There is something about a burnt tea kettle that connects all of us. We seem to have those stories, don’t we? Of a time when we forgot to put water in the kettle and turned on the burner or the time when we put it in the oven to take it off the cooktop and later turned on the oven and burnt up the kettle. All of us, either ourselves or someone we know have done something like this. It links us all, much like our humanity.
As we navigate this dementia journey, facing the many unknowns, it is our shared humanity that continues to connect us, guide, us and support us. When we ignore our humanity we become charts, numbers, and task lists. Much like that burnt tea kettle, we forgot to fill ourselves with water, with life, we have forgotten our humanity. Unlike that tea kettle, we can be thrown in the snow when we realize our mistake, human beings cannot be thrown out. They/we need to be renewed, restored, and reminded of the beauty of life, regardless of our trials. Unlike that tea kettle, we cannot run out to the store (or order on Amazon) a new one.
When we realize that we have forgotten our humanity, regardless of any “issues” we or another person may have, we cannot just continue to let them go or throw them out. This is true for individuals living with dementia, residents in a care community, and even for the care partners amongst us. As I think about this idea of restoring human life (regardless of circumstances) I cannot help but think of two quotes. The first is from Audrey Hepburn, “People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.” The second is from Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland, “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” We can’t go back to before, but we can renew and restore our lives. We are constantly becoming. Each day brings with it something new, a lesson, an experience, a trial, a joy, and these experiences change us. So, when we forget our humanity and allow ourselves to become like that burnt tea kettle, we can’t go back to redo that time, we have changed, we maybe even have a scar or two, but we can be restored and do not need to be thrown out and replaced.
It is reconnecting with others, with ourselves that we are filled back up with water again. We can share our stories of that time we burnt the tea kettle with laughter, an eye roll, and a smile and suddenly we have found a moment within our humanity that brings us joy and connection. At the beginning of this year, we are like a tea kettle filled with water. We look forward with hope and joy, excitement and energy. May we, along the way, remember to refill as we give to our careers, our families, those we care for, and those we serve and encounter. May we end 2020 not like the burnt tea kettle, but like a well-loved one that has helped bring moments of connection to others, constantly refielled, and restored.