Memory Loss: Shining a Light

December 1, 2017

How Spiritual Practice Lights the Way for Those with Memory Loss During the Holiday Season

We are in entering a season in which people literally hang lights everywhere to counteract the long dark days of coming winter. Sparkling lights outline the dark bulky shapes of homes and businesses. Showy garlands of lights are strung up along the dark roads and sidewalks of the city. Marketers and city designers are determined to add light and festivity to the long winter evenings, regardless of belief. The lights add surprising beauty and warmth to these early winter nights.

As Christians, we plan for and celebrate the birth of Christ by embracing and reflecting in our lives the coming Light. When I was a child, we did this by lighting the Advent wreath, a candle at a time, each week until Christmas. As we drew closer to Christmas Eve, the added light of another candle diminished the darkness. That growing circle of candlelight felt comforting and cozy to me as a child, in what was a very hectic time in our household.

Losing one’s memory can feel like the coming darkness toward a long winter that will never end. In my work, I have found that Spiritual Care – the familiar readings, hymns and prayers – provide the kindling to memory that gently ignites recognition to a core part of our identity. Spiritual practice lights our spirits with connection to God. When memory loss dissolves and darkens the path forward like an early night in winter, gentle, mindful Spiritual Care can light the way to drive back some of the rising darkness.

Today during our worship service, I paused and offered Holy Communion to a quietly sleeping resident. She lifted her face as she heard me and slowly opened her eyes. Though she was blind, her eyes were as clear as a blue winter sky. I asked her if she wanted a taste of Jesus’ love, and offered her the wafer. Though lost in deep dementia, with a clear ringing “yes”, she received communion. She received Jesus’ presence in a very real way: “the Light that shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

As cognition changes and memory loss sets in, core spiritual practices become even more meaningful and powerful to us as individuals. Our traditions and belief truly do light the way and provide meaning and memory to our loved ones, even as the path grows dark with memory loss.

This holiday season, may you to find ways to light your path, guiding you closer to God as we celebrate His homecoming – even in this ever-turning, chaotic world, we experience His radiant love. Peace be with you.

Rev. Lette Gamble

At Emerald Crest, we offer a deep knowledge of memory care in a specialized assisted living setting for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related conditions. We encourage you to contact us directly with any questions or request a tour. For tours and general information, please contact Christine Drasher at 952-908-2215.

For questions about our spiritual care program and Caregiver’s Meal and Meeting, or if you would like spiritual care and support for you or your loved one, contact Rev. Lette Gamble at 612-554-6379 or

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I will never forget the time we returned our mother to Emerald Crest after a day of shopping. My mother wanted to stay out longer but just couldn't. We all felt sad taking her back. When we entered,  immediately two nurse's assistants enveloped my mom in a huge hug. Her face immediately had a smile and off she was to stay and talk to these beautiful assistants. My mother truly feels the wonderful love of these dedicated workers.

— Theresa, daughter of resident