By: Judge, Claudia Laird
When this comes to an end, and it will end we all will have interesting stories to tell about the challenges we faced during this crisis. As the guardianship judge, I encounter with people who are in crisis. I have been reminded of the story of one of our elderly proposed wards from a few years back. There is no case pending, so I may ethically discuss her situation, but I will not reveal her name. It all started when she ended up in the hospital (like so many do) after a fall. The hospital identified her dementia and could not release her without someone to take care of her. There was no one. That’s when our court got involved. The court investigator is tasked with investigating all proposed guardianships to see if a guardianship can be avoided. As the hearing approached, my court investigator felt obligated to warn me that this woman hated the government and hated me for not letting her go home. She had even stated she would kill me if she could. I assured my investigator all would be well and we moved forward with our first hearing. She walked in the courtroom dressed to the nines with the dignity of a queen. The minute she opened her mouth to speak, I understood completely. She was Polish. I knew what happened to her before I ever heard her story. I knew she had been involved in the tragedies that took place during WWII. By the end of the hearing she told me in German of her thanks to our court and to me. I just adored her. Before we finished with her case, I asked my investigator to see if she would tell her story. She did.
As a child, she and her mother were sent to a concentration camp. They were fortunate to have blond hair, unlike the other Jewish victims in the camp. Her mother hatched an escape plan. A bold one. They waited until there were new guards at the camp entrance. Her mother held her hand, and they walked out, right under the noses of their captors. Amazing.
I often wonder what her mind’s eye sees in her memory. The suffering. The guards. Her mother. I wonder if she knew as a young child the bravery it took to escape, and that her mother saved her life in doing so.
I understood completely her mistrust of me and our court, because we are part of the government…an institution she will always fear.
So, in our days of challenge try to remember how blessed we truly are and look out for your neighbors. Remember when you look in the eyes of someone lost in dementia…that you are also looking at a life, a valuable person rich with the history of a life once lived.