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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

When Old Memories Bring New Life

Memories are like antiques, the older they are the more valuable they became. ~Marinela Reka

“Dad, what would you like to do for fun today?”

“Fun?” he asked. “Nothing … nothing is fun.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“What did you used to do for fun? New Guinea was fun, right?

“Oh yeah, that was fun.”

Dad’s face lifted as he began to tell stories of days gone by. He and Mom built a house on the side of a mountain overlooking the sea. To get home from work they had to travel via the beach. They went hiking, picked coconuts, and Dad rode his BMW motorcycle through uncharted jungles. He could picture in his mind where his friends and family lived. And tell you in detail how he built his home.

But when the story ended, he became sad. And it seemed his mind went blank again. “I need to sleep,” he said.

Dementia steals so much, but even though he was tired, bored, and depressed I wouldn’t allow him to close his eyes. I decided a little renovating was in order … redecorating, if you will, and invited him to join me. I took down the paintings on his living room wall—the living room which has become his whole world—and asked him what I should put on the wall. He didn’t know.

A bright and happy photograph of my mom with her sister and my cousin Saskia was rescued from behind the China cabinet. It was taken in Australia a few years back. He smiled. “Oh, that’s nice,” he said as he sprung back to life. That was my queue.

The inspiring (albeit dull according to Dad) painting of a lighthouse amidst a storm was replaced with a landscape of Indonesia.

“Oh,” he said. “My heart feels lighter.”

Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
~Isaiah 46:4 (NIV)

Dad repeated that his heart felt lighter as he began to unravel his past, recalling the names of his friends in New Guinea. He mapped out where they lived, where his family members lived. It took a while but the stories came back and reminiscing was finally recognized as “having fun.” I found a replica model of his BMW motorcycle and he burst into tears. He studied it till he got dizzy. He couldn’t wait to see what was next.

The redecorating is a work in progress as we attempt to bring a little bit of Indonesia, Holland, and Australia into the living room.

Furthermore, I’m putting together a Memory Book. Page 3 is titled, “All the Places I’ve Lived.” I found a picture of our old home in Australia and when I showed him the page he literally bellowed, “That’s my house, the house I built.” He wept so loud I think he scared himself. But he laughed too … a laugh that came from the depths of his belly.

Oh those old memories, those precious memories still stored in his beautiful mind returning a little bit of life … and fun.

Precious Memories

Precious memories, unseen angels
Sent from somewhere to my soul
How they linger, ever nearer
And the sacred past unfold

Precious father, loving mother
Fly across the lonely years
And old home scenes of my childhood
In fond memory appears

In the stillness, of the midnight
Echoes from the past I hear;
Old time singing, gladness bringing
From that lovely land somewhere.

As I travel on life’s pathway,
Know not what the years may hold;
As I ponder, hope grows fonder
Precious memories flood my soul

Precious memories
How they linger
How they ever flood my soul;
In the stillness of the midnight,
Precious sacred scenes unfold.
(Lyrics by Johnny Wright, 1925)

A Caregiver’s Prayer

Dear Lord, thank you for the smiles and the precious memories that bring life to tired bones. Give me wisdom; grant me patience, and understanding to know all the good things you still promise even for frail minds. Thank you for being mindful of us and that you delight in our ministry of giving care. We love only because you first loved us. It is an honor to take care of those you’ve entrusted to us.

Beloved Caregiver

His tired soul
A broken mind
What once was old
Can treasure find

You are his treasure
Worth more than gold
You are the hope
I have restored

Don’t overthink
The simple things
Give him the past
His soul, his wings

(Copyright Deborah L. Alten, 2018)


  1. What a special moment you had with your Dad and then captured with words on paper for us to read. Love that he had an afternoon of joy and happy memories. Hope he gets flooded with photos and notes from friends to add to his new decor.

  2. That gives me an idea. I should ask family and friends to send him notes and photographs if they have them. We can add them to his Memory Book. Thanks Julie.