seem to want to pray but only pray in a quick fashion. I asked a parishioner about a priest’s sermon one Sunday and he responded, “It was short.” That was the only comment. Nothing about what he said but only in the time-frame he said it; whatever it was that he said.

Your 30-minute visit with your husband combines all the years and years of love and devotion. You caught a slight smile from him that could very well belong to you. But please remember, it could also be that Jell-O is tonight’s dessert. (The Jell-o, he remembers!)

But the reason doesn’t matter. Your hand inside his is your marriage reunited once again…how many years ago but again relived for him each visit – after you re-introduce.

Because, what does time mean when you love someone?

 

Opening Prayer
Loving God,
You are patient and loving to your creatures when we fail or falter in our quest for holiness.
We have loved ones among us or who were among us who called us for some of Your patience and love – those with Alzheimer’s or dementia disease. People we love but whose connection has been severed by this debilitating disease.
We trust that as You are patient and loving toward us that we may extend (No, that we must extend) those same qualities to those who’s mind are now longer mindful.
We pray this….

Offertory Prayer
Bread and wine. Simple gifts from your creation that you give to us to recreate to become Your Son’s body. We pray this day that all those people who return to you with simplicity of mind may become You, in Paradise – in the peace and love that only You can provide.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Closing Prayer
For caregivers who care for Alzheimer’s and dementia family members far longer than our periodic but sincere visits. For their patience and professional care, we give thanks.
We are thankful for all the memories that are held deeply within us but have been erased from their minds.
We are grateful for the promise of renewal that You’ve given us in the next life, that fuller life.
And here’s a big one for us with family or friends with Alzheimer’s or dementia: May God give us the same patience and love to a lost mind that God’s given to us.  But on second thought God, perhaps You could give us just a little more of Your patience and love. Because, for us, it is and was not easy. We only ask a little more. Just a little more.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS, available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon:
“Soulful Musings”
“Living Faith’s Mysteries”
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings”
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About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. He is associate pastor of partnering parishes, Christ King and St. Bernard parishes in Wauwatosa, WI.
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