We’re republishing a series of 'open letters' that Revd Zoe Heming wrote some years back, during her curacy, for her church’s parish magazine - to “Dear Dementia,” “Dear Carers,” “Dear Younger-self,” “Dear Church,”...
Dear Dementia (aka Alzheimer's),
I was thinking of you the other day whilst watching Harry Potter with my children.Harry’s evil arch-enemy is so terrifying that almost no-one dares to use his name, Voldemort , but instead refers to him as ‘You-Know-Who’.The advice from his Headteacher, is the same advice I took when writing this letter: "Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself."
So many people are afraid of you. Somehow, this has kept so many people feeling unable to talk about the struggles they face when your name either appears on their medical records, or on those of someone we love.In fact, for a long time our whole communities have seemed to afraid to name you, rendering so many people avoidably lonely and isolated. I thank God for the ever-growing movement to change that - millions now call themselves Dementia Friends to prove it!I thank God too that the Christian faith, which so many call their own, has friendship at its core - and friendship with God means that love is stronger than fear.
So Dementia, as you begin to wobble the structures of the day to day ordinariness of life for those who get to know you personally, as you cause people to fear that they will lose their very identity along with more recent memories, I not only join millions of others in calling you by your name, but like them, fear you less, the more I learn.
A friend of mine, who knows you intimately, declares honestly and wholeheartedly, to as many people as will hear, that 'although the steps in the dance of life change, the dance continues.' Not only that, but the more she shares her story, and the many stories I am blessed to enter in my own dance, the braver we all become.
So for my part, as the disabled Curate of 17 churches, I see and experience this love of God, unashamedly biased in the direction of those who find themselves too weak or afraid to face you alone. There is such power in knowing that even as our dance alters in ways we may not choose, we are not lost.We remain. The Lord of the Dance himself (or herself) dances with us all the way… beyond your reach.
We are much more than our memories, and when we allow ourselves to share the dance with others in new ways, love continues to overcome fear. Add this love to the unique creativity by which we came to life and live on, and we can certainly be brave enough to welcome you to church. This is our family home and all and any are welcome, including you and those you share life with in many ways.
Change is an unavoidable part of this life and we are more than our minds and bodies. When we dare to love and be loved in ways where we don’t hide from you, or pretend we can’t see you, our souls can still sing. There is nothing and no-one with the power to change this. God goes ahead of us, walks with us and calls us home.One frightened poet in the Bible puts it so well:
Psalm 139 (verses 1, 5, 7, 11 & 12)
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you.
Sincerely, your friend,