Beauty in Pain

“When I was in second grade, my friend and I stayed inside one recess, and saw a bunch of 8th graders making something with our teacher. We went inquiring and found out they were making corsages. So they taught us how to make them, and then every month, we’d deliver them by hand to our local convalescent home to the residents who had birthdays that month and sing them happy birthday. My friend and I continued this tradition every year, every month (even during summer) up until we graduated 8th grade. And it was super sweet and kinda sad (bc old peoples homes and sometimes you were their first visitor in forever). So there was this one patient, Leigh Baker, who was our favorite.

Every time we would go to deliver corsages, even if it wasn’t during her birthday month, we’d stop by and say hi. Leigh liked to paint. Every time we were there, she’d give us one of her paintings. Not that they were like OMG THESE ARE AMAZING but like they’re simple and you get really attached (I’ll send a pic of one). And one summer, for her birthday month, we painted her this big mural on some paper and hung it in the hall outside her room. When we first met Leigh, she already had a hard time speaking, but by the time we were in 8th grade, she was essentially mute. But still, she’d give us one of her paintings.

Recently I was looking at my collection of paintings from her and I was hit by some sadness and I realized it was very possible that she has already passed away. I was talking to my older sister (who had come with us a few times) about whether she remembered Leigh, and she told me yes, she remembered. She also told me that she distinctly remembered the chaperones talking about Leigh having dementia or Alzheimer’s. And then it hit me that she wasn’t giving us her paintings because she remembered us coming to visit her, but because she genuinely just wanted to give.

Every time we saw her, in her eyes, we were just a couple of friendly stranger schoolgirls and she wanted us to have something: a painting that she had done herself. It makes me happy because she was already such a beautiful person before I knew, and knowing what I know now just like fills my heart. But then at the same time it makes me sad because dementia and Alzheimer’s are such terrible diseases. But then I get kind of happy again because it reminds me that God is surrounding me with examples of how bad things can still result in goodness.”

– Elizabeth Diaz

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