Christmas Eve Image

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A personal witness to one Christmas eve on the Alzheimer’s Unit of the old Fairview Manor.

by Karen Hirst

Christmas Eve and the corridors are quiet following the hustle and bustle of the day’s events. Walking through the entrance of the secured unit I turn my head left, eyes scanning for activity in the T.V. room.

The interior of the small room is made visible from the the flourescent ceiling lights in the hallway and the red, green, yellow and blue glow of twinkling Christmas lights on the small artificial tree set in the corner of the room. Beyond the window of the room the bright white of snow lies heavy on evergreen boughs in the courtyard. Bethlehem stars of golden light mounted on the brick exterior and the multi coloured bulbs draped around the trees provide a canvas for the scene within.

A rhythmic bubbling from the fish tank and a soft whispering murmur, the only sounds breaching the silence of the room. Against the backdrop of darkened night and the flickering coloured lights, an elder sits in a recliner chair oblivious to all but the purring cat stretched out upon her knee.

I watch from the hallway as they croon their love song to each other and reciprocate strokes of tender touch. The white, gold spotted cat does not appear to have difficulty understanding the German endearments expressed by the elder, no language barrier is evident in the exchanged messages of love. In hypnotic repetition, first left, then right, the cat pushes her paws against the throat of the elder. Her face radiant with angelic beauty the elder smiles down at the cat, cooing softly, gently, her hand in constant movement over the stretched out back, slowly sliding down over thighs and back legs, touching, stroking, giving nurture to her companion.

On a quiet Christmas Eve on an Alzheimer’s Unit, in the glow of a golden Bethleham star, I capture this moment between an elder and a white, gold spotted cat.