Having been on a dementia awareness afternoon recently, I was keen to put some of it into pastoral practice. So this afternoon I ferried one of our regular weekday congregants in sheltered housing to another who is in a nursing home with quite severe short-term memory loss. They were childhood friends at the Episcopal school in Stirling before the war, but hadn’t met for decades.
And over an hour later, they were still batting names, surnames, teachers’ names, shops, dances and streets back and forth in delighted reminiscence. Together they brought to life a world that was as bright and sharp – far sharper than my own memories of childhood and school. [If your memory of the recent past weakens, does your memory of the distant past strengthen? Rather like those with one sensory loss becoming more acute in another?] The y seemed to grow younger by the minute.
Two gems: One of them remembered the head teacher standing at the school entrance each winter morning doling out malt directly into each pupil’s mouth – from the same spoon. The other had been a window-dresser at Woolworths in the city, and during the war had to take her turn as an employee staying up all night in the store for fire-watching duty.
It was a magical afternoon. Next time, we are going to get names added to a school photo from the late 1920s.