I went to visit my dear friend Jean to celebrate her on her birthday. It also happened to be the the one year anniversary of Mr. Clarke’s passing after his battle with Dementia. I wasn’t sure if I was suppose to ask, but I wanted to see how she was doing emotionally. So I asked how she was feeling after just one year of being without her husband. She and I had previously discussed my desire to do what I am now calling a “Blog-Spirationals” so I was led to take this opportunity, not only to celebrate with her but to also celebrate her on how she has inspired my life. Jean turned 77 years old on January 12 and Mr Clark passed away the day after. My first question for Jean was how life felt to be without Mr Clarke this year, holding back a little she said “I miss him.” However she also expresses her gratitude “I’m so grateful to still be here and living a vibrant and healthy life”. At that moment very confidently and with strong conviction she said she feels 54. What a position to take, as I think back on it. A moment of truth after the long, and interesting journey with Dementia she shared with her husband Jim Clarke. I met Jim and Jean when I was working for Silverado Memory Care, he was one of the first people I became attached to when I started volunteering. He was one of the two individuals that reeled me in with a “Winnie the Pooh” voice. Winnie the Pooh is one of my favorite animated beings. Mr. Clark was sweet, yet quite outspoken and he loved his wife Jean. Everyday, every 15 to 20 minutes he would ask if Jean had called to say what time she was coming to visit him. And the response was always the same from our team “yes, she just called a minute ago and said she is on her way” that was us stepping right into Mr. Clark’s reality. If ever he became agitated, all we had to do was remind him of his Air Force days and his love of aircraft, that opened the portal for him to teach us all he knew on the subject, he loved to teach. Oftentimes we would shift back to Jean, the love of his life and he expressed how he desired to get away with her on “Hilltop”. I asked Jean what that meant and she clarified it was the guest house at his son James’ house in New York on a “hilltop”. Awwwwww, such a romantic. Jim was worth getting to know and since he was so interesting, I thought his wife either had to be equally as interesting; if not more.
Moving to Texas was a major move for me personally; it was my intent to explore “me” and meet new people and discover new things. Working in both Memory Care and Dialysis, put me in the path of those young and old suffering or coping with an illness the best they knew how. So when Jean says she is grateful to be living a healthy and vibrant life, it is truly something to be grateful for.
I later found out that both Jean and Jim were not just interesting, but are experts in recognizing beautiful and creative things. Jim and Jean were great supporters of the Navajo arts. Jean invited me to work on a project with her and amidst our project, I discovered an even greater love of art, Folk Art. After seeing all that she and Jim collected from so many parts of the world and the uniqueness of it, I’ve been inspired to take my gifts of creating to another level, or should I say just be confident in my creativity. Folk Art is defined as being done by a person without formal training. But the greatest component of Folk Art to me is confidence in what you see to create. A lot of Jim and Jean’s collections are from the Native American and Navajo Cultures, which really grasped my attention because my great grandmother was Creek Indian. Many things began to unfold at that moment and I realized why I was so close to my great grandmother Maggie Hildreth Wilkerson. It has also explained why I’m able to connect with the spirit through nature. Native American Art speaks, tell stories and capture one’s emotion. From the pottery, to the rugs, to the Kachina Dolls through to the story tellers— what a compelling collection I thought — absolutely compelling. Jean was not only a lover of the things she collected but her ability to articulate her knowledge was fascinating. She had me amazed, I’m more than positive that the spirit of the Creek Indian was bearing witness to what I was being taught. What I learned is that the Navajo and other Native American Cultures, had to use what they had in terms of i.e., supplies, paints and natural resources to create. My theory, is that this is what keeps the spirit of such culture alive and it connects us with nature. Again, philosophically and theoretically; this is why I believe it was providential for me to come to Texas. I’ve met and had some of the most interesting conversations with absolute fascinating Seniors. I am so grateful to have connected with those that have passed on, because those conversations were impactful.
We never know when we’ll have to tap into the spirit of who we are in order to keep us going. Oftentimes, we get weary as a result of illnesses that come with the physical breakdowns of our minds and bodies or the circumstances in life that may seem unfair. Mine and Jean’s project opened my eyes to who I am at my core and it definitely took my focus away from what I thought was an unfair circumstance at the time. Jean and Jim in two different ways taught me to listen from within. Jim’s Dementia was exacerbated by a tick-borne disease, which to me and I’m sure sometimes to him seemed so unfair. But Jim’s love for aircraft and Jean Walbridge kept his spirit alive and would soothe his soul. Jean, it seemed to me, gave me back what I was giving to Mr. Clark and others at Silverado; a unique kind of hope. Jean was an instrument to remind me to tap into who I am at my core and to make new possibilities happen. But as a Dementia Care Specialist (A Silverado Culture) I am able to remind one with Dementia of who they were, in order to enjoy for the moment. I am grateful to have crossed paths with families of the Silverado Culture because they taught me a great deal about who I am, and even now things continue to unfold. And I absolutely love being the best version of myself. Thank you Jim and Jean, for your support of the Native American Arts; because of you, I could hear the whisper from the Creek.
Jim and Jean’s inspiration motivated me to explore all areas of my creativity, because of them I’ve written my first Novella. In order that I may pay it forward and inspire others, your support would be greatly appreciated.