Remembering to appreciate what we have today


Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh received a B.A. from Skidmore College and was ordained as a Rabbi from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is fortunate to be involved in so many facets of the community including serving as the chaplain for JF&CS and an instructor for CAJE. This will be her fifth year serving as the visiting Rabbi in Decatur, Ill. She has also served congregations in both Sydney and Perth, Australia. When not writing her weekly BLOGS, she can be found running marathons.

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

I was visiting a resident in a special care unit designated for memory loss. More often than not, when in this situation, I find myself engaged in one of two places. Sometimes the conversation centers on a time or place that is a reality unique to the resident. Occasionally, the memory of celebrating a Jewish holiday or reciting the Shema together will bring us to a common ground. On the other hand, we begin a “loop” where the conversation repeats itself in the exact words.

I had begun to reintroduce myself when the resident said, “I have dementia.” I was filled with sadness. I see it every day, yet, when this nice woman announced it, I could not find the words to respond. I visit with another woman who while living with a great deal of independence in an assisted living facility, told me from the beginning of our relationship that she has dementia. There are times when she tells me it is progressing.

I cannot decide what is worse: to know you are in that state or to live in a world of one’s own. In the case of the latter, it is sad to watch loved ones try and interact. It is painful to see a vacant look when the resident does not recognize a spouse, child or sibling.

While I do not begin to comprehend the many faces of dementia, I know that it takes a life away two times. Daily I am reminded to enjoy the life with which I have been blessed. It seems appropriate to remember this now.