At times, when I would visit my friend it was as though he was not there. I would ask to my self, "who is this person?" Where did that friend go that now when I visit with him I can't connect. The experience of connecting with a loved one with dementia can be trying, takes effort when at times we don't want the effort, we want that friend or family member that was always there for us. We want to see our loved ones share the same joy and interest in life they once had. Over time I learned that connecting takes more than effort, it takes time and patience. There are experiences, some short lived others longer and more frequent, that when tied together with our memory bring back that person for us, and for them.
When visiting my mother, which is something I have less time and opportunity to do these days, connecting to her is hard. Often it is through loving words or very simple gestures, and sometimes only through simple care giving actions. What I have ignored, for some reason, is the effect that music has on her. The staff at her home have pushed this, playing her favorite music for her and watching her come alive. Recently, I was introduced to a video that has helped me realize the impact of music on memory and affection. The movie Alive Inside is a brilliant documentary having received an Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. It presents the reality of the relationship between music and memory in the most beautiful way. Here is brief summary of the movie:
This stirring documentary follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, as he fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it. Rossato-Bennett visits family members who have witnessed the miraculous effects of personalized music on their loved ones, and offers illuminating interviews with experts including renowned neurologist and best-selling author Oliver Sacks
When forced to deal with such a poor situation, connecting to a friend or family member with dementia, it forces out any shallow aspects of human relationships and brings in a focus on the person, that person's affections and spirit The below excerpt is a very powerful and moving scene about Henry, a resident in a skilled nursing home. I've not met anyone not moved by this scene. Listen to what he says at the end, wise and wonderful.
The video below is a great video, a funny video, but also hits a real issue for me since a friend of mine recently received a ticket for a bicycle traffic violation. There are times when cyclists break the traffic laws but do so for safety reasons, not always for good reasons, but often. Few drivers give much thought to bicycles, they'd rather that bikes were not in the way. If you check the Pennsylvania guide they will tell you to take the lane, instead of hugging the shoulder, its safer but few think to do this. To be technical bikes are supposed to follow the same traffic guidelines as cars, but often, in high traffic areas, cyclists must be creative to avoid the dangerous traffic that at times may not recognize their presence.
America is far from being a bicycle friendly nation and traffic laws give little consideration to cyclists. Thankfully most policemen know and appreciate the need to bend the rules. Not this guy though:
Last week I wrote about the Pope's Amazing invitation to the Israeli and Palestinian Leaders to pray for peace at the Vatican. There is no doubt that this is a tremendous moment in history, for the first time muslims, Jews and Catholics will offer prayers for peace in the Vatican. The initiative is beautiful and has sparked many positive responses such as the ones on Fr. Rocky's post on facebook when he shared the news of the Pope's invitation to all of us to pray for peace. (See photo to left) Of course, something so incredibley unprecedented brings with it many theological questions. Is it heresy to allow Muslims to offer prayer on the sacred grounds of the Vatican? To no surprise many Catholic Reactionaries, mostly traditionalists, are attacking this event as "heresy" because it supposedly violates the teaching of Pope Pius XI: "..it is clear that the Apostolic See cannot on any terms take part in their assemblies, nor is it anyway lawful for Catholics either to support or to work for such enterprises; for if they do so they will be giving countenance to a false Christianity, quite alien to the one Church of Christ." First, lets understand that the prayer will be held in the Vatican Garden not a consecrated Church or Chapel. Here's the text from the Muslim prayer that is causing the uproar:
Oh God, to you all praise, O Lord, to you all praise, O Creator of the heavens and the earth, O You who know the unknown and the manifest, O Lord of everything and its sovereign, we testify that there is no god but You alone and You have no partner, we seek refuge in You from the evil in ourselves and the evil of Satan, his partners, his godlessness and his whispering, and we seek refuge in You from godlessness and want, and we seek refuge in You so that we do not bring evil upon ourselves or bring it upon anyone else.
A broken down car. That's what I got for moving back to St. Louis and I'm thankful for it. One month before I made the move back my car died at a busy section of one of St. Louis' busiest streets, cars racing by on all sides I was lucky that some one stopped and helped me push it to the nearby gas station, safely. Ninety miles from my home, I made my way by foot and bus to a friend's place for the night. That difference in how I got around for a couple days changed everything about my week in a very good way. I slowed down, noticed the people around me and even ran accross a couple old friends. There is definitely something to the simple life, taking things slow and appreciating the small things.
Recently there was an article in the Irish Times by Cliona Brophy The Road Less Traveled telling the story of a small family that dropped their car for bike (electric) trasport. Their motives were to avoid the threat of vandals, as well as the troubles and costs of a car. I guess my reasons for liking this mode are different, but how much?
Instead of being daunted by the prospect of a new year with car loans and associated costs and worries, we are looking forward to a new phase in our lives: car-free and carefree. - Irish Times Article
The most incredible gesture was made by Pope Francis this weeked when he invited Israeli and Palestinian leaders to meet in the Vatican to pray for peace. Now even more amazing news, they have accepted the invitation. Its hard to put to words the positive movement generated by Pope Francis' envagelism of peace but there is most definitely a beuatiful spirit of humility and action in his efforts. Here's the report from the Associated Press:
At the end of Mass in the square, Francis invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres to pray with him for peace, saying: "I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer."
The offices of the Israeli and Palestinian presidents quickly confirmed that they had accepted the invitation, with the Palestinians saying the meeting would take place in June.
The best way to understand the spirit of Francis' work is to watch him in action. Below is an video of Pope Francis visiting the Israeli-Palestinian wall.