I saw a glimpse of her today,
she smiled and said “I know you don't I"?
I smiled back.
“Yes Mum, you know me”.
The clouds had been gathering for many years.
She had brushed it off.
“It's my age, I have a mind like a sieve”. We laughed.
Then we found toilet rolls in the fridge.
A phone call from the police cemented our fears.
They had found an elderly lady in the shopping precinct,
in her dressing gown.
In her pocket she had a photograph. It was of my Dad.
We didn't want her to go into care, that was never the plan.
But when she tried to light a fire in the oven, we knew.
We chose carefully. We looked for homes full of light and laughter.
We walked away from the dismal, depressing, smelly ones.
We had already lost her. Her dementia had invaded her private memories, ripping them out and discarding them like yesterdays news.
Day after day she wandered the corridors, opening doors.
Looking for what she could no longer find.
She was gone, we had lost her.
But then we found a carer who told us about keys. She said dementia had slammed the doors and padlocked her hopes and dreams out of her reach.
The carer said we should all carry keys. We had to try many locks and sometimes we would never found the right one. But just when you are about to give up, one of the keys might spring the lock and we would find her again.
It may be only a glimpse, a fleeting shadow, but we would find her.
Every day we tried our own keys. We brought in photographs, her favourite flowers, a childhood toy. Sometimes we would get a smile, but usually we only had the vacant look of a soul lost inside her own mind.
We had nearly run out of keys.
It was a Sunday morning. The sun was streaming in through the window and in the distance we could hear the church bells.
Mum sat gazing at the curtains. We absently switched the radio on. Aled Jones was singing. I gazed out of the window at a blue tit on the bird feeder. It was then I heard a voice. I wasn't sure at first and I froze to the spot, hardly daring to breathe. She was singing, low at first but word perfect. “All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all”.
I slowly turned and I saw the weight lifting from her troubled soul. She formed the words and sang; pure, sweet and perfect. We had found the key without even looking. For those few precious moments we had my Mum back. The Mum who went to church every Sunday and loved watching Songs of Praise. I felt a tear of joy roll down my cheek and I joined in with the familiar words. She smiled at me and told me to run along and tell Dad dinner was ready. It was a precious, joyful minute of recognition.
Look for the keys, never stop. Never give up, never stop searching, because when you find one you will be able to reach into their soul and know that they are still there.