Joy and momOur family is aware of dementia. In time, you see things that no one else sees. You say things that you never would say.

Sometimes, almost all that is left of interaction is ingrained patterns. When someone asks a question, you say, “uh huh.” When someone pauses, you make a sound. When you hear a noise, you turn. And sometimes, from somewhere, come phrases like “This is nice” or “What a beautiful morning.”

Earlier, before most everything is gone, some other patterns are still around. If you taught young children for decades, you call into being a teacher, into helping those who are actually helping you. Eventually, you see children that others don’t, expressing concern, offering correction.

As I’ve listened to my sisters speak of their daily interactions with our mom, I’ve wondered how possible it might be to start planning now for where my heart may be in 25 years.

I was reading from one of Jesus’ sermons this morning. In talking about our patterns of behavior, Jesus said, “A good man brings good out of the good stored in his heart.” Our mom did lots of storing of good. Hymns and scripture and reading and conversation. She was consistently reflecting and applying. She was consistently seeking to understand. She was doing her best to store good in her heart. And she was willing to acknowledge not understanding, too.

My mom knew, I think, that our patterns of thought take tending. They take attention and intention. We’re invited by Jesus to curate what is going in, to weed through what should stay and what should go. He encourages us to forgive, to talk with him about the people who offend us, attack us, distract us.

When we have little control of what comes out, at least some of our attention to what went in and stayed in will be apparent. I may not have 25 more years, but I can work on it today.