WHAT a lovely hour that was! (Collecting for Alzheimer’s at Marks & Spencer, Saturday November 16)
When Beth, powerhouse that she is, asks friends to help collect money for the Alzheimer’s Society my heart often sinks. It’s a strange situation to be standing in a doorway with a charity pot hoping that people will give to such a worthy cause and often, as I joked to my fellow collector, it’s hard not to take it personally if people walk on by and don’t even acknowledge you. Am I invisible? Or is it that people just don’t want to feel pressured into supporting yet another charity, albeit it a very noble and worthy one. We are, after all, cash strapped.
But, determined to make it pleasant for everyone I decided that the aim of the hour was to meet as many people as possible, listen to their stories if they chose to tell me and have some fun.
A big old ‘Good Morning’ with a lovely genuine smile soon countered any fears I had. So many people opened their eyes and their mouths and almost sang a hearty ‘Good Morning’ back at me it then became easy congratulate them on being up so early on a Saturday morning to go shopping! This, of course led to the next stage of chatting and then the stories would come. Beautiful, sensitive, heart-warming and in some cases tragic stories.
Like the lady who was going straight from shopping to see her mum who was in a home. She hoped against hope her mum would recognise her today. And another lady, who had realised that if she put an old black and white movie on and sit and watch it with her mum often they would be able to have conversations about what happened next in the film and singing and laughter would follow. A god-send for her heart, she said.
Then there was the gentleman who had lost his wife seven years ago, a blink of an eye when you are in your 70s and whose eyes filled with tears as he spoke of her gentle spirit and how he felt he had lost her long long before she passed away.
The significance of the words on the stickers ‘Remember the person’ were never more poignant that at that point. Another lady passed, small and a bit world weary, who told me she was going to visit her brother who had cancer but her mum had passed with Alzheimer’s and she had felt very isolated.
I gave her a leaflet which, to be fair has lots of information about how people can get involved with the support groups that go on, from singing, gardening, walking and hopefully in the future, drama.
The Christmas decorations that adorned The Ridings seemed a bit mis-matched to the mood at that point.
Another woman’s story lingers as well. Her dad had died five years ago, just after his 70th birthday. He had been mis-diagnosed and a lot of time had been wasted. By the time they had realised what was wrong it was too late for any form of intervention. Her memory was starting to play tricks on her and she was desperately concerned that she would be left and abandoned by the doctors as she felt her father had been. Shrugging her shoulders and full of anxiety she gave me a small smile as she went on with her day.
Thank goodness my collection partner was happy to collect while I listened. Don’t get me wrong my tin was pretty full by the time I had finished but I hope that I was able to give to the other victims of this terrible disease, the carers, the silent supporters, the worriers, the shoppers, the cleaners, the hospital visitors, the organisers, the children, the wives, the husbands, the assumed, something of myself.
It was a lovely hour.