“If I don’t remember who I am, will God still remember me?”
That was one of the haunting questions we reflected on at this week’s Clergy Conference, led by the Very Rev. Tracey Lind on the topic of “Dementia from the Inside Out and the Upside Down.” It had never occurred to me that someone with dementia would worry about God forgetting them, but Tracey said it was common…and then I discovered that I had planned for us to sing the Taizé chant “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” at our Eucharist on Wednesday. Those Holy Spirit moments are blessings.
Almost all of our diocesan clergy — both priests and deacons — attended this year’s conference, and it was a rich experience of learning and reflection. Based on the statistics, it is likely that there are over 800 Episcopalians with dementia in our diocese, which means the call to minister to folks experiencing cognitive impairment and their care partners is crucial in almost all of our congregations.
As devastating as the diagnosis is, Tracey and her wife, Emily, also gave us hope and tools for how ensure that people with a dementia diagnosis do not find themselves completely isolated from their church communities. I encourage every lay person reading this E-pistle to ask their clergy this week about the experience, and how your congregation can improve its care for those experiencing dementia.
You can learn more about Tracey and Emily’s journey on their website, by watching this video, or tune into 60 Minutes this Sunday evening for a rerun of their investigation of Frontotemporal Dementia, which features Emily and Tracey.