By Father Dennis Meinen
View from the Scooter
Since Pope Francis has declared this to be the Year of Mercy, I asked several people to share their personal witness of God’s Mercy. Pope Francis said God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14). “Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.” — Easter Urbi et Orbi message, March 31, 2013.
The following article speaks about a person named Rose and her personal experience of Alzheimer’s and the Year of Mercy.
The “Year of Mercy,” Alzheimer’s, and an opportunity
Do you have an aging parent, friend, or neighbor who forgets where they are, where they put something, or who you are? I’ve had two: My uncle and my father. Are you aware that Alzheimer’s is more than just forgetfulness? Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. It causes problems with memory, behavior, and thinking that gets worse over time and eventually leads to death.
It may show up with something like forgetting where they put the car keys when they hung them on the same hook for 30 years inside the back door or how to do something as simple as brushing their teeth or changing the wiper blades on a car. It ends with how to talk or even swallow. Pretty scary isn’t it?
How do you treat these people? Do you tell them, “You told me that six times already,” “How could you forget where you put those keys?” or “You know perfectly well who I am; I am your son/daughter.” Have you looked at their face when you said those things? Are they even more confused or frightened because of how you treated or talked to them? My guess the answer to that last one is, “Yes, they are.”
My aunt and godmother was the soul caregiver for her husband for many years, and when the time came that it got to be too much for her at home, she went to the nursing home to be with him every day from early in the morning to whenever he settled down for the night. She fed him, bathed him, helped him use the bathroom and cleaned up after him. I never heard her complain or say anything degrading to or about him.
This is the Year of Mercy, it is our opportunity to be like Jesus the Christ and treat those who are struggling to remember with kindness and mercy. We need to give them our hand and help them along in their journey home, just as my aunt did for her husband. She loved him unconditionally and she knew this was not the person he used to be, but he was still part of Christ’s family. He was still her husband and he deserved patience and mercy, and she gave it the best way she knew how, by being there for him, and treating him with respect and dignity.
The Webster dictionary defines mercy as, “that benevolence or kindness of heart or disposition.” A quick search on the internet and mercy is described as; “the compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” There’s the rub: “To harm!”
Think about this for a minute: Our words to anyone more fragile than ourselves can harm, but if we put Christ into all our actions, our words, or our deeds and that “harm” becomes “charm.” Christ is now the “C” that will change our harm to charm. Our opportunity to show mercy can take only a second, if we stop to think before we speak, to stop before we act in any way other than “benevolent or kind to those who it is within our power to punish or harm.”
We need to practice this every day, in every way we can, so that when we do meet someone who needs our mercy, we are practiced Catholics and we will do no harm.
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.