The Party – Points to Ponder

Rev. Daniel Fournier of St John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Ladysmith shares his wife's story, The Party.

Recent statistics from Stats Canada indicated that an ever-growing segment of our population is in the senior age range.

As this trend continues to increase, with the aging of the baby boomers, we are more and more likely to find ourselves in situations where a parent, friend, spouse or loved one is diagnosed with a form of dementia. When that happens, partly from having to deal with our own personal sense of loss as we watch our loved one grow farther away from us, we grieve the relationship and the person that once was. We struggle to find ways of connecting to the spark or life force that made them who they were. Can it even be accessed, we wonder?

Is there value in visiting a person who seems to no longer be aware of who we are? What do we do? What do we say? How do we interact?

Even in the intensity of the losses associated with dementia, there are always times when gifts of laughter, connection, joy and hope break through.

And here’s an example. Recently, my wife Joan wrote an account of a visit she had with her mother, who has dementia. It’s called The Party. She has given permission for me to share it with you. (Names have been changed to protect identities).


At the care home where my mother lives, supper has ended. The staff are beginning their evening routine.

While they are busy with those who need the most time and assistance to prepare for bed, out in the common area, the wanderers wander and the sitters sit.

I am at a table with my mother and Edna. During the meal, Edna kept up a lively chatter about what she could see outside, and, in the after supper lull, she continues her commentary about what colour car is driving up, the beautiful pink flowers on the tree by the window and, most importantly, her speculation about why the red van has its lights on.

Edna is from Nova Scotia and has a real wit that comes out in her accent.  One of her comments strikes me as very funny, and I begin to laugh. She joins in.

One of the staff members coming into the area from a room laughs at us laughing.  Soon, Mary, one of the wanderers, comes to the table and is invited to sit. She speaks Romanian but obviously likes laughter because her face breaks into a huge grin as she watches us.

By this time, Edna is on a roll, and there is the beginning of a party feel! Paula, another wanderer, who is Polish and speaks little English, takes the chair beside my mother. She enters wholeheartedly into the jovial atmosphere with her booming laugh.

The staff person brings over some grapes and watermelon slices on a couple of plates, remarking that “you can’t have a party without finger food.”

I take on the role of waiter and make a grand show of serving the ladies. They giggle with glee. Mary says “Thenk yuu.” Paula, too.

Another resident stops by the table for a moment in her endless walk, gazes in my face and gives me the most beautiful, toothless grin. That makes me laugh, and she leans down and ever so gently smoothes her hand over my forehead and kisses the top of my head. She leaves, but I am held in the grace of the moment.

Edna looks up and sees the newest resident, a man, walking into the area in his pyjamas. This strikes her as funny, and she says, “You just never know what you are going to see in this place. This is a first. A man in pyjamas!” Paula and Mary glance over to where Edna is pointing, and they break out in delightful chuckles, shaking their heads.

Paula is warm, so she unzips her sweater. Mary, who is wearing a hat, as well as a sweater with a zipper which is zipped all the way up,  leans over and zips Paula’s sweater up. We laugh. Paula, with a flourish, unzips her sweater. And then leans over and unzips Mary’s sweater. Mary is hugely amused, and she zips Paula’s sweater back up. By this time, I am laughing a belly laugh. The laughter escalates when Paula unzips Mary’s sweater completely and out fall all the things that Mary has collected in her wanderings that day — some gloves, a rolled-up bib, lots of Kleenex. Mary enjoys the attention as Paula and I gather up her treasures and stuff them back under her sweater. Paula solemnly zips it up, and Mary gives her a gracious bow of thanks.

Mary begins sings a hymn in her language, while Edna keeps time with her fingers.  Paula, not to be outdone, sings a hymn in Polish. When she is finished, Edna sings out loudly, “Yummy yummy yummy, I’ve got love in my tummy,” which prompts Edna and Paula to say YUMMY over and over again while pointing at the empty plates. We all break out in laughter again.

When I look at the clock, I am amazed that half an hour has gone by. The staff return and begin taking each lady at the table to their rooms to do their evening care.

The party is over. I kiss my mother goodnight and walk to the door with a smile on my face.

It was the best party I’ve ever attended.

It’s not really about what we do or say that makes a difference in the lives of people with dementia. Most importantly, it is about our presence and about finding the grace that is within each moment.

— Submitted by Rev. Daniel Fournier of St John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Ladysmith

Just Posted

CVRD to increase enforcement after audits reveal that curb-side recycling contamination in the district is well above acceptable limits. (File photo)
CVRD reports contamination in recyclables well above acceptable levels

Increased enforcement planned starting this summer

A conceptual rendering of the commercial plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road. (Town of Ladysmith/June 15 Council Agenda)
Rocky Creek commercial plaza passes public hearing

The proposed plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road would bring commercial activity to Ladysmith’s north end

Kate Cram and her team at Old Town Ice Cream are thrilled to be open for business. (Cole Schisler photo)
Old Town Ice Cream opens up right on time for summer

Located at 539 1st Avenue, Old Time Ice Cream is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Most Read