By Chelsea Magyar
“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).
Before I was born, my grandma kept forgetting my mom was pregnant. She was upset and confused that no one told her, but the truth was my grandmother was experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer’s dementia.
By the time I was 10 years old, my grandma began to forget who my mom was. She began to forget who I was.
By the time I was 20 years old, I watched my mom visit my grandma almost every weekend. We would visit when my grandma was cheerful and happy to see us. We would visit when my grandma made my mom cry. We would visit when my grandma would tell me, “Be good,” because those were the only words she could remember for someone she was starting to forget. We would visit when my grandma developed aphasia and could not remember how to say any words at all.
Watching my mom go and visit my grandma through thick and thin taught me what love is. My mom’s consistency despite her feelings was a testament of God’s love. God remembers and shows up for us even when we are forgetting and can’t manage tenderness or the feelings of love.
And God remembered my family in the midst of this battle for love and remembrance. A few days before she died, we partook in a celebration of final sacraments at my grandma’s bedside while she slept. She passed away in January of 2020.
Two years later, I started volunteering with an organization called The Rosary Team, which sends small groups into nursing homes to pray the rosary with residents. The first time I volunteered, I was surprised and delighted to be volunteering in a memory care unit. The residents reminded me of my grandma and her housemates.
I get to go pray the rosary with these residents most every week now. Our group has grown so large that we barely fit in the fireplace room where we pray. These are my heroes, and they inspire me.
One man’s wife comes to pray with him, and when she is not there, he asks to pray for her. There is a woman who is so beautiful and sweet and when the other residents fall asleep, she picks up their rosaries for them. One man doesn’t remember what a rosary is, but he puts it on his head and makes a goofy face, and then he peacefully falls asleep to the embrace of our prayers and those of the Blessed Mother.
I don’t know who these people have remembered or what they have forgotten. I’m not sure how much longer they will be able to say the rosary prayers aloud. But every time I pray “Hail Mary…” and am answered with the second half of the prayer, I am joyful that this memory is there for now and that God remembers, even when we forget.
Before my grandma died, I used to love sitting with her and holding her hand. It was a way we showed love and tenderness to each other when we didn’t have words. Now praying the rosary as part of the Rosary Team is my way of getting to hold hands with people who have so much love and tenderness to share.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
To join the Rosary Team and learn more, visit therosaryteam.org/volunteer.