Over the last few weeks, our ElderSparks clients have seen great successes but at this point, it’s still too early to talk about them. Passover, which begins Friday at sundown, will have to serve as a substitute instead.

A central feature of the holiday’s ritual meal is the seder plate, displaying symbols of the bondage and exodus that the Jewish people experienced as slaves in Egypt. This universal tale of slavery, freedom and new beginnings can be a metaphor for personal truth as well, which is why we asked J~ and S~ to create seder plates reflecting parallel themes in their own lives. To assist them, a tabletop full of miscellaneous objects and art materials was provided.


J~, whose stroke left him with partial paralysis and aphasia, let out a “What the hell?!!!” when he entered the room and saw what awaited him. This was the first of 4-5 coherent thoughts he was able to articulate throughout the hour-long session, a number he achieved at the last session too.

S~ gave considerable thought to the objects she selected; J~ picked his without hesitation. The exact assignment may have gotten lost in translation but the exercise proved satisfying nonetheless. It was interesting to see the different arrangements, and to learn what the elements represented for each participant.


J~’s plate (starting clockwise at the top):

Telephone answering machine tapes: Voice; speaking

Pearls: Beauty; purity

Leaves and charm: Luck

Glasses: Vision, whose absence would cause fear and insecurity

Pocket watch: The passage of time

Turtle: Steadfastness or “something like that”

Past due: Anxiety about meeting expenses


 S~’s plate

A small universe with a spool of thread at the center and a thimble above it symbolizing S~’s quilt art. The umbrella protects against rain but also suggests weather and life-giving water, as does the leaves. The folded, gold-colored piece of paper offers shade and protection. There is a rubbery monster at the 3 o’clock position that adds a weirdness quotient and balances Kuan Yin — the Buddhist deity of compassion — which “just fit in.” The feathers represent flight, the sea appears in the form of a shell and duck, autumn as a wispy seed head. The key unlocks a treasure, the word door indicates home, and the hand beneath it symbolizes gifts and giving.

Before leaving for lunch, we passed around an object we had all overlooked: a rubber eraser imprinted with a heart and the word love. Each of us held it for a few moments while absorbing its message. It felt like a beautiful note to end on.