Part of the St. Dymhpna Ministy, each week I will post an Advent reflection to help guide us through this season as caregivers, as those living with dementia, and as a community.
I walked into the room to find only twinkles of light surrounding the darkened crèche. While I could not see each figure I knew they still existed. I knew that light would soon shine upon it.
Psalm 27:1-4, 13-14. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?
As the year grows darker with each passing day we know there is hope for when the light will return. We create light during this time through our decorations and anticipation for the coming of Christ. This light will carry us through this darkness not only literally, but also spiritually. Living with dementia can so easily cover us with darkness and fear. In so many ways it signals the end of something, the loss of something, but it also brings us light. This light guides us to see those we care for and love in new ways. If we slow down we can see the childlike spirit that lives in all of us being pulled out of us by those we love, by those we care for each day. That is one of dementia’s gifts.
Having worked in several care communities, I know that the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas is even more chaotic than what we might find at home. Dozens of trees are put up, cookie parties are planned, table decorations are created, family and community events hosted, music events scheduled and set up, organizing school groups lead through tours and performances. This Advent season passes faster and faster each year and becomes a season of dread and stress instead of growth and reflection. As professional caregivers work to prepare for Christmas in their own homes, so too are they asked to prepare for those in their care. What can we do to make sure that we prepare for more than the physical decorations, but also the soul? There is a beauty to the color and lights we put out in our care communities, and a joy in the programs and events we plan. Let us also find time to reflect, to grow in faith, to prepare for the coming of Christ by walking with those we care for each day.
Through our care and love, our time and our understanding, we can help diminish the darkness, if only for a moment. When we bring ourselves into the world of another, we can be the light for that individual, if only for a moment. When we listen and see, seek to understand and know, we can shine together for others, if only for a moment.
Heavenly Father, through the glory and light of the times close by, help us to embrace those we care for each day. Guide us through this season of Advent not at a chaotic pace, but with a light heart and a reflective step. Help us see the gift of the presence of those in our care, in our lives. Help us not to fear the end, covered in darkness, but the light and joy that dementia can give to us. May we find strength as we find a shift in our traditions and in the people seated around our table. Help us approach our care with the spirit of this Advent season. Help us to see the light in the darkness, and the peace beyond the fear. Amen