‘Have I taken Communion yet?’

Entering her living room on a recent chilly Sunday, I was warmed with a greeting of open arms and a wide smile. She remembers me, I thought, relieved, for sometimes she does not. Taking my hands in hers, she squeezed tight and commented, as she often does, that I needed warmer gloves. I told her I would get some.

“Just tell me your name again,” she said. I did.

“And you come every week?” she asked. I do.

She settled herself in the worn, tan recliner. “Ah, I thought so. Come sit.”

I first met Barbara more than two decades ago when we volunteered together through our church. Though 40 years separated us, we bonded, and I had been to this same house, sat in this same room, many times. Different commitments took us in different directions until we were reunited last fall when I began bringing her holy Communion on Sunday morning. Homebound with dementia and short term memory loss, Barbara’s recollections of me were only from the past.

As I opened my bag, she asked why I had come, despite my telling her just moments ago. She sighed and shook her head, seemingly annoyed at this disease that has robbed her of so much. Somehow, though, her wit and sense of humor remain. “So how old am I anyway?” she wondered. Ninety-two, I replied. She laughed, saying, “Well, that explains it!” A moment later, she frowned and asked, “Have I taken Communion yet?”

While I laid out the corporal and lit the tiny candle, we reminisced. I reminded her of our years working together and how my daughters—so little at the time—loved to visit and play with her hamsters. She smiled, remembering, then paused and asked. “Have I taken Communion yet?”

Opening the prayer book and placing down the pyx, I glanced at Barbara, whose mind had moved into the more distant past. She talked of her childhood home, gray with white shutters, and how she took a left when walking to school and a right when walking to church. Suddenly, she was with me again and asked for the third time, “Have I taken Communion yet?”

On my first visit months ago, I didn’t know if Barbara would join me in prayer or even if she could consume the entire host. Though she struggles to remember so much, including when her brother died, if she ate breakfast, or whether her son came by the day before, her recitation of the “Our Father,” “Hail Mary,” and all responses are flawless. There is no pause, no confusion. She prays and looks heavenward, taking Communion without hesitation and reverently saying “Amen.” Her mind is not on hamsters, breakfast, or her childhood. She is fully present in her own unique way with God and with prayer. Though so much else is forgotten, Barbara retains a deep familiarity with her faith, an integral part of every one of those 92 years.

Preparing to leave, I told her that we would pray and reminisce together again soon.

“Will you be back next week?” I will.

“Have I taken Communion yet?” You have.

“Did I say all my prayers?” Perfectly.