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Friday, November 24, 2017

Rules of Engagement - Precious Memories 27

Before 2017 comes to an end, two of my close friends will have earned the title of mother-in law. 

I've been thinking a lot about in-laws (especially during the holidays) and how my mom handled her title.

Looking back, I think that my mom tried to be the mother-in-law she never had.  Her experience was typical of the nightmares you hear about. My mom didn't want to be the one repeating that in the family cycle, so she took a different approach.  She had a fantastic relationship with my husband, and they were very good friends from the start.

Her official role began when the ring went on my finger. And from that moment, she let us both know that this upcoming wedding was about "US".  Only the two people saying the "I Do" should have the say-so and that was her stance leading up to our wedding day.  She was a staunch supporter of "let the bride have her day."  I appreciated that she never once forced her opinions or suggestions on us.  Even when my then fiance' and I asked her about something, she would ask us what we wanted. Wedding planning was a joy with her, because she kept the focus on us.  Any opposition, heartache and headache we had (and we had our fair share), did not come from her.  She affirmed our choices and encouraged us to do things our way.  

The only thing I know for sure that she didn't like about our wedding, was the stress we were caused by others who thought they had a right to express their opinions and requests.  (but that's an entirely different blog)

After the wedding was over, my mom observed careful boundaries.  She set these herself, we never had to establish any ground rules with her.  She was always welcome in our home, but never dropped in.  She would call first to make sure it was a good time and ASK if she could stop by. No matter how many times we told her she didn't have to do that, she simply honored our marriage and showed us respect.  She had a key to our home and yet never just let herself in.  

She never asked us about personal things like finances, income, our sex life or other off limit topics. She never got into our personal business or disagreements. My husband treated her as if she were his own mother, and she responded in kind.  We both knew, she would never stand for either of us running home to her to "tattle" or talk bad about our spouse.  She would not take sides. And if she knew we were going through something, she certainly never went and told anyone else about it.  She did not share information about us or gossip.

She didn't tell us how to raise our son, or what we were doing wrong.  She had years of knowledge in child rearing, and could have easily pointed out the many errors we made.  Instead, she encouraged us and would give us breaks, as needed.  When she watched our son for us, she would abide by our wishes. She didn't sneak him candy and pop in an attempt to undermine our parenting. Our rules were her rules and that was that.

Over the years, my mom built a solid, strong relationship with my husband. There was never any doubt in my mind that they loved each other. My husband and mom never had a cross word between them. He was with me the day that she passed away, at her side as he stood by my side. My mom knew she was leaving me in good hands.

At her funeral, he spoke about what a priceless treasure he had.  He knew that not everyone had the same experience in life with their mother-in-law, and he talked about how grateful he was to have known her.  

I wasn't the only one she left with precious memories.   

*The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.  

You can start reading our story from the beginning here:
Precious Memories 1 

You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
The Bridge That Love Built -Precious Memories 26

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Bridge That Love Built -Precious Memories 26

Whenever I hear The Judds sing “Love Can Build A Bridge” it reminds me of our journey through Alzheimers.   

The lyrics go like this:

I'd gladly walk across the desert

With no shoes upon my feet

To share with you the last bite
Of bread I had to eat
I would swim out to save you
In your sea of broken dreams
When all your hopes are sinkin'
Let me show you what love means

Love can build a bridge

Between your heart and mine

Love can build a bridge
Don't you think it's time?
Don't you think it's time?

Love is the bridge that got me over the thorny, stony places when my heart was pierced with grief.

Love is the bridge that took me over troubled swirling waters, as I cried my way home.

Love is the bridge that took me above the twisted confusing roads, strange and unfamiliar.

Love was the bridge that kept our hearts connected as her mind slipped away.

*The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.  

You can start reading our story from the beginning here:
Precious Memories 1 

You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
Might As Well Laugh 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Might As Well Laugh - Precious Memories 25

As our journey through the horrible minefield of Alzheimer’s was coming to the end, I had to find a way to celebrate small moments of hope and joy.   As her moments of clarity became fewer and farther between, I learned to be grateful for them.

I tried to celebrate them, instead of mourn them. The small things, suddenly became the big things. A smile, a hug, her recognizing who I was.   Her reaching out to me, calling me “the baby.”

The face she made when I told her how old I was on my last birthday. The big smile she gave me, as she woke up from her nap and realized I was there.

The twinkle in her eye, when she said something she wasn’t supposed to, usually a naughty word.

The look on her face, when she smelled her favorite lotion.

I had many things to celebrate, even during the darkest moments of this horrible disease.

As time progressed, I relied on a sense of humor to cope. As I begin to think back on some of the funny memories, they now bring me comfort.  When I laugh, her laughter lives on through me.

During some of our visits, my mother would give me what she considered to be very useful "advice". Back when she was still communicating pretty well, and able to be in assisted living, I used to stop by, help her shower, and get her pajamas on before bed. Some of my fondest memories stem from this time and some of biggest laughs we had, took place during these evenings.

While it wasn't exactly "convenient" for me to go and do this several times a week, it was time well spent.   

Please read that sentence again, sweet caregivers.

It may not be convenient and I know you are tired.  But you are investing in precious memories.

One night, I arrived to find her looking around her room. She finally picked up her shoe and proceeded to "hide" her watch deep down inside.  When I asked her why she was hiding her watch, she looked around conspiratorially and said in a whisper, "Because you just never know."

I knew better than to question her so I replied, "Okay.  Good advice, Mom."  We went on with our task and about 30 minutes later, as I was helping her dress she looked at me with a puzzled, concerned expression.  I asked her what was wrong and she said..........

"Anybody seen my watch?"

I lost it.  I could not help myself, and I burst into a laughing fit.  She laughed too and we both had tears coming out of our eyes.

Remember, when you have a choice in this journey whether to laugh or might as well laugh.

I look back and know that I was left with a priceless gift. My mother taught me to love God and family, have a strong work ethic, always have a good book, and learn to laugh at what life throws your way.

I can't wait to hear her laugh again someday.

*The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.  

You can start reading our story from the beginning here:
Precious Memories 1 

You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
The Birthday Gift - Precious Memories 24

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Love So True by Melissa Jagears

Jagears Delivers a Wonderfully Romantic Read with a Hero and Heroine to Cheer For

From Goodreads:

Evelyn Wisely has a heart for the orphans of Teaville and works at a local mansion that rescues children out of the town's red-light district and gives them a place to live. But her desire to help isn't limited to orphans. The owner of the mansion, Nicholas Lowe, is willing to help her try to get the women working in prostitution out of the district as well--if she can gain the cooperation and support of local businessmen to go against the rest of the community. 

David Kingsman has recently arrived in Teaville from Kansas City to help with one of his father's companies in town. While he plans on staying only long enough to prove his business merit to his father, he's shown interest in Evelyn's work and is intrigued enough by her to lend his support to her cause. 
They begin with the best of intentions, but soon the complications pile up and Evelyn and David's dreams look more unattainable every day. When the revelation of a long-held secret creates a seemingly insurmountable rift between them, can they trust God still has a good plan for them despite all that is stacked against them? 

Cafe Lily's Review:

I did not read the first book in this series, but the second book stood alone very well. I actually didn't realize this was part of a series, until I was well into A Love So True.

I enjoyed the storyline and characters, and as always, I am a huge fan of historical fiction. Make sure you read the author's note in the back of the book, regarding baby Hope.  I liked that the author researched her subject matter well, and knew what to include or leave out, based on the time period she was writing about.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Birthday Gift - Precious Memories 24

I woke up that birthday morning, with mixed emotions.

My heart was heavy, yet I knew it was time. I knew in my heart, this would be the last birthday I would have with my mother still present here on Earth.

Time was drawing near, and I could sense that the thin veil separating her from her eternal home, was slowly beginning to pull back. She had become quieter, and was sleeping more. Most of my visits now, were sitting at her bedside, watching her sleep. I attempted to keep up my rigid routine, and be with her every waking moment. I was losing sleep, as she slept the days away. I was so afraid I wouldn’t be with her when the time came.

At one point, barely able to stand up straight and keep my eyes open, a nurse I had built rapport with took me by the shoulders and brought her face close to mine, staring straight into my glazed eyes. 

She gently whispered, “Go home. We will call you if there is any change. I get why you want to be here, but please, go home.”

And then she held me as I wept. I was so tired. I wanted the suffering to be over, but I wasn’t ready to let go.

However, I took her advice and I went home.

So when I woke up that birthday morning, I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself.  My mom had always been half of my birthday celebration. It was our tradition. I knew she would want me to go out and do something, yet I felt guilty.

 How could I go celebrate?   I wasn’t in the mood for cheesecake. 

What I wanted and needed for my birthday, wasn’t going to happen. I wanted her healed, in her right mind, and to stick around awhile longer. I wanted a miracle.

I didn’t stay away long. I made a quick trip to the store, to appease my worried husband who was deeply concerned for my health and well-being. He wanted me to get away and just breathe, but I wasn’t feeling it.

I couldn’t shop and celebrate anything. I wasn’t in the mood.

When I arrived back in my mom’s room that afternoon, the hospice Chaplain was there. She had been reading the Bible out loud, and my mom rested peacefully in her bed. Soft hymns were playing, via the Chaplain’s iPod which was near my mom’s pillow so she could hear it. There was a tangible presence in that room, I could feel the peace and calm as I walked in. I gently sat next to my mom’s bed in my normal spot, and that is when she opened her eyes. She turned her head towards me and smiled. It was the first time her pretty blue eyes had met mine, in days. I looked at the Chaplain who smiled at me and said, “She’s awake.”

My mom raised her arm up, beckoning me to her. I switched to the other side of her bed and sat gently so as not to hurt her. She stroked my arm, smiling and nodding her head yes. I looked at the Chaplain again, who smiled and said, “She seems very coherent right now.”

I leaned over my mom, bringing my face closer to hers, and said, “Mom, you know who I am today?” She smiled and said, “My baby.”

I lost it. 

The Chaplain, who was a little stunned, said, “It’s the first time I’ve heard her speak, and that was clear as a bell.”

I needed a moment to compose myself, I was choking on my tears. My mom continued to rub my arm, and pulled me down closer for a hug. I hugged her as best as I could with her in bed, and she began to take her hands and play with my hair. She had always messed around with my curls in my younger days. She rubbed my hair, stroked my arm, and when I told her I loved her, she said, “I love you too.”  Clear as a bell.

The Chaplain and I just looked at each other, more than a little stunned.

And then the Chaplain said, “This is a moment of clarity you have been given. It is a gift. Embrace it and enjoy it.”

She stayed in the room taking notes, but allowing us to have this moment. As my tears soaked the bedspread, my mom smiled and called me “the baby” several times. I am her youngest and she often referred to me as such, when I was growing up. To hear her use the term, and have her recognize me, was almost more than I could take.

When I finally gained some composure, I said, “Mom it’s my birthday today. You know how old I am?” She smiled and shook her head no, waiting for me to go on. When I told her just how old I was that day, she opened her eyes big and wide as if surprised and made a big “OHHHH” with her mouth.

We all laughed and she smiled at me with a twinkle in her eye.

For the last time, we were sharing my birthday, smiling and laughing, and I felt her mother’s love radiating through me.

It was the perfect gift.

  *The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.  

You can start reading our story from the beginning here:
Precious Memories 1 

You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
Stand By Me - Precious Memories 23

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Going Purple - Alzheimer's Awareness Month

June is Alzheimer's Awareness month.

Last year when I went "purple"  I wrote about the signs and warnings that I began noticing, regarding my Mom's battle.

During the month of June, many will share their story.   But the truth is, the awareness of this disease is every day for those of us affected by it.  

Every minute, every moment, every waking hour...we are painfully aware.

Not one day goes by that I don't think about my mom.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, who has many wonderful resources on their website:

 Alzheimer’s is fatal. It kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined. 

• Alzheimer’s is not normal aging. It’s a progressive brain disease without any cure. 

• Alzheimer’s is more than memory loss. It appears through a variety of signs and symptoms. 

During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association asks you to learn more about Alzheimer’s, share your story and take action.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Stand By Me - Precious Memories 23

It all started with this post.

A year ago, Memorial Day weekend, I began sharing my personal experience with Alzheimer's.

Maybe you are here, right now reading through some of my posts as you stand by feeling helpless. Maybe you are watching friends or family members wear themselves out, as they cope with a diagnosis (dementia or otherwise).

Maybe you are the weary one.

Whether they care for a loved one at home, or have the help of a facility, they still need your support.

I was completely unprepared for the level of exhaustion that came with my mom's diagnosis. I was worn out mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Decisions had to be made daily, sometimes multiple times a day.  Care plans readjusted.  Doctors and staff meetings, bills paid.....all while my heart was shattering.

Time for me in a sense stopped.  I was still trying to maintain an emotional connection with her. I struggled to balance the chaotic details that came as part of this disease.  Stanford University once reported that 41% of Alzheimer's disease caregivers die from stress-related disorders, before the patient dies.

Caregivers have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers.   This is serious business.

There are all kinds of websites that show various statistics for caregivers, and most are startling.   They need someone to stand by them. It is a lonely road.  You not only lose your loved one, but you lose your sense of normal.  Your social life takes a hit, because you become so engrossed with care. It's easy to feel isolated and forgotten.

Receiving a "thinking of you" card or a quick email, letting me know that I was still in someone's prayers, or on their mind, was such an encouragement to me.  One of my sweet friends in another state, sent me a Starbucks gift card, just so I could grab a cup of coffee.  Having a little something out of the ordinary to look forward to, made a difference.

Because most days, what you are facing in the future is nothing to look forward to.

If you find yourself able and willing, please offer as much support as you can.  You would be amazed at how much a healthy, home cooked meal would be appreciated.  Families in a situation like this, tend to neglect their own needs. I barely had time to make a grocery list, much less cook a decent meal. All of my spare time and energy, was devoted to my mom and her well being. I was working full time, caring for a spouse who at that time wasn't yet properly diagnosed, and then there was Alzheimer's.

If you want to help but are short on ideas - I have a few for you.  Offer to clean the house, or pay for a trustworthy cleaning service. Offer to mow the lawn, pick up the mail or newspaper, shovel the snow, fill up a gas tank, take the car for an oil change. Walk the pets, take them to the groomer. If small children are a consideration, offer to shuttle them to school or activities. Take the kids to the park.

I'm not suggesting that you personally PAY for these errands - but just offer to run them. Pick up take out if you don't cook or give a gift card so the family can order in.

The point is, just offer.  Even if you get turned down, I assure you, the fact that you offered means a lot. There are so many little things that become big things for us, when we are spending every spare moment with our loved one.

Most of all, just love us and please remember to not be offended if we are no longer "fun".

We are grieving.

We are focused on saying goodbye.

We don't mean to be self-absorbed but we are living a nightmare.

We are processing and trying to wrap our brain around what is taking place.

We are tired and overwhelmed.  We are numb.

We are sad and angry at the same time.

We are hurting.

We simply need you to remember us.

  *The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.  

You can start reading our story from the beginning here:
Precious Memories 1 

You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
Thinking Back On Mother's Day - Precious Memories 22