A Bell On A String

ae74f33b3298c81a3bafa529df9f261eThe story of a Bell on a String

A few days ago a resident gave me a small bell tied to a string. She said that I should ring the bell to know what I mean to her.

This is what that bell tells me every time it rings: “I may not remember your name but thank you for being here for me, keeping me safe. I may not know exactly what you do for me but I do know that when I see you I smile and I laugh. You may fade from my thoughts when you walk away but you are always in my heart guiding me to experience joy in my every day. And when you leave here after a long shift feeling as though you may never recover from the exhaustion of being a nurse, ring this bell and know that you made a difference in one life today.”

I keep this tiny bell on a string in my car so that every time I leave the office I am reminded of making a difference in at least one life every day.

Apollo 13

I have the best job in the world. I get to help amazing people live a full dignified life with Alzheimer’s Disease. The people who shaped our world into the amazing place it is are now shaping my world as I continue to hold theirs into shape. It is a fascinating cycle of learning how to let the lives of others inspire my imagination while simultaneously being an anchor for them to hold on to reality. It is often like trying to direct a movie where none of the actors speak the same language as each other or the same language as me. But in the middle of all this chaos are real stories.

A resident brought a DVD set to me stating, “I have no need of this. I was there, in the control room, for every Apollo mission. Maybe you want to see this.” So I graciously accepted the set. We went on to discuss his work with NASA and the space program. He agreed the only thing holding me back from being an astronaut is the fact that I can’t do math. Our mutual laughter made his story my story.

This is how Alzheimer’s Disease should be treated. With stories not drugs and isolation from the world. Stories should be fostered for as long as someone can continue to tell them. It is how we connect to them and their past as the past slowly fades from their stories.

In my mind, few other entities embody the spirit of shaping our world like NASA. They are the epitome of adventure and exploration. It is my pleasure to make life worthwhile for some one who was mission control. After all, he helped make life worthwhile for me.  I consider it a great honor to be the person who listens to the stories of these great men and women.