Today has been a long day. It has been a great day, as they so often are in the respite group that I coordinate, but long and packed with emotion.
First, I had to tell the volunteers and the participants that one of the participants would not be back. His dementia had progressed to the point where his family found him a care home in which to live. When I heard about this I cried, this man despite his many challenges has been a favorite of many of us. At first those difficulties were challenges that seemed too big for us to overcome. At week 3 I wondered if we would even be able to keep him, and then ….things clicked. Despite the language barrier, we don’t speak Greek and he had lost much of the English he learned, the language of love made such a huge difference.
We learned that this gentleman loved to be touched. We quit struggling to understand what he was saying and we quit trying to communicate, we just touched him, rubbing his arm and his shoulder and encouraging him to come along to the next activity of the day. We also learned that some well placed flirting went a long way to encouraging him to participate even if he didn’t understand what he was doing. Then another of the participants taught us to tease him when we couldn’t understand what he was saying. When our guy was desperately trying to tell us something, but could only say it in Greek, this other man would say, “I hate it when that happens” and they would both laugh.
Love, it seems, promotes acceptance, and in that state of love anything is possible, even watching a man bloom whom we thought we would not be able to help. By the time our friend had to leave the program for a home that love had grown to the point that we couldn’t get him out of the building. He kept making the rounds to give hugs and kisses and say thank you.
Love, it seems, comes back to us, and we have certainly been blessed with more love than we have given. So for all of us, today was tinged with sadness at the loss of a friend, but also with joy knowing that we had made a huge difference in one person’s life and by extension the lives of his family. His son told me how grateful they all were for what we had done and that his dad always came home happy after being with us. AAAAAWH.
After we all adjusted to being without our friend we geared up for more love. Today we had a visit from PALS, a pet access league who brought three amazing dogs. We rejoiced as we watched the participants and even some of the volunteers encounter a dog’s love. Dogs can also teach us so much about giving love and sharing love and most importantly about not minding if the person doesn’t communicate in the acceptable way of society. Anyone who wanted got a great face wash, and those a little more reserved received adoring looks as they fondled the dogs ears.
It was a great day, and it reminded me that what we do at this dementia respite program called side by side is simply love those who come to us, and allow God to do the rest.
Truly the blessing abounds. We think (me and the volunteers) that we are the ones who bless the participants, but in truth they bless us. At the end of the day we are exhausted, but high on the love that has been given us and we look forward to next week knowing that we will once again be a part of that cycle of love.
Love, dogs, and making a difference….today that has been the way God’s love has revealed itself. At the end of the day as we sang God of the sparrow, God of the whale I was reminded how God’s love flows from his creation to us, and how God’s love flows through his people and about how God’s love is so huge it even flowed in the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. Being a servant in God’s kingdom is absolutely amazing and awesome and awe inspiring. Love, dogs, and making a difference. What a glorious day.