I think I was playing tennis while I was in my mother’s womb. During my high school years, I lived to take the courts after school, slamming the ball at speeds in excess of 109 MPH. For someone to return my serve, they had to be fast on their feet and extremely accurate with their return. My skills on the court earned me a full scholarship to college, which otherwise would have been an unrealistic dream. My father certainly didn’t make enough money to send us to college, rather encouraging us to join the military shortly after we graduated high school. My five siblings each headed off to basic training….while I headed off to Virginia to pursue a college education.
Four years of slamming, returning and net burning balls took its toll on my shoulder, forcing me to give up the game I loved so much. The game that brought me such joy, suddenly caused great pain, suffering and depression. Surgery, physical therapy , ice packs and heating pads could not repair the damage that I had done. I felt like Humpty- Dumpty…after his great fall. “All the kings horses, all the kings men, could not put Humpty-Dumpty back together again.”
Many days, I see the same frustration that I felt back then, on the faces of our dementia residents. The disease process has robbed them of their ability to do things they used to do. Simple tasks; driving, shopping, showering….simple things. Yet they can no longer recall how to perform the tasks. For example, I recently had a former Marine Corp Colonel admitted to the facility with a diagnosis of dementia which greatly affected his word finding ability. When he speaks, nine times out of ten, his words are “word salads”, meaning that none of them form a sentence, nor really go together. He becomes angry at himself due to his inability to verbalize his thoughts. Another resident sits in her wheelchair, calling out for “mama” at the top of her lungs. She was a former high-ranking federal employee that had charge over thousands of employees.When we try to redirect her, she tells us to “save the children” or that someone is trying to kill her. Another paces the halls, looking for the airport so he can get to work. Some days, my job is heartbreaking.
We all will eventually reach a point in our lives when we will not be able to do the things we used to do. Age has a way of slowing us down, impeding our abilities. We may be slower, not as quick on the draw, but we should still aim to live every day to its fullest. Every day, we should all be out doing the things that bring us joy and fulfillment, taking on new challenges, allowing nothing to stop us.
Look at Kota. Kota is a dog. Yes, a dog, but not just any dog. He is a highly trained K9 Officer with the Winchester Police Department. He lives to do what he has been extensively trained to do;chase and apprehend the bad guys.Everything changed for Kota in January of this year. He had apprehended a suspect in the attic of a home, only to fall through the ceiling, harshly falling to the level below. He sustained injuries, including a broken humerus. He has undergone several surgeries, aquatics therapy and physical therapy, but yet, he is still not able to return to duty. Every day his “mom” and K-9 Handler leaves for work, leaving him whining to go with her, to do what he loves. Kota doesn’t understand. Kota is in the same situation as I once was, with my blown shoulder, unable to return to the tennis court. Each day, his handler exercises, massages and prays for his full recovery, hoping.
Hope. Hope. Hope is one of the most powerful words in the world. I hope to return to the tennis courts one day….the dementia patient’s family hopes their loved one will improve, just a little bit ,on their next visit…….Hope. We use the word so freely and casually…”I hope to do that one day”, while not actively acting on the achievement.
Did you know that the King James Version of the Bible contains 133 instances of the word “hope,” with 44 of these found in the Old Testament and 89 in the New Testament. The New International Version of the Bible features 174 locations for the word “hope,” with 94 in the Old Testament and 80 found in the New Testament. Hope.
You know, I may never return to the tennis courts. The dementia patient may never recover. Kota may not return to full duty. But one thing I do know without absolute doubt is this, taken from the Book of Jeremiah.
“Jer 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” GAME, SET, MATCH.