On a Personal Note”¦(Emma)
High school senior Emma volunteers her time to facilitate Memories in the Making, an Alzheimer’s Association art therapy program. She recently spoke about her experience as a volunteer with the program at the annual Memories in the Making Art & Wine Auction in Mountain View.
“For an hour every Wednesday afternoon, my name is Amy. I reminded Linda, the director of Activities at Canyon House, the assisted living center at which I paint with Alzheimer’s patients on Wednesdays, every so often that my name is not, in fact, Amy. But at some point, I stopped reminding her. So what if she can’t remember my name? Neither can Frank, RenÃ©, Mary, Virginia, Paul, or Mr. Green, who all diligently paint with me.
Kerry, who used to facilitate the Memories in the Making programs at Canyon House, constantly reminded me, “Everyone is an artist.” It was those four words that originally inspired me in the program. Even I – whose drawing of some insect yet to be identified pales next to my sister’s beautiful bumblebee – am an artist.
As time went on, it was Frank’s smile and RenÃ©’s broken Spanglish that continued to inspire me. Amy is more patient than myself, and taught me to stay strong even after Mary suffered a stroke and her paintings became simple; and Olfat, who spoke an astounding four languages, passed. But what impacted me most was seeing Mary’s paintings subsequently improve a few months later, increasing in complexity and detail. To see the life and vigor return to both her eyes and paintings gave me soul-lifting hope, that floats eternally above life’s sheer cliffs and treacherous waters.
After a few years on and off with the program, I am now the facilitator and run the sessions at Canyon House solo. My artists have all taught me so much, but most importantly they’ve taught me that they still remember. Maybe not my name, the date, the time, or the place, but I see in Frank’s calculated brush strokes and Paul’s rainbow swirls that something is still there. Let that be a memory they can’t communicate in any other way but through a few lines and shapes, or some thought or feeling they can’t quite get a grasp, it’s there. And whatever “it” is, I’m there to find out.”
– Emma, volunteer facilitator, Alzheimer’s Association Memories in the Making