Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Dementia-The Unexpected Gift

(My mom and I
Photo by Tammy Shoemaker, OSB)
We grew up in a very strong Catholic family. A saying I always heard around the house was, “As long as you live in this house, you will go to church.” We had bedtime curfews, rules for doing homework, supper rituals and chores. On the flip side, I remember having wonderful birthday parties, holidays with the family and a deep sense of love and safety in my family.

When I was a teenager, my youth tricked my psyche into believing in forever. I thought I had all the time in the world. My mom and I were very close, but we were also very different, so we spent a lot of wasteful time in disagreement, though I also knew she was my number one advocate.

My mother was very sharp and she loved to talk. She always remembered birthdays, names and any opportunity to play cards with her friends. She prided herself on knowing all fifty state capitols. Though she was a shrewd card player, athletics was not her forte. Our family played many games of cards together, but when it came to our family badminton games, mom was put on the team with my older brother who hit all her shots. She, in turn, would playfully hit him with her racket.

While my mom and I sometimes had a tumultuous relationship, we spent lots 
(Twin Hats
Photo by Tammy Shoemaker, OSB)
of time together. One memorable trip: we decided to go to the Smokey Mountains for the day. It was a five-hour drive, but we had a great time. We talked most of the way, had lunch, shopped and came back home. Another time, we decided to take off driving and ended up in South Carolina! We did not even have a reservation, but were able to spend a night on the beach. It was delightful.

It was not until I went home for a family visit after my first profession that I realized the deplorable conditions my mother was living in. She was not able to or willing to walk, to go up in our kitchen, get out with friends or do the things she used to do so well. I realized that I could not leave my mom like this. At this time, I was not aware of what was going on with my mom and truly thought it was depression.

With the blessing of my community, I was able to bring my mom up to Minnesota with me. I found her a place close by where I could still live community life fully, but also tend to the needs of my mom. We soon discovered that my mother had dementia.

I have never known anyone with dementia personally. I have only heard things about it, so I had NO idea what to expect. The first months of this were very difficult for me. As I said, my mom and I always had a tumultuous, but loving, relationship. When my mom would say things, I found myself disputing her. I got her into a facility that not only cared for my mother, but helped me to learn how to respond to her.

(Painted Nails
Photo by Tammy Shoemaker, OSB)
I have to say it has been the most heart-wrenching experience I have ever been through, but it has changed me immensely in the process. I have learned not to argue with my mom. Whatever she says, I make a conversation out of it even if I have no idea what we are talking about. I have entered her world and accepted her as she is. In that, I have received a gift of peace in my heart. It has not only changed the way I think of and deal with my own mom, but it has caused a deeper change in me in all my relationships. I have learned to be a more kind, compassionate and merciful person. My mom makes me laugh out loud at times. I don’t resent her in any way, but enjoy her company. We paint her nails every week (she even lets me paint them wild colors), go for rides, have supper, play cards that she still loves, watch her favorite show “Everyone Loves Raymond” and sometimes I just hold her hand and kiss her.

I have become a care-taker for my mom in the way that I knew someday I would, but not so early and not for this reason. My daily plea to God is to safeguard my mother's humanity and dignity. I am her number one advocate and cheerleader like she was so many times for me. I am not ready to think about it right now, but I know God will take my mom from me someday. I thank God every day for our gift of time together and our newfound loving relationship. I am the lucky one to still have a loving mother that I can give to today because tomorrow may be too late.

If you are one of the many people dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia, I pray for your strength and believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that you will receive an unexpected gift.
Tammy Shoemaker, OSB

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I Changed Teams

Being a spiritual counselor in children’s acute behavioral hospital has been challenging and a huge learning curve. I have worked and been exposed to a ministry of trauma but never at this acute level. My eyes have been opened to a world of trauma and suffering that most of the population will never experience. This ministry has challenged to me at the core of my faith and belief system in the goodness and loving-kindness of God.

Last week I sat down with a ten-year-old patient whom I had prayed with often and encouraged in their faith and belief system. This patient I noticed was acting out aggressively and defiantly last week. At our routine meeting time, I asked the patient, “Hey, what’s going on?” The patient responded; “Oh I changed teams from God to Satan.”  I replied; “Really tell me why you changed teams?” The patient responded, “Well, Trish, I prayed to God for help and God didn’t answer my prayer. I have now joined the other team.”  I admit I was taken aback and wondered how to respond to this cry of suffering. I tritely replied, “Sometimes, it takes time for God to answer prayer.” I knew this was no consolation to the patient and an ineffective answer, although I believe in some way or time God answers our prayer. For this ten-year-old, dealing and coping with the pain of traumatic abuse, waiting on God to answer prayer was not in the cards for relief and healing.

My conversation with this patient is not a new concept for human beings. Probably most of us, at some point in our life, have wondered and questioned, “Why God?” and even switched teams to unbelief or apathy. The only thing I knew to do was to look the patient in the eye and say, “I believe that God understands your heart and will always love you.” 

I carry the seed of hope for this patient. I pray and cry to God for the suffering of all these children that are put in my path.  My compassionate heart dreams of adopting them all and giving them a chance, even though I know that it’s an impossible, grandiose dream. Yet, I carry a seed of hope in my heart and believe the scripture of Romans 5:5: "Hope does not disappoint because …", because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. The seed of hope that was carried for me, I now carry for others because of the gift of the Holy Spirit and the love of God into each of our hearts. Go and make disciples …. Nurturing a seed of hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Trish Dick, OSB

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My Day in the Woods

A solo butterfly

a busily searching bee

and numerous bugs

kept me company today.

Oh yes, and Meister Eckhart, the mystic

         who sees everything from the inside out.

I asked him: “What if the world were not here?”

“What if I could experience God

         through my inner eyes too?”

(Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB)
“Would God, then, not have created

         this butterfly? this bee? these bugs?

         or, for that matter, green grass? colorful flowers?

         blue sky and water? invisible breezes and swaying leaves?

         ordinary birds like robins, sparrow, swallows?

I can’t imagine knowing God without this world of nature.

For me, the way to God is along a wide path lined with

         color and design, movement and life, invitation and delight.

So why, Meister Eckhart, do you ask me to surrender

          unneeded boundaries as I walk, limp, run or leap for joy?

Though I think I may understand when you say:

          The Father laughs

          and gives birth to the Son.

          The Son laughs back at the Father

          and gives birth to the Spirit.

          The whole Trinity laughs

          and gives birth to us.

So are you saying ‘boundaries are not needed’ if we are ONE?”

Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Climbing the Rock Wall

S. Lisa Rose climbing a rock wall!
Have you ever climbed a Rock Wall?  This past summer I had the opportunity to climb a rock wall with some of the campers at our 3g camp (Girls, God and Good Times). As I watched the first group of climbers I thought, “I want to do that.” With this moment of courage leading me on I geared up in the special shoes and harness, then went to the meet the Belay. The belay is the individual to whom you are tethered for safety as you climb the wall. The belay guides you from below as you climb to the top.
After a few instructions, I was ready to start the climb. I had a hard time getting started and was almost ready to quit, then I said to myself, “You can do this.” During my third attempt I was on my way up the wall. I had a group of campers cheering me on from below, along with the belay who was calling out secure areas to place a foot or hand. Halfway up I felt a little nervous, asking myself, “Will I make it?” Then I felt a surge of energy that whispered, “You are almost there, keep going.”  In the end, I was unable to get that last good grip three feet from the top, so the belay began lowering me to the ground. The belay and the campers cheering me on during the climb helped me stay focused.
We all need people cheering on as we try something new. Without my cheerleaders, I may have given up, yet they helped me succeed in doing something I can now check off my bucket list.
If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery please contact Sister Lisa Rose at