Gertrude was amazing in her earlier years and became magical later on when her life neared its end.
I’m sitting here holding on to Gertrude’s hand. Actually she is holding on to my hand and many times she holds both my hands and will not let them go for any plausible reason. She definitely still has a very strong grip. I sometimes can get Gertrude to say some words, and occasionally even an entire sentence, but then she stops. On most days you will get the best smile in the world from her and it can last for several moments. Her room is bright and warm with pictures of Jesus on one wall and her religious favorites scattered on other walls around her room blessing the atmosphere.
Once you step foot inside her space you get a happy feeling, which may sound strange since Gertrude has Alzheimer’s disease, but honestly, you don’t get depressed when you are with her. That is probably what surprised me the most. I thought I would be feeling melancholy and possibly somewhat disenchanted, but instead I always feel uplifted. It sounds somewhat peculiar, I know, but some things are just unusual and I can’t explain why I just love to sit and talk to her when I'm not entirely sure what she understands or exactly where she's at mentally at any given moment. It could be her sweet smile or the rapport between her and her husband of fifty years, Al. It has been about two years since the indignities of the disease has caused his Gertrude to stop recognizing family and friends, yet he has managed to keep her at home and comfortable treating her with kindness, love and respect visible to all who see them together.
I do know that sometimes when I hold her hand, she tells me things. It's not in words but in feelings or in her touch and other times it's the look on her face, but Gertrude is still sending out love and acceptance. She's still working her special magic on those around her and it doesn't take words to accomplish it. There is just an atmosphere around her that you can feel, and if you're ever lucky enough to know Gertrude Wisner, or someone like her, you'll feel it, too for a moment, or for several moments and you'll never ever forget it.
Don’t think for a moment that Gertrude can’t communicate anymore. She really can but you have to be willing to listen a little better and a little bit smarter. You have to study looks and gestures and touch and the joy of a moment of recognition. If you do, if you will really take the time, there are still a lot of things that Gertrude can share with you, and she will. She's in a special place where only some people go, but its uniqueness is still being studied. Sometimes I'm amazed at how truly beautiful she still is. Her face is quite youthful after eighty-eight years of age and she just exhibits the sweetness that I have always loved about her. Although some things have changed and her methods may now be somewhat altered, don’t think for a moment that Gertrude can’t share with you; she will do her part if you'll do yours.
The look on Gertrude’s face is sometimes mysterious. She's in deep thought somewhere else, probably a much better place. I sometimes believe that she is more aware of important events than I am. I don’t really know where she is - no one does. I think she knows some secrets, don’t you?
I had noticed recently that Gertrude would react if you said her name and squeezed her hand at the same time to get her attention. You could definitely get some eye contact and focus, if only for a few moments. So I kept asking her over and over again, "Gertrude, how are you doing? ... Gertrude, how are you doing?" Sometimes I would repeat the same phrase many times just trying to get her to center on words. Then one night Gertrude said to me, "Well Jeanne, I think I'm doing just fine." It was quite a surprise.