Memories are made of this

By Father Dennis Meinen
View from the Scooter

One Alzheimer’s family member/caregiver commented that her husband carried around a rosary that a priest had given him and kept it in his pocket until his dying day. He was a convert and used to walk from Moville to Kingsley in the ‘30s to take instructions. He would have been in his mid-20’s at that time. What lasting memory did the presence of the rosary hold for him? Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.


From 2004: “Your column caught my eye this week. It made me cry and smile. I know all too well how poetry connects to an Alzheimer’s patient.

“There was a lady who lived with my dad at Bickford Cottage. Her name was Mary. She would walk around, then sit for a few seconds and then get up and walk around the room, back and forth. She did not like to be touched and would go out of her way to avoid contact.

“One day I came in and greeted my dad, smiling and hugging like we always did and she was in the room. She stopped and looked at us, so I said, ‘Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?’, and she proceeded to complete the lines to the child’s verse, ‘With silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row.’

“She smiled then and I held my arms wide for a hug. She walked over and gave me a warm embrace. I greeted her this way every time I saw her after that. I don’t know if it helped her, but it helped me.

“Then there was that day in December 2001, just four days before dad died. I was at the cottage helping him eat. Being so near Christmas, there were carols on the radio. A song recorded by a young boy named Jimmy Boyd before I was born came on, and I began to sing, ‘I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus…’

“My father, who had been sitting at the table with his head down and barely responding to the food being put to his mouth, looked up and smiled.

“The mind goes from the current events back. What we learn last is first and first is last. We sang that song so many times around the house when I was young there was no way he would not remember those happier times. God Bless, Rose.”

Remember what touched your loved one, and the brief hint of light coming on just for you as they connected ever so briefly and then disappeared in their silent world again.


Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind

Memories, sweetened thru the ages just like wine

Quiet thought come floating down
And settle softly to the ground
Like golden autumn leaves around my feet
I touched them and they burst apart with sweet memories,
Sweet memories

Of holding hands and red bouquets
And twilight trimmed in purple haze
And laughing eyes and simple ways
And quiet nights and gentle days with you

Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind
Memories, sweetened thru the ages just like wine,
Memories, memories, sweet memories

  • Words and music by Mac Davis and Billy Strange

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and as many as 16 million will have the disease in 2050. The cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is estimated to total $214 billion in 2015, increasing to $1.2 trillion (in today’s dollars) by mid-century. Nearly one in every three seniors who dies each year has Alzheimer’s or another dementia.


                Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese and Calix; and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.

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