not all those who wander are lost

Over the holidays my family and I went caroling at my Grandmother’s. It was a moment I truly had to prepare myself for…  (For those of you who have just stumbled here and do not know, my Grandmother has lost her memories…Which means in many ways…Actually in almost all ways…I have lost her)

…After we first arrived at her home I was approached by a gentleman in bright red plaid pajamas. He stood there a moment searching my face…and then as if his mind still in question he whispered…”I know you.” Having experienced this many times while visiting the memory care facility I just simply smiled. There must have been something familiar in that smile because he then grabbed me tightly around my waist and with tears in his eyes he said “You turned out so beautifully!” I cannot express to you how strange it is to stand in a moment that was meant for someone else. A moment meant for someone he once knew and cherished long ago….But there I was…The humbled “stand in”.

By this time my son had noticed this strange man holding onto his mother and so he quickly came to my rescue. As he approached the man released me from his grip and bent down to look at Jonah. He gave his nose a little tap and looked up at me with a great big smile “Such a good looking chap. Take great care with him.” And with that he was on his way. He had found what he was looking for. ↓

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After reassuring my son that all was well I wandered  over to the circle of caroling that had formed around my beautiful Grandmother. I decided to take a few pictures to capture the moment. As I looked through my camera lens I noticed that my Grandmother was staring right at me. I put the camera down only to once again have my face searched. The search seemed to go on and on…I was afraid to move for fear of her getting lost in it. I waited for something…anything to let me know that she had found me. Finally I smiled…and she smiled back…And then just like that she was gone again.  Although we may not have found each other…At least not as we once would have…We did find a moment to share….A moment that was meant for me to humbly stand in.

When I arrived home I started thinking (as I often do upon return) of what it must be like to be lost in your own mind….Wandering from one brief and scattered memory to the next. I usually think of my Grandmother as someone who has wandered away in the woods searching for her home…anxiously waiting for her rescue. But that day I was left with a different thought. I thought about the man in the red plaid pajamas. I thought about how in his wanderings he still found a way to be home. He was not waiting to be rescued…He had already arrived…Moment by moment. Although it be ever so bitter sweet I know that my Grandmother is also no longer waiting for her rescue…I can stop trying to find her…She is already found…She is peacefully sitting beneath the old walnut tree beside her family home…She is running free on the dirt roads of her childhood. “Not all those who wander are lost. The old that is strong does not wither. Deep roots are not reached by the frost…” 


7 thoughts on “not all those who wander are lost

  1. Thanks Kara, for your well written experience about spending time with Grandma Ruby. My Gram, Alta, had Alzheimer’s. It took me a bunch of prayer & some more prayer & lots more prayer to not be bitter about the best Gram in the world slowly slipping away from me. Once she told me that it felt like she was under the water looking up at all of us & that she couldn’t see us clearly or understand us.
    Losing Gram while she was still with me was the most painful “Life is not fair, get over it” experience of my life. Sadness cannot live in a grateful heart. I learned that the blessings do outweigh the tough times!! Your understanding and depth of feeling really touched my heart.
    HUGS ~ Lisa (Fleming) Kearney

  2. You don’t know me but I’m Karama. I grew up across the street from your Grandparents and was friends with Glenda. Ruby was always so funny and happy.. That’s what I remember most is she was so happy and Delbert was funny! I had the pleasure of seeing Ruby at a gathering in Drain when she had moments of memory. We ad a nice conversation. She has always been such a blessing for all who were fortunate enough to spend time with her. When I saw her picture.. The look on her face was one that I had seen many times over as a child. Thank you Kara for reminding me of a time and place that I don’t remember often enough. I know that whether you know or are a Blessing to her, even now while she sits under that shade tree of her childhood home.

    Many Blessings to you and your family in the New Year to come.

    Karama Lee (Moore) Billick

  3. Thanks, Kara, I really appreciated this “story”, not all of us can put in to words the experiences we are walking through. You did it beautifully and so did Lisa Kearney in her comment. God bless you!

  4. I had a moment when my mom watched me as I walked into the room. Her eyes were bright, and she said my name over and over again. Then she was silent, never to speak again. I love her, miss her, and seek her counsel when I am lost in my thoughts.

  5. Thank you, Kara for this insightful story. I’m the same age as Lee and grew up going to youth functions with Delbert and Ruby. Good people!

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