Over the years, I’ve worked as a hairdresser in quite a few care homes, but this home was particularly special to me as they looked after people with Alzheimer’s disease (Dementia). And I have to say that spending time with the residents opened my heart and eyes to how precious one’s life can be.
It broke my heart seeing people’s lives being swallowed up; robbed from them by this terrible inflammatory brain disease. But once I got passed the shock, prayed a lot, and shed a few tears, I started looking beyond their disease, and began seeing glimpses of their true personalities.
I could see that at times these men and women were still present; a few brief but precious moments of clarity would break through and then just like that, they’d be trapped in their own mind again.
There was a man who used to come visit his dear wife every day at the same time. He would always brush her hair to the side, speak softly to her, feed her lunch, and then ask the carers to get her appropriately dressed and ready in her wheel chair, so that he could take her out for the afternoon. This went on almost every day, and even though it was so sad to see, the love and faithfulness he showed her was truly beautiful.
One day this man (let’s call him Tom), popped into our small salon to book an appointment with me to cut his wife’s hair. We began chatting, and then he told me that his wife Mary used to be an air stewardess and that she was only in her 60’s. He then went on to tell me that this particular form of dementia (for there are many) happened quickly, and left her speechless and paralysed. While Tom was talking, I couldn’t help but imagine what she must have looked like in her stewardess outfit ready for work.
She was very tall, slim and attractive with a thick head of wavy hair; a really lovely lady. While cutting Mary’s hair, I treated her like I treated everybody – I talked, sang, stroked her hand, anything to let her know that she was in a safe place. Tom knew exactly how he wanted me to style Mary’s hair, so he pulled up a chair and watched me.
Over the months, we became good friends. And whenever I got the chance I would always try and talk to him about the Lord Jesus Christ in an effort to comfort and reassure him that it wasn’t about this life, but the next. Sometimes I’d even get the carers involved in our conversations, but I just couldn’t seem to get through to him. He was difficult, stubborn, and used to laugh at me for trying so hard, but I often said to him, “I’m not giving up on you.”
Anyway, one day he had forgotten to get something from Mary’s room, and asked me to stay with her for a few minutes. So while waiting with Mary, I turned to her with a big smile on my face, and looked her straight in the eyes and said, “Hello Mary.” And then the most amazing thing happened, she lifted her eyes up towards me, and said, “Hello.” back. I just couldn’t believe it! I looked around the room hoping that someone in reception or in the corridor had seen what had just happened, but there was no one around.
Filled with excitement, as soon as I saw Tom, I told him, but he didn’t believe me, and said, “I told you she hasn’t said a word in years.”
It wasn’t until I left that place, that I often wondered whether Mary could have actually heard me witnessing to her husband all those times, or whether he ever got saved. But one thing I know for sure, and will always be grateful for, is that God allowed me to hear Mary’s “Hello.” – Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. (Mark 9:23)
In Christian love,