Share a prayer through dementia
This prayer comes from Shropshire: Ann Shephard is a Methodist Deacon who lives in Shifnal.
Ann and Tony have felt God leading them every step of the way. They recognise God’s faithfulness in bringing young families to the church, in church finances including paying for church windows, and in buying houses: “We can look back and see where God has guided us”.
Ann and Tony are a strong team, connected soul to soul, even when things are tough. Take their wedding rings. One day, when Tony was pruning trees, his wedding ring got mangled and cut in two by the shredder. With the help of a goldsmith in Oswestry, his mangled ring and Ann’s wedding ring were melted down and the two together formed two new rings. These were blessed and given to one another, in their sitting room, with all the family present.
About 20 years ago, Tony wrote a song expressing his love for Ann, their love for each other and their faith. It’s deeply moving to hear, as he sings it to John Barry’s tune, “Returning home” – and they share this song every night. It sings out the bond that holds them together, both in the present and in the future.
In earlier life, Ann was a teacher, a Deputy Head of a special school, before she trained for ministry. She’s used to God “taking us where we need to be, not necessarily where we want to be.” After her training, when she was asked where she would like to serve, Ann expressed a preference for suburban or rural ministry, not wishing to go to a city; nevertheless, God took Ann and Tony to SE1, to Bermondsey Central Hall, which “enriched our lives no end”. They made strong bonds there with the west African community, who wore their faith on their sleeves – and they continue to be inspired by the faithfulness of the people they have ministered to.
Tony worked in housing and attended a John Grooms Housing Association thanksgiving service in St Paul’s Cathedral about 20 years ago. There, the Dean preached about visiting his mother-in-law, living in residential care with Alzheimer’s disease. She had moved beyond words, but she would sit with the Dean and his wife, the three of them simply sitting together and holding hands to pray. One day, as they prayed silently, his mother-in-law unexpectedly spoke, “God, I don’t know who I am: please help me”. What a powerful prayer from the heart – a reminder that, even as mental and physical energies diminished, her soul was complete and in touch with God. Ann and Tony continue to draw strength from this today.
Ann takes up the story in her own words:
“I know that whatever happens to me – to my body and even to my brain – God still loves me. Currently there are times when I am forgetful and/or confused, and I realise that this is likely to get worse. However, I am confident that God will continue to keep hold of me, even if I lose my grip on reality – and even my faith.
“I am deeply blessed by the love of my husband and family. Being diagnosed with dementia was quite shocking. I had witnessed the deterioration of my mother with dementia after the death of my father – how she withdrew into silence, and I began to wonder if she knew who I was. I dread this happening to me and deeply value regular contact with our family and loving support from Tony. I thank God for His loving care and for His many blessings and protection.
“Faith is what sees you through the unknown. Having felt called several times in my life to step out in faith, I have come to realise that God is always there and grants us what we need, not necessarily what we want, to see us through.”
Here’s Ann’s prayer:
Lord, as doubt and the perplexity of daily life
become even more confusing and uncertain,
thank you for being always present
and gently guiding and protecting me.
Thank you for family and friends who continue
to love, support and encourage me
without judgement or disdain.
I pray that I may always be aware
of your loving, guiding presence in this life
and that I will come to meet with you in the next. Amen.
Ann and Tony are narrow boat enthusiasts – and when Ann was called to ministry she felt Jesus coming and sitting next to her on a bench by Tyrley locks, near Market Drayton, with a clear invitation, “This is what I want you to do”. Ann knows that one day Jesus will meet her and take her home – and she pictures meeting him again at that same bench.
Please do pray and share Ann’s prayer - and each of our Diocese of Lichfield three prayers for Dementia Actions Week. And look out for blogs sharing the story of the other two prayers. Further prayers from the Share a Prayer through Dementia initiative are available to be used through and beyond Dementia Action Week.
For more on our Diocese of Lichfield Dementia-Friendly Churches Network, contact Sarah Thorpe on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0798 224 8949.