While other professionals were recording cognitive losses, I was discovering a gold mine of spirituality still intact in persons with Alzheimer's disease. I began to speak in public arenas about my experiences as a chaplain on the Special Care Alzheimer's unit where I found myself singing a theme song to match what I was witnessing every day. It went like this: "Though cognition is lost, spirituality remains. Whatever lives in your heart of hearts, your soul of souls, never goes away. Alzheimer's may steal your brain cells but it can't steal your soul. Who you are and what you beleive never leaves." I had finally found the wisdom I had been seeking to match my charismatic voice.
Five years ago I arrived at The Special Care Alzheimer's Unit with my prejudices and my ignorance about the aging population. In the Hebrew Bible the word "ruah" means spirit, wind, and breath. It was the "ruah" of the Special Care Alzheimer's Unit that tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to dance with the residents that lived and died there. This is the record of my sacred time in and with the spirit, wind, and breath of an Alzheimer's unit in Atlanta from August 1997 to August 1999.
Mary Margaret Britton Yearwood is a hospital chaplain who lives in Atlanta, Georgia.