Father Anselm

I met Father Anselm when we moved my grandmother into her nursing home. Youville Care Home is
affiliated with the Catholic church, but you don’t have to be Catholic to go there. Just very lucky.
Father Anselm was lucky. In conversation with the care aides and receptionist there, I learned a
little of his story.

He had spent his life at the mission in Mission, you know the one up on the hill, that you can see
when you drive the straggly hinterlands of Highway 7?

I dont know what he did at the mission, but I remember being indignant that the Catholic church would shunt him off to a nursing home, albeit a Catholic one. What price charity, hey, Catholics?

Then I learned that one of his early stages of Alzheimer’s made him wander at night. And he wasn’t just wandering within the walls of the mission. He was wandering down the hill, out in the woods he walked all of his adult life. Now, a walk in the woods is a fine thing, but when you’re
eighty-something, and it’s dark out, and you can’t remember where you are, and there are coyotes in the woods, it’s not such a good idea anymore.

So they sent him to Youville. When the weather was warm, he spent lots of time on the Fourth
Floor balcony, gazing at Queen Elizabeth Park. He loved the cherry blossoms in springtime, the tour buses in the summer, and the foliage in the fall.

He was also a great music lover. His knowledge of religious music tghrough the ages was
encyclopedic. But to him, the most holy music of all was The Beatles, especially the early stuff.

Living in the mission his whole life he had a keen sense of order and community. He knew that we worried that Grandma wasn’t eating much, so he’d whisper to us as we said hi to him, “She had lots of potatoes at lunch”, or “She had two desserts,” with his eyebrows raised in significant arches. Even living up there on the hill all his life, he loved people, loved communicating, loved being able to make contact.

His was a long slide into the invitable helplessness that Alzheimer’s brings. He was coherent for
several years, recognizing all the residents and most of the family members who were regular
visitors.

He died about two weeks ago.

Father Anselm, wherever you are now, I hope they’ll let you listen to The Beatles.

3 Comments to “Father Anselm”

  1. By Zen Render, April 6, 2006 @ 11:46 pm

    Father Anselm, wherever you are now, tell John Lennon I said “Hi.”

    Jim Henson, too, for that matter.

  2. By Liz, April 7, 2006 @ 12:33 am

    Were they Catholic?

    See, I’d dearly love to have Father Anselm meet John Lennon in the Hereafter (and sing with him, Father A would dig that), but you know the traditional Catholic view of Heaven: They’re the only ones there.

  3. By Arwen, April 7, 2006 @ 9:26 pm

    Well, McCartney was baptised Catholic, but he’s not dead. He met Lennon at a Church Picnic, but I don’t know whether that means anything about Lennon’s status in the church. Except that maybe God was instrumental in bringing about the Beatles, all puns intended.

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