This week I received an early Christmas present: a gorgeous clerical stole with symbols and colors that reflect faith, love, and Alzheimer’s and dementia awareness, handmade by Lynda Everman, co-author of Stolen Memories: An Alzheimer’s Stole Ministry and Tallit Initiative.
I first heard about Lynda a couple of weeks ago through an Instagram post from AlzAuthors (I’m featured on that organization’s website). I immediately wrote to her to ask whether I could buy one of the stoles. I wear a Guatemalan stole during my services (here’s fuzzy photo of me wearing it) and I decided I’d love to have one of hers to wear when I do educational events.
Lynda quickly sent back the most lovely email telling me that she’d send me a stole … free of charge. Here’s what she wrote.
“The idea for Stolen Memories grew out of visits Don [her husband, Dr. Don Wendorf] and I made to 40+ pastors, priests, rabbis, and congregational care staff in 2018 to provide resources for their congregations,” Lynda wrote. “As we sat in pastors’ offices, we became aware of many and varied pastors’ stoles; and, as we commented on the stoles, we began to hear deeply personal stories of people and events that were meaningful to the clergy members. More and more, we were struck by the juxtaposition of the stoles ‘holding memories’ and of dementia stealing memories. As one who has always loved the textile arts, the idea of fabric and stoles ‘holding memories’ and telling stories resonated strongly with me. I began to think about what a pastor’s stole or rabbi’s tallit could convey in terms of support and advocacy with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
“I had also been thinking for some time of making a stole for our friend, Rev. Dr. Richard Morgan,” Lynda continued. “This idea came from his comment in a book that he co-wrote with Dr. Jane Marie Thibault, No Act of Love is Ever Wasted: The Spirituality of Caring for Persons with Dementia, about using memory cues and visual and tactile symbols—such as the sign of the cross, the use of uplifted hands in blessing, passing the peace or wearing a stole—to trigger memories. He commented, ‘It’s amazing how persistent the memory for things said, done or worn in churches over a lifetime can be.’
“And so I made my first stoles as gifts for a Presbyterian pastor who is living with dementia, and for Richard, and the project and book grew from there. We see the stoles and tallitot as visual symbols of our efforts to initiate or expand dementia-friendly faith communities that are welcoming to all despite the limitations of cognitive impairment; communities that enable worship, support care partners, educate about dementia, and promote brain health. Wearing the Alzheimer’s stole or tallit (especially in those months that are designated for dementia awareness) is meant to increase awareness, to share stories, and to spark dialogue and ideas.”
I am so honored to receive and to wear one of these stoles! Thank you, Lynda, for sending it to me, and especially for your passion and advocacy for those living with (and caring for) people with dementia.
Please check out Stolen Memories, as well as Dementia-friendly Worship: A Multifaith Handbook for Chaplains, Clergy and Faith Communities, a book she and Don published on behalf of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s ClergyAgainstAlzheimer’s Network and Faith United Against Alzheimer’s Coalition.