On my latest visit to see Emma – whose advancing dementia I wrote about recently – I arrived to be greeted by her sitting up in her bed. She is usually asleep, and I sit by her bedside and hold her hand awhile, hoping that she might wake and recognise me. So to see her so alert was a surprise and a real treat!
I calmly made my way over to Emma’s bed and sat down next to her and very gently held her hand. She smiled softly and asked me if I would like to come to tea, and where would I like to sit? Emma gestured with her hands around the room, and I could imagine that we were in a quaint English tearoom together. I asked if she fancied sitting near the window, and she nodded and smiled.
Emma asked if I would like some cake, and I told her that I would not mind having a slice of Victoria sponge. I explained that my attempts to bake a Victoria sponge were always quite poor and that having a slice from a cake that was made properly would be a real treat. Emma chuckled and patted my hand reassuringly. We spoke of making cucumber sandwiches and other little fancies. Emma repeated herself frequently – but we added a little more to the tea party each time.
When the imaginary tea arrived, I explained that I would put the tea cosy on to keep it warm, and she thanked me and told me that this was a good idea. Emma asked if I could get a tea strainer for the tea leaves, as she did not want any grouts in her cup of tea – she thought that it was hilarious when I told her that my grandmother always referred to them as ‘tiddly grouts’ and would sing a very silly rhyme about them.
We spoke of inviting her brother and her grandmother too, and she became excited about where they would sit and what they would eat. The tea party changed to everyone being invited, and she told me of her concern that there might be people coming to the party that were quite shy and how we could include them. I asked her if she considered herself to be shy. Emma thought about this for a while, and then she replied, “No, I am not shy – but I am peculiar.” She paused, and we both broke out in laughter. We both belly laughed, and tears came to our eyes. We could not stop laughing!
Emma placed her hand on my face. “Bless you duck”, she said softly. I placed my hand on top of hers, and I could not have loved her more at that moment, as our foreheads touched in understanding. This was the Emma that I knew and missed, and, in that visit, I had her back. As I struggle to find the words to describe the atmosphere and the feeling in the room at that moment in time, all I can manage is that her soul was dancing. She just seemed to shine. It was beautiful to see her like this – so alert and alive.
At the moment, there are restrictions on the care home where Emma resides, and it is difficult to get a weekly visit. I look forward to our next time together. I know that it would be unrealistic of me to expect this visit to be repeated, but it does not stop me from hoping that it is. It is easy to feel disheartened, but it’s so important to keep holding on and fighting, as moments of joy like this are simply magical. In this visit, I saw the Emma I knew. It was magical and inspiring and spurred me forwards to keep holding on and fighting.