Becoming “Unity” – A Dementia Story

Posted on July 6, 2017


I have always hated my name. The name given by my parents. Ekta. As a teen, I went by a childhood moniker, Sweets. But that didn’t go with the bad girl image I wanted to portray in college, so I switched it back to Ekta. Then, in 2004, Henri was born. Henri was my alter ego; she was everything I couldn’t be. She wrote stories, poetry, honest pieces. She was free – no baggage.

Since moving to Canada, I have been using “Ekta” mostly – professionally and personally. It is often butchered. Etka. That’s the most common misspelling. People I have worked with for over two years are still calling me Etka. Then another time, a 93-year old man living with dementia read it as “Extra” several times. It was sweet and hilarious. Anyway, so I started using Unity.

Ekta means Unity. In several Indian languages. When people living with dementia have a hard time with my name, I tell them my name is Unity. The response has been phenomenal. They find my name interesting. It is a topic of conversation. Today, more than ever, the importance of a name, MY name came to me.

El has been a client for a few months. She has Alzheimer’s and has been part of several of our programs. When we first met, she was determined to learn my name, but found it hard. So I introduced myself as Unity. It stuck with her. When I would call her, she would pick up the phone and says, “Unity, darling! How are you?” As time passed, she was determined to learn my name. I taught her to say it and she said it perfectly.

Today was not going particularly well for me. I came out of a meeting and went to the reception area. Our receptionist pointed me to the door. I saw El standing there. It has been a while. El has been deteriorating. I heard she has had a mini stroke and is refusing to leave the house most days. So, to see her standing there was quite astonishing, to say the least. She looked at me and said, “Unity! I came by to give you this.” She handed me a takeout container. It had samosas and pakoras in it. El’s friends own an Indian restaurant downtown. They had once generously donated samosas and pakoras for a Boomers Club session. I had told El that it was delicious and that I had loved it. (It is seriously good – like Indian standard good!) But for her to have remembered that after all these months was just unbelievably touching!

El was already in the elevator. I sensed she didn’t want to stay. But she said, “I asked them for Unity, but they didn’t know who I was talking about. I am sorry I couldn’t remember your name.” She looked apologetic. Our CEO was in the elevator too and was prompt to say, “Her name is Unity! You were right.” El seemed comforted by that.

I gave El a hug and sent her on her way! As usual, the samosas and pakoras were delectable. So I called El later. I thanked her profusely. I asked her for the name / address of the restaurant. She gave me the address and said, “You are not going to be a paying customer. We don’t need your money. You are amazing and I love you.”

I believe it was a message from the universe that came…reminding me of my purpose in life. It’s hard to hate my name now. So, world…this is me…Ekta…I AM Unity.

Posted in: Relationships