Testimony Excerpts from the 2014 Summer Retreat

Kristine Johnson
Hamden, Connecticut

The Memory Bridge retreat was singlehandedly the most profound and enlightening retreat that I have ever experienced.  I knew in my heart this was going to be something special, but the full experience is something I still can’t put into words.  I was not expecting to dive into the amount of personal reflection that I did.  This personal reflection only helped to accentuate and gain a deeper understanding of ways to connect with others, especially those with cognitive limitations. 

Kathleen, Le Roux
Toronto, Canada

So how has my newly nourished self changed or been affected by Memory Bridge?

Oh, let me count the ways!

I have a calmer, more relaxed, mature, grounded feeling in myself. My mind is quieter. I have less doubts and less fear. Which manifests professionally in an ability to communicate more directly with people, more assuredly, more openly and with greater sensitivity, compassion and warmth. This increased ability to communicate well applies both with people who have dementia, as well as carers and other healthcare professionals. With those with dementia, I can hear and attend better. I am seeing nuances in their communications that I had not seen before or had notattended to with the same importance.

Bethany Relyea
Chicago, Illinois

I can’t recall an experience in my life where I cried and laughed so much, hearing people talking from their own hearts.  It was a place I craved, in some ways didn’t actually knew existed, and was there for a sustained period of time and it was magical. 

Kareen King
Osage City, Kansas

The most profoundly meaningful were the philosophical nuggets that flowed from Michael’s mouth, particularly his moving story about his grandfather. I have attempted to share that story to other individuals since, especially noting the power we have to present life to another as opposed to an inadvertent “death sentence.” It’s about life and death, not good versus bad. That story was profoundly transformative.

I must add how refreshing it was to hear Michael assert that there is no pressure to build the brand of Memory Bridge. This attitude perfectly resonates with the Bridge philosophy. The beauty of Michael’s lack of brand-building agenda is that the experience of The Memory Bridge Retreat will speak for itself through our conversations, our writings, and our networking. Not because we felt we had to put in a word for it, but because it transformed our lives. DON’T EVER CHANGE!

Emily Carton
Washington, D.C.

My time in Indiana was a personal odyssey – it took me to the place where the love of my work began and to the personal wounds that made this love blossom. It started as a bridge to self and then became a bridge to others. Memory Bridge transcended its subject matter. It traveled beyond dementia. The bridge was my link to all the participants in the program, to my Buddy, and to the experiences and the stories from my past. Personal and professional threads braided into one.

Pat Cohen
Chicago, Illinois

This was an experience unlike any other I can recall in my recent past…and I must say I was surprised by that! I guess I had gotten more cynical than even I realized. So many seminars and conferences sound so much better on the flyer than they turn out to be in reality.  But not so with the Memory Bridge retreat! To me there was a noticeable change is our buddies from day one to day 5…and it was so great to be a part of bringing that to their lives.  I would like to think that even staff were changed by what they saw happening.  Maybe more “communicative” language will squeeze between the instrumental action once in a while because of our modeling?

Beth Reinert
Mobile, Alabama

The time spent in our Memory Bridge circle produced many ah ha moments.  You could see the light bulbs going off as we related our own struggles and experiences. Michael reminded us to  “know less and become aware of more” several times. I kept thinking about that as I went through the day. Interacting with our buddies at Autumn Hills Alzheimer Special Care Center provided opportunity to unpack that challenge and we would return to the circle to investigate our findings.  Our charge of “letting go, letting in, and letting be” became apparent in the many stories shared as we built bridges with our buddies and amongst ourselves. Since my return to the Alzheimer wing where my mother lives, I have been interacting with the various residents and staff on a deeper level – listening longer, drawing out meaningful interactions, and being less guarded, yet not apologetic or reluctant by my intentionality.

Mark Lodico
San Francisco, California

This retreat was life changing for me in several ways.  Most importantly, I learned more about the art of presence, especially embodied  presence, than I knew before. Not only did I learn something about presence from hearing Michael’s talks but I practiced it through being present with my “buddy” at the local memory care facility. 

Nancy Dubuar
Kennet Square, Pennsylvania

Having been at the Memory Bridge Retreat I now feel that I have hands and hearts holding me in my work.  If I have a particularly tough day, or a good day I have people with whom I can share my journey. The experience has changed me as an OT.  I start each session with focused attention, especially at time of evaluation, so that I can understand how the person can best benefit from occupational therapy and write a plan of care that is truly client centered.  I find the focused attention allows a different communication to occur and my treatment sessions are less about me getting things done, working on my agenda for the patient, but staying out of the way and being collaborative with the client. 

Birgitta Kastenbaum
Los Angeles, California
My biggest obstacle in bringing my services to families and individuals has been self-doubt. Not having followed a traditional educational model and having no university degree has kept me playing small. Being at the memory bridge retreat showed me so clearly how much value we all bring in our own unique way, and has allowed me to own what I do and how I do it. I loved sharing and felt seen and heard as I saw and heard. Bringing such a diverse group together and promoting the circle experience allowed all of us to show our authentic selves and learn from each other without judgment.

The Memory Bridge retreat allowed me a voice at a table I wasn’t sure had a place for me. I feel so much gratitude for the experience, love for the vision of Memory Bridge and for Michael as the Bridge builder with the vision.

Pauline Haase
Oslo, Norway

The passion, inspiration and honesty we shared at the Memory Bridge Retreat was wonderful and will go with me and continue to reveal itself for a long time to come. That this could happen so readily is not happenstance, but the result of an incredible amount of thought, preparation and work on the part of the organizers, who have my deepest respect. There are a lot of brilliant people and wonderful, inspiring speakers to be heard in the field of dementia, but to bring the best out of each contributor is in truth an art in itself – and is perhaps what impressed me the most in the gatherings in our circle.

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