The unforgettable story about someone who forgot


By Marianne Delorey

Many years ago, I was helping to take care of a group of elders who had suffered some memory loss. I came to understand the value that people have regardless of how much they could actually remember. I saw that if you strip away the forgotten words and misplaced memories, you are left with the purest part of humanity — their emotional selves. And it is here that us caregivers can still connect with them and they with us.

M.Delorey_headshotOne day, I stopped in to see a lady I’ll call Ana. She was in her room and struggling to unclasp a purse. I asked if I could help as she was clearly frustrated. Given my younger fingers, it took mere seconds for me to do it for her. She was very grateful. This moment in time would have quickly been forgotten if it weren’t for what happened next.

Several minutes later, Ana came looking for me with something in her hand. She approached me, thanking me for helping her, and held something out for me to take. I took her offering, which was wrapped in tissue. Downplaying the scene and trying to insert some humor, I said, “Oh, tissue.” and smiled. She thanked me again and walked away.

I unwrapped the tissue, and found — more tissue. I never found out if she intended to give me tissue because she had nothing else to give or if she thought she wrapped something inside it before she gave it to me.

It didn’t matter to me as I knew it was a gift from the heart. I shoved it in my pocket, and later that night I dropped it on my nightstand.

About two weeks later, my family said goodbye to our longtime family dog. We made the heartbreaking decision to put him down because he was in pain. It was a very difficult goodbye and that night, I reached for the tissue on my nightstand. It was then I realized that Ana’s gift was truly all I needed. Not only did I use her gift, but as I dried my eyes, I understood that she was giving me the gift of love and understanding.

She may not have remembered my name day to day, but somehow, I truly believe she knew that I would need her gift of compassion when I next faced a challenge in my life. It was a small gift, but one I will never forget.

And so, when people wonder why I value those in our society that seem like they have the least to give, I tell them about someone who gave me nothing, and everything, all wrapped in one.

Marianne Delorey, Ph.D., is the executive director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or and Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at