Dementia Day

It was not a fun day. It was a “dementia day.” It just happened that all of my patients that day were not able to respond. Their disease was advanced to the point that they were nonverbal.

Alzheimer from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Jon Díez Supat, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Some were awake. Some were sleeping. Some had caring staff members present who remembered a more friendly and communicative person. Some had pictures of family members on the wall or tabletop. Some appeared to have few pieces of their past in evidence.

To be honest, I struggled.

I drove home wondering why I bothered. There was little to no awareness of my presence. I worked hard not to “phone it in” and invested myself in my work. I talked to the staff and affirmed their work and their caring. I listened to family members as they shared their stories and their memories.

Later in the evening, I hopped on social media, and read some promotional materials from another pastor’s latest book. Graduating after me, they were leading a large church and had a website. And a book tour. There were accolades from reviewers.

I was thrilled to see success for this pastor. (It was well-deserved!) But I felt… invisible. I felt as though my ministry was not important.  I gotta tell you, it sucked. There’s nothing like someone else’s public success to make  you feel inadequate.

Serendipitously, I came across an article by a pastor who understood how I felt.

If you feel ‘called’ to ministry but will not serve in obscure places, you don’t want to do ministry. You want recognition.

Steve Bezner nailed it. That was exactly my issue.

He went on to say:

Laboring in obscurity, far from the spotlight, I learned to stop believing I was the key to ministry and instead point toward Jesus alone. Jesus was enough. And Jesus is still enough.

In chaplaincy, I have learned it is not about me. It’s not about my beliefs, my skills, my training. It’s not even about my particular brand of religion (which, let me tell you, is not what you learn from the “brand” seminary.)

It is about the person across from me. That’s where the focus starts. And ends.

Even when they’ll never know my name.

23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.
Galatians 3; NLT

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