• And so this is Christmas 21 December 2015 | View comments

  • 21st December 2015 | By David Jolley

    I woke this morning to find a starry sky – quite a contrast to the dinge grey/brown which we have had for most days recently – grey-brown above and drizzle or worse from heaven to the squelching earth below. There is no moon to see but these little specks of reflected light give a shape and geography to the world and draw wonder and explanations which are beyond their limits.

    Lights in the darkness are everywhere at Christmas – we have twinkling coloured lights in the Magnolia and other houses and gardens are decorated to say ‘welcome’ and ‘happiness’ in ways which reflect the feelings of those who live in them. Some roads are busy with such messages, others stay quiet.

    Cards come from friends nearby and from friends and family who may be far away and perhaps seen only rarely now. They are still part of us and we of them and this time of exchange gives reassurance. For Hilda, living with dementia, the cards give pretty pictures. The names bring images of faces and movements which may have long-changed but when the names are read out they come to life and rekindle emotions – thanks and sadness, whist – maybe regrets – just for a while and then fading as fast and as gentle as a candle: ‘Fast Forgetting’ they say in the Memory Clinic. The great George Melly, who was dying of cancer but with dementia, had it: ‘This Alzheimer’s is a wonderful thing – Every day a new set of friends to meet.’ Sound philosophy at work. For Hilda, son Andrew, visiting for the holiday, is greeted every time he comes through the door as if he had just arrived from Edinburgh.

    Carols and other Christmas music are secure in her memory box and she joins in without a second thought when the radio or piano offer a lead. Others give voice too, close and equal in the celebration. Most words come right, most tunes are well held. Wish it could be Christmas every day.

    One way and another we fell to talk about ‘lucid moments’ with an example of Winifred whose words are usually difficult to follow coming out with: ‘Am I dead and come alive?’ in a setting designed to mobilise memories and feelings linked to a well-known bible story. Making sense of the moment.

    Is this so different from the way we think and cope with the daily charge to grasp continuity within the sequence of change which comes with every blink?

    Other thoughts are on loneliness and kitchens – best give them their own time and space.

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