And indeed these dear people become like little children--often, delightful little children. It's really precious to have a sweet little old lady tell you excitedly that mamma would be there soon to pick her up, or to have a kind old man inform you that he will be singing in the children's choir at church on Sunday.
My mind raced happily on, tumbling over dozens of such smile-worthy flashbacks. And then it occurred to me: These people had lost most of their memories to dementia. But what are we in this life, if not the sum total of our memories? Does this mean that dementia patients have lost their very identities?
But of course, that wouldn't be the case for those who are Christian, would it? Because Christians do have identities--indestructible, eternal identities in Christ. What's more, like little children, these dementia patients have nothing to bring to the salvation table, no thoughts of being good people deserving of anything, least of all heaven.
There was that thought again: like little children. And what did Jesus say in Matthew 18? "He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'"
So perhaps Christian dementia patients are most blessed of all--doing nothing but trusting and enjoying the moment in this life, and then heading into eternity with hearts that are uniquely pleasing to the Lord. And perhaps that means they will be counted among Jesus' most beloved forevermore.
I've thought for a long time that our pitying view of sweet and happy dementia patients is all wrong. Maybe this explains it.