Healing Reflections: "The Healing Ingredient" by Jim Alf

Feb 17, 2021 | Hannah Schlotthauer, Administrative Assistant | @schlohan

The Healing Ingredient

Story by: Jim Alf

Eau Claire, WI

I have admitted my wife into a memory care facility. Getting ready, packing, marking, the night before I told her what was happening, knowing she doesn’t understand. I said it for my benefit, to assuage sorrow and dull guilt. I can’t decide; am I doing this to her or for her?

A strange apprehension on the eve of her departure. Fear of being alone?

Our last supper together was eaten on dinnerware we got for wedding gifts 50 years ago; dishes from her workmates and silverware from mine. The meal was provided by a thoughtful friend who brought carry-out from a local restaurant. At bedtime I covered her with a blanket that was also a wedding gift.

Next morning, we loaded boxes and furniture in friend’s pickups. We got in the car for our last journey together. With COVID restrictions I know we might not see each other for a long time; maybe never again.

At the facility we waited to do paperwork. I sat in an armchair, she sat on my lap. We were invited into the director’s office. I signed papers and the director gave Karen M&Ms. Karen fidgeted with her clothes, an indication she needed to use the toilet. I used it as a ruse to have an employee take her. I slipped through a door, leaving her in an alien place, with strangers, demented and unable to understand anything that was happening. The one person in the world she knew, her only anchor, disappeared and the betrayal was complete.

In time I will look at guilt differently and I find it may not be an enemy. Nor remorse or any other negative emotion. They are the proof of love and the intensity of those emotions measures the depth of my caring and compassion. But at that moment emotions ripped and tore and with conflicting feelings churning inside me and burning shame I escaped.

In the car I screamed all the way home. BETRAYAL! BETRAYAL! At home I was tightened, tense, shivering and shaking, weeping, guilty as Hell.

Then a miracle happened. Friends came and called. Brought food. A phone call to say, “Chili is hanging on the doorknob.” Handwritten notes arrived in the mail. So love and hope began the healing. As days and weeks passed food continued to arrive with messages of compassion and encouragement. The New Year came and now the days are growing longer, spring beckons and COVID vaccines are arriving. Normalcy is in sight. Karen is in a safe place cared for by competent, compassionate people. Life is going onward with that necessary ingredient: Hope.


Art by: Marilyn Lynch  

I am a self-thought artist and have been drawing for as long as I can remember. My main medium is graphite, but I wanted to add some color to this piece of artwork and decided to go with pastels. What inspired me from the story was the end of the story that he was able to heal with love and could see hope as things are headed to normalcy. I wanted to show this love in my drawing with the hand holding that they would be reunited together and also for the flowers to represent growth. Through the healing process and everything he had been through.


For more information about the Healing Reflections gallery or to get involved with the project, contact Sara Martinek.

To discuss the latest on Post-COVID Syndrome, head over to the Post-COVID Recovery discussion group.

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