Will was part of a men’s group I’ve been attending since late 2008. He was there every week and ready to discuss whatever material we were supposed to have read the week before. Soft spoken, and a man of few words. Will was divorced (for 15 years) and had two lovely daughters. Both in high school that would often sit with him Sunday morning’s at church.
I noticed that Will lived alone and invited him over to our house for dinner one night in 2010. We also met for coffee a few times, just to chat and have guy talk. I liked spending time with Will. He was never one to talk bad about anyone and always had a gentle smile, a person very easy to spend a couple of hours with. Maybe that is what folks from Holland do (he was born and raised in the Netherlands).
In 2011 Will got excited because the Netherlands had reached the World Cup finals. He was a huge soccer fan, and on the day Netherlands played for the world championship (a Friday I do believe) he wore the most gaudy soccer jersey – Netherlands very bright orange jersey
That fall/winter, Will came to one of our meetings talking about how he had been demoted at work. He wasn’t quite sure why but knew something wasn’t right with himself. At first it was dismissed as depression and was placed on some medication for it. Brent, one of the guys in our group, would meet with Will at a local Starbucks on Saturday mornings. But slowly he began to miss these meetings, claiming he simply forgot.
We started to see a drop in attendance as well on Friday mornings. Then one day he told us, he was actually dealing with memory loss. He was on medication and it seemed to be doing some good, but there was concern from all of us.This was not what we had expected to hear.
Before long he was relegated to the most menial tasks at work. He felt (as did others) that he was basically being told to stay out of the way. His employer didn’t seem concerned with issues surrounding memory loss. Will had great pride, and this had to be a crushing blow to him.
Soon he quit showing up on Friday mornings
2013-14 the changes began to increase. If you were in the middle of a conversation with him, he would completely lose thought. Not in the way we are all guilty of, but in a way that frustrated him. He could tell that he was not able to hold a conversation and it frustrated/embarrassed him. There was no way to comfort him – what do you say in moments like that?
In early 2014 my wife and I were parking at church. Will volunteered to work the parking lot a couple Sunday’s out of each month. While parking the car we could see him wandering aimlessly around the parking lot. It was an extremely sad moment. It was evident that medicine wasn’t going to slow his demon down. It wasn’t long after that when I heard he lost his driving privileges.
The nanny of our neighbor is good friends with his oldest daughter (who is now in college). One day while talking with the neighbor lady she said “Did you hear about Will? He is now in a home for people suffering from memory loss.” Huh? I did some digging and sure enough he was in a facility about 25 miles from where I live. So I drove down there one Sunday afternoon to see him. He was by far the youngest person in the facility. A very nice place I would add, but your heart breaks when you go inside. And it is hard to conceal it. Before long I saw Will bouncing down the hall to give me a hug. We walked to a nearby Panera for coffee and lunch. During that first talk he said he understood why he was there, but felt he would be leaving soon. I knew better. Will wasn’t going anywhere
He expressed his frustrations. There was a lot of anger towards his employer. I just let him talk – or as Super Hero Russell says – I just loved on him
I’ve gone to see him about several times over the past year and unfortunately he is getting worst. During my visit a couple weeks ago I asked him how old he is. “Hmm…….80? No…70….yes 70” Turns out he is 57.
I asked him if there was anything he wanted to do with the men’s group. It took him at least 5 minutes to complete the thought – he wanted to go on another cruise with us. No such thing has ever occurred.
Then he asked me if I had any trouble finding the place – since it was supposedly my first trip down.
Of all the things I do to honor the Lord, I am absolutely convinced this is the thing that brings him the greatest joy. Spending an hour or two with Will each month. It is a learning experience for me. I have never been around dementia (Will is officially diagnosed with early onset dementia), Alzheimer’s or memory loss. I am blessed with the ability to converse. As one person has noted I have a gift to “unpack people” when conversing. So being with Will doesn’t bother me, but it does sadden me. I am grieved with what is going on with him. And it came out of nowhere. So rapid. And there is nothing that can be done.
Other than love on him