By Tom and Karen Brenner
Alzheimer's Reading Room
And then, of course, there was the church service tonight.
It would be beautiful, it was always beautiful, but there was so much to do and they would have to pick up mom from the nursing home to go with them to the service.
They piled into the car, exhausted, out of sorts, snapping at each other. A typical Christmas Eve.
“Why do we have to bring grandma? She doesn’t even know who we are anymore; she probably doesn’t even know that it’s Christmas Eve. It’s a big waste of time!”
There was silence in the car. It was hard to argue with that.
Mom didn’t remember much of anything anymore and she slowed everything down.
They would need to find a parking place near the church and one of them would have to get out with her to give her time to inch her way up the steps and down the aisle of the church. She did take up so much of their time and effort and really, did she even know what was going on? She probably didn’t even remember that it was Christmas.
Getting mom dressed and ready for the church service took even longer than usual. Mom was in one of her moods and argumentative, fighting with them as they tried to button up her coat and put her winter gloves on her. She kept slapping at them and calling for her mother to come and help her. Honestly, she sure knew how to act up at exactly the wrong time!
As they drove through the forested hills, the snow falling more rapidly now, there was silence in the car.
The kids would occasionally complain about being squeezed in the back seat with Grandma but other than that the only sound was the swoosh of tires over the snow filled road.
The headlights swept over the pine forest and momentarily lit up a car on the side of the road. A man was standing with the hood open, looking at the engine. The flash of the headlights picked out a woman and children huddled in the dead car.
“Should we stop? It’s really snowing hard now.”
“No, we’ll be late for church and I’m singing in the choir remember.
“You’re right. We’ll be late and it’s going to take forever to get grandma into church!”The headlights flashed past the family. Silence returned to the car.
And then, a still, small voice spoke.
“That family needs our help. Turn the car around. Turn it around now.”
“Yes, I am your grandmother and we need to help those people!”
“But we’ll be late for church and I’m singing in the choir!”The dry, cracked voice spoke again.
“Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these myThe car slowed down, turned and double backed along the snow packed road. As they drove up to the stalled car, the young man hurried up to them.
brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
“Thank you! Thank you! We were afraid we were going to have spend Christmas freezing in our car.
Our cell phones don’t work out here. We were really stranded. You’ve saved us! You saved Christmas!”
The young couple and their two little children squeezed into the car. Grandma held the three year old girl on her lap. As the car nosed its way through the swirling snowstorm, grandma began to sing,
“Jingle bells, jingle bells”
The car was filled with song and joy and good will to all as the icy winds roared and the snowstorm raged. The car pulled into the driveway of a small frame house and the little family tumbled out into the snowstorm, turning to wave before they ran into their home.
The car continued on its journey to church. There was silence again. And then another voice spoke.
“Thank you, grandma. Now it really feels like Christmas!”
The elderly lady watched the snow laden forest flash by the car window. She squeezed the hand of her granddaughter and smiled to herself. It really did feel like Christmas.
Tom and Karen Brenner are Montessori Gerontologists, researchers, consultants, trainers and writers dedicated to working for culture change in the field of aging..
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The Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009.