Monday, February 15, 2010

My Dear Friend, J.

How does one become friends with a woman who has advanced Alzheimer’s? I first met J. when I worked in the Reserve, a locked ward for people with dementia so far gone that they can do very little in the world. J. spends most of her time in her single room, in bed. She still can walk, unlike most in the Reserve, but seems to have no reason to leave the quiet of her room, except when fetched for meals and her weekly shower.

When I became a Hospice volunteer, she became the one I visited for an hour each week. But she didn’t die, so after a year, Hospice had to cut her from the program. Her family hired me then to continue my visits with her since she enjoyed my touch and smile, bringing some more humanity into her little room.

When I first met J., she would whisper on and on about matters usually known only to her. Almost two years later, she now speaks only sporadically. Up until the last month, she would say “Thank You” while I gave her a comfort touch session. And she would say “I love you” sometimes when we sat gazing in each others’ eyes. But now such verbosity has dwindled away.

Some visits we still gaze into each others’ eyes and we share a wordless love, so totally pure and without complications for either of us. This is a special friend that I am so glad to know.

--Terra Rafael

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