"wouldn't it be nice
to just live for today
and let the past
just slip away."
as many of you know, i work four nights a week at a local green house cottage for the elderly with alzheimer's. most people who hear about what i do immediately think "how awful! those poor people who are forgetting everything. how can you stand it?" i even had someone suggest that this must be doubly terrible since our guests are at the end of their lives so they are "just going to die on you, so how can you invest so much in them? especially since they won't even remember all that you are doing for them!" my answer to these, and many other similar questions, is always the same: how can i not?
while it is true that i have attended more funerals in the past four years that i have worked in the cottages than most people will attend in a dozen lifetimes, our guests have provided me with more joy and fulfillment than i could ever have hoped for in life. i am so fortunate to be able to share in their daily wonder and delight. to be be a part of their lives and families. to be humbled by their trust and unconditional love. not to mention the plethora of lessons and wisdom i have had bestowed upon me by their very act of living.
one of these lessons is how forgetting can bring contentment. true, our guests have little choice in what they have forgotten. or when they forget. but they do get to choose how they will respond to their forgetting, and most of them choose to respond with joy. the joy of living in the moment. from the guest who is only just entering into the early stages of the disease who fills in the blank spots in her memory with happy alternatives, right on down to the gentle lady who introduces herself to me every time she sees me whether it was yesterday, or less than five minutes ago, and does so with a smile in her eyes and joy in her heart at meeting someone new that she can welcome into her home!
these amazing and beautiful people live in the now. find joy and peace in each moment, in spite of their physical and mental maladies. how can i not try to honor them by seeking to do the same? it isn't always easy. i struggle with depression and loneliness. but i have so many shining examples around me who are struggling with so much more.
one arena that i am focusing on in this moment, is to bring this forgetting into my art as an option. by this i mean that i want to try and forget to judge everything i do. to move forward with each peace in joy and be content with its outcome. to forget what other people my think and say about my art based upon their own biases and opinions, and to create for the simple sake of creating something beautiful and wonderful to my own eye. just as our guests in the cottages live each moment in each day. forgetting the pain and the slights life, and often family, have offered them, in favor of finding joy in a cupcake...or the warmth of a caring touch.
i once had a guest who was blind, in the advanced stages of alzheimer's, and suffered from crippling arthritis, who always knew it was me before i even reached her room and greeted me with a big smile no matter how much pain she was in. i asked her how she always knew it was me and could always remember my name but no one else's. she told me it was because whenever she heard the jingle of keys on my belt heading down the hall, she knew that "joe, who has kind hands" was coming to see her and it always made her happy. of how she always looked forward to "seeing" the highly textural cloths that i made with her in mind. of how she enjoyed spending time, telling me about the things she "saw" in my art cloth through her fingers.
she has been gone for two years now, but i can't think of her without a smile touching my lips and a tear washing my cheek. it is for her, and those like her, that i mean to strive to create art with forgetting as an option...