Losing Memory and Finding it

Days like Halloween remind me too profoundly that Mom remembers none of the great ways she enriched the lives of her kids. This week I watched scores of little tykes in clever costumes, feeling sad that my mom’s memories of family Halloweens were gone.

Baby bear near the pond

The cure for my sadness soon arrived in the form of a happy two-year old wearing a silver princess crown, sparkling shoes, and pink wings. I asked her mother if she’d be willing to bring the lovely child in to sit with my mom for a minute. To my surprise, the woman quickly agreed.

This little girl was a week shy of her second birthday, but she was a sharp thinker and remarkably unafraid. Though she never saw me before in her life, she allowed her mom to seat her on my lap so my mother could get a good look at the glittering costume. The child’s face was truly beautiful, though her smile crumpled when she realized my mom could not see her well. Nevertheless, she didn’t cry or jump away from me while my mom worked for a minute or two, finally focusing her eyes to see the toddler on my knees.

Once her impaired brain gave Mom a glimpse of the girl, she was full of praise, telling the child how sweet and precious she was. That moment was really what I was praying for. But I also wanted to make sure that the two-year old — so patient and brave in front of a frail old woman – also got pleasure from the encounter. I told her again how lovely she looked and how grateful we were for her visit. Finally, the smile returned.

These small moments have a value far beyond the fleeting time they span. People, feelings, human connections: these are really the only things that offer my mom more than momentary joy. Meals and busywork activities are forgotten as soon as they end. But emotional sparks — even with tiny strangers — still bring her briefly into the world the rest of us occupy. Compassionate people, I’m convinced, are the only genuine antidote to the maladies we face in life.

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