Hope. Joy. Peace.
These are significant (important, meaningful) words for those of us who remember, and often retell, the traditional Christmas story.
Admittedly (saying something that is true), hope, joy, and peace can be difficult to find today. Sometimes, however, we can find them in unexpected places. I was happily surprised to find them recently in the story of Lester Potts, a man who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, an illness that affects your brain and memory and makes you slowly lose your ability to think and behave (act) normally.
In the early stages, people with Alzheimer’s begin to have difficulty thinking and remembering, but these difficulties don’t usually interfere with (prevent something from happening) everyday activities. You may have trouble doing more than one task at a time, solving problems, and remembering recent events or conversations; difficult activities may take you longer than they did in the past.
As Alzheimer’s gets worse, the symptoms become more obvious and make it difficult for you to take care of yourself. Eventually Alzheimer’s leads to death.
The mental changes that Alzheimer’s patients experience profoundly (very much, deeply) change the way they see themselves. And the way their families and friends see them. Many of the symptoms can be embarrassing and often cause patients and their families to withdraw from (stop taking part in) social activities. The last several months I’ve watched as one of my good friends and long-time mentor (an experienced person who advises and helps someone less experienced) has gone through this struggle (difficult time) with his wife. It’s very difficult.
Several years ago, Dale Short told Lester Potts’ story in the UAB (University of Alabama/Birmingham) Magazine. He writes that the changes in Potts “hit his family like a cyclone (violent storm).” His condition was soon bad enough that he couldn’t safely stay at home alone. Fortunately, his family were able to find an adult daycare center (a place for someone to stay while their families are at work) for him, a place where he felt comfortable. It became one of the few bright spots in his life.
One day a volunteer art teacher breathed (brought) hope and, eventually (in the end) , joy into Pott’s difficult life when she encouraged him to try painting with watercolors. Soon he began to bring home different kinds of paintings: still lifes (arrangements of objects like fruit or flowers), landscapes (pictures of the countryside or land), flowers, birds, and holiday scenes. They were often painted in bright colors, sometimes brighter than real-life.
Potts’ son Daniel, a doctor, said that “the breakthrough (important discovery) was nothing short of (less than) a miracle. Dad no longer had the ability to communicate through words, but somebody cared enough to unlock (open) a hidden talent. There’s something…about art; it can form connections in the brain even when the mind is fading away (slowly disappearing). He realized what he was achieving (doing, accomplishing). He was proud of the paintings he brought home, and he’d show them to us again and again.”
What a wonderful gift! Little did that volunteer art teacher know (she had no idea) how much joy, hope, and peace she would bring to Lester Potts and his family when she encouraged him to begin painting.
You can find Dale Short’s story here; the story that gave me the idea for this blog post is here. This YouTube video – Painting in the Twilight: An Artist’s Escape from Alzheimer’s – tells the story of Lester Potts and another artist who used art to communicate when they could no longer do so naturally.
~ Warren Ediger – English coach/tutor and creator of Successful English, where you can find clear explanations and helpful suggestions for better English.
Photo used under Creative Commons License.