Mysterious Ways|Apr/May 2020
“Congratulations, Mrs. Smythe!” they said to Jean.
“Thank you, honey,” she would say with a smile.
It was how Jean greeted each guest as they came by—not using anyone’s names unless Donna told her who they were. Donna’s mother didn’t remember them. She didn’t know why she was here. She barely knew who Donna was.
Jean had dementia. Over the past three years, her condition had deteriorated. Jean had always dreamed of her granddaughter Lauren’s wedding day. But at this point, Jean didn’t recognize Lauren anymore.
As the reception went on, Jean sat quietly, smiling but not joining in the merriment. Then Lauren was ready to make her entrance, and the DJ announced her as the bride. Donna glanced at her mom. Jean was crying! “Mom, are you okay?” Donna asked, thinking Jean was in pain.
“I never thought I’d live to see Lauren’s wedding day,” Jean said. Donna was stunned. Her mom actually knew where she was! “Her clarity was amazing,” Donna says. Jean even joined the family later on the dance floor. Though Jean’s awareness didn’t last, Donna never forgot that moment of lucidity.
“It was exactly what I needed,” Donna says. “I wanted to share this with her, and I got that. I felt as if I had my mom back.”
The phenomenon Donna witnessed is mysterious but not unheard of. Family members and caregivers of those with dementia occasionally report similar instances. Somehow, the person suddenly “wakes up.” They energetically speak with their loved ones, remember who the people are around them and bring up memories long believed to have been lost. This remarkable event is referred to by scholars and medical professionals as paradoxical lucidity—moments of clarity that defy logic.
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