Guest post from Patty Wudel, Executive Director at Joseph’s House, the home and hospice for formerly homeless people with AIDS where I worked for many years.
David wrote last week about a recent Joseph’s House staff meeting where he shared his experience with Alzheimer’s disease and about Joy, who was there that day and is in her seventh year with Alzheimer’s.
Joy and her partner Grace normally volunteer at Joseph’s House on Tuesday mornings, arriving early enough to join the silence that begins our weekly staff meeting. Along with our other volunteers and staff, they sit in deep quiet as each “finds a place of rest in the middle of things.” When the bell sounds to end the silence, Grace heads for the kitchen to prepare the hearty lunch she’ll serve after our meeting.
Joy usually stays with the rest of us for the meeting. She used to keep Grace company in the kitchen, but often she became restless and would wander in and out of the room during our meeting. Her restlessness was distracting for everyone.
Several Tuesdays ago, Helen, our 86-year-old community elder, shifted into Grace’s chair when the meditation ended and extended her hand to Joy, who took it. That day Joy stayed for the whole meeting with Helen beside her. Since then Joy has remained with the rest of us for our staff meeting while Grace cooks in the kitchen. Joy listens intently when someone speaks and responds to the emotional tone of voice, especially if the speaker is seated close to her. Sometimes she chuckles or raises her eyebrows, punctuating what is being said. Other times she asks a question. If what is being shared brings tears to the speaker, Joy will cry a little also. Our staff and volunteers take all this in stride easily and kindly.
Right now Joy’s presence at our staff meetings feels effortless. Actually, because we so much love to have both Grace and Joy at Joseph’s House, our community is simply doing everything we can so they can both be with us. It’s good, and it’s not really difficult at all. It feels natural.
-- Patty Wudel