Tuesday, March 1, 2016

On the Day I Die

Reblogged from:

On the die I day a lot will happen.
The world will be busy.
On the day I die, all the important appointments I made will be left unattended.
The many plans I had yet to complete will remain forever undone.
The calendar that ruled so many of my days will now be irrelevant to me.
All the material things I so chased and guarded and treasured will be left in the hands of others to care for or to discard.
The words of my critics which so burdened me will cease to sting or capture anymore. They will be unable to touch me.
The arguments I believed I’d won here will not serve me or bring me any satisfaction or solace.   
All my noisy incoming notifications and texts and calls will go unanswered. Their great urgency will be quieted.
My many nagging regrets will all be resigned to the past, where they should have always been anyway.
Every superficial worry about my body that I ever labored over; about my waistline or hairline or frown lines, will fade away.
My carefully crafted image, the one I worked so hard to shape for others here, will be left to them to complete anyway.
The sterling reputation I once struggled so greatly to maintain will be of little concern for me anymore.
All the small and large anxieties that stole sleep from me each night will be rendered powerless.
The deep and towering mysteries about life and death that so consumed my mind will finally be clarified in a way that they could never be before while I lived.
These things will certainly all be true on the day that I die.

Yet for as much as will happen on that day, one more thing that will happen.
On the day I die, the few people who really know and truly love me will grieve deeply.
They will feel a void.
They will feel cheated.
They will not feel ready.
They will feel as though a part of them has died as well.
And on that day, more than anything in the world they will want more time with me.
I know this from those I love and grieve over.
And so knowing this, while I am still alive I’ll try to remember that my time with them is finite and fleeting and so very precious—and I’ll do my best not to waste a second of it.
I’ll try not to squander a priceless moment worrying about all the other things that will happen on the day I die, because many of those things are either not my concern or beyond my control.
Friends, those other things have an insidious way of keeping you from living even as you live; vying for your attention, competing for your affections.
They rob you of the joy of this unrepeatable, uncontainable, ever-evaporating Now with those who love you and want only to share it with you.
Don’t miss the chance to dance with them while you can.

It’s easy to waste so much daylight in the days before you die.

Don’t let your life be stolen every day by all that you believe matters, because on the day you die, much of it simply won’t.
Yes, you and I will die one day.
But before that day comes: let us live.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Amazing Grace

Soon it will be spring, some of the wildflowers are already starting to bloom and the weather is beginning to warm.  The Groundhog predicted an early spring today. The Earth has almost made a full trip around the sun since the day Mom died.

After at least 8 years of fighting the devastating effects of Alzheimer's Disease, Mom died peacefully in her sleep exactly 24 years to the day after Dad died.  This disease is called "the long goodbye" but that is a lie.  There is no goodbye.  There is only pain and heartache, and a shell of a person you used to know.  You lose a little of yourself every day as you walk the path of Alzheimer's with your loved one.  I feel cheated.
I lost Mom years before I even knew it. 

I had grown frustrated with her inability to comprehend and follow directions without realizing why she couldn't accomplish these tasks.  She would get frustrated with me for the same things - while, the time between these "discussions" could be months, it was always the same.  I have guilt for not recognizing the signs before I did.  But she was a proud woman and hid her problems well, she was able to probe for the information she needed to fill in the gaps so it didn't appear she had lost a memory.  She was clever.  Even after the disease became so pronounced she could no longer hide the symptoms, she was seeking ways to cover the gaps, and would become angry when she couldn't.  I learned how to talk to her in ways that would not give her the answers she was seeking and expose her deficits.  As heartbreaking as this was, it was necessary to get a clear picture of what was happening to her.

I retreated into a clinical approach in dealing with her illness, it was something happening to her - it was not her.

I don't remember the last time she told me directly that she loved me.  I know she recognized my name within a month of her death, spontaneously, as she saw it painted on a panel van as we were driving down the highway and pointed to it with a sparkle in her eye and a smile on her face.  It was the only way she had of communicating that she knew me, and my name; even though she couldn't speak it. That was our last really good day. There were surprisingly few during Mom's illness.  Although I have been in the company of other Alzheimer's patients who seem to be able to engage more with the world, if only for the moment.

A few days before she died, we believe she suffered a mild stroke.  She lost all ability to speak, and feed herself.  Her mobility was further impaired.  My son & I visited her and she seemed to be able to acknowledge our conversation by nodding her head.  She ate a good meal.  And died peacefully in her sleep early the next morning... as previously noted on the exact day my Father had died 24 years before.

It was as if in that moment, he was allowed to reach out to her, take her hand, and they would be together again, made whole - with my Sister - in Heaven.

Click to enlarge
The Bluebonnets were at the peak of their bloom, and wildflowers covered the highways.  Heavy rains had ended an extended and severe drought and the farmers & ranchers had renewed hope.

As for me, I was relieved.  It was over. I felt happy for her.  My prayers for some time had been that God would take her peacefully so that she could be made whole again in Heaven.  No longer trapped by the body that had betrayed her.  Her struggle was real, she fought so very hard against her disease, she hated it.  In her confusion and fear, she lashed out at me, but I understand why - there was no one else to hear her cries for help.  There would be no help.  No  understanding.  No comfort. No goodbyes.  It is the most horrible of deaths.  Lost and trapped inside yourself.  And your loved one(s) locked out, suffering, too.

Yes, I am thankful my prayers were answered.  I miss the Mom I used to know.  But she is in me, and around me.  Hopefully I can share the best parts of her with my son.  And one day I too, will fly away to heaven come some sweet blue bonnet spring. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"I'm Not Gonna Miss You"

It's been six years since Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.

She's had many falls, stitches, staples, broken bones. She never asked about Dad or my Sister both of whom passed away about 20 years before she went into care. I've mentioned them both in passing from time to time, but never really got any emotional response; so decided to just leave it be. She no longer remembers HER sister, or her best friend. I THINK she remembers me as of this writing, but am not sure she can recall my name if asked (I don't). She did see my name on the side of a panel truck as we were driving down the road and pointed at it with an excited light in her eyes, and that's good enough for me! But she certainly remembers my Son. He will be the last person she remembers. The most important person in her world. If there is one thing that brought joy to her life after the death of my Sister, it was the birth of my Son. And he returned that love, until she got sick and was no longer herself.

She has gone from independent mobility, to a walker and now is in a wheelchair. She needs assistance feeding herself, because she isn't very interested in food anymore. She is unable to have a conversation, and no longer asks about her cats, which was the ONE thing she held onto the longest. She doesn't ask to go home anymore. She does ask about the weather outside and will say "I love you', when I tell her that I love her.

It's hard to see her in this condition. But my true heartache is for her. She would hate to see herself in the condition she exists in. Her care is excellent, but she would be appalled at her inability to care for herself, and manage her own affairs. I hear her words ringing in my ears telling me that if she is unable to think for herself to "pull the plug". She was referring to the Karen Ann Quinlan case in 1975 which is so very different than Alzheimer's.  But to her, the idea of being kept alive when her/a person's mind is useless was a waste and she wanted no part of it.  While an Alzheimer's patient does suffer irreversible brain damage they do not enter into a coma. But, both conditions can be considered "a long goodbye".  Of course, I will always keep her safe and well cared for as long as she is healthy. (And that's as far as I'll go down that rabbit hole.)

The cost and emotional toll of caring for an Alzheimer's patient is well beyond the scope of most families. And it has taken a huge toll on my family. If you  haven't heard from me, it's because I don't have any positive news to share. And it's no fun reporting sad news.  I've spent a lot of time trying to keep my pain away from my Husband and Son, but I've only been fooling myself. I know it's affected me and my behavior, and they see right through me. Which means it's affected us all. I can't say how much their support has meant to me these long years. I only wish that my son had been older, past his teens, so his childhood had not been so damaged. I pray every day he finds himself and grows strong when we come out the other side of this. He is such an amazing person, but this whole experience has caused him to withdraw and turn inward. Mom loves him so and would wish for him to thrive and experience the world and the road ahead of him.

But that's not really why I'm writing today....

I'm writing because of the Alzheimer's inspired song that Glen Campbell wrote and just won a Grammy called "I'm Not Gonna Miss You".  His wife was on the TV this morning saying that she is hopeful that when she places the award in his hands it will recall a memory and he will understand it's meaning.  I hope for her sake it does, too.

It's important for anyone who has a loved one with Alzheimer's to understand that these moments of success and recognition are really for us, the survivors, not for the patient.  As the song says: "I'm still here, but yet I'm gone."

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Life Is Still A Tire Swing

It only took a few moments, and a margarita, for 30 years to melt away.
And we we all girls again, older and wiser, more stories to tell than there was time for, but still young at heart.

Within minutes we were re-capturing cherished memories from our youth and trying to share great lessons learned in the years since. 
An impossible task to accomplish in just a few hours. Yet somehow we walked away satisfied.

It is a surreal experience to share a moment in time with good friends ~ a lifetime apart yet dear to your heart.
These are some of the people who made me. I could not have the trust and faith in humanity I have now if I had not had some of these friends then.

I feel blessed to hear of their children, their parents, their heartaches, their losses. Their lives, so similar and so different from my own. I wanted to jump into the photographs and be a part of the moments... to dance at the wedding, to sit at the dinner, to be at graduation. Yet through the stories and smiles, I saw the joy in those moments and shared in a way that only girlfriends can do.

It's been a long and winding road, and I have faith that life will lead us back to each other, but until until it does, I hope this evening was able to wash away the years for my friends as it did for me.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Goodbye Mr Spaceman

I was one of the half a billion earthlings (1 of 6 people on the planet at the time) huddled in front of a grainy television set with my family on a cloudless night in July 1969 to see the "moon landing".  My father insisted; I was 8 years old and it changed my life.  I believe this singular moment in time is one of the greatest accomplishments in human history.

Seeing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set their feet on another heavenly body and playfully bound around was awe inspiring in this young girls eyes.

The sign on my teachers wall read "Hitch Your Wagon to a Star" and from my perspective the moon landing was proof that man could touch the Heavens.

It never occurred to me that if I worked hard, there wasn't anything I couldn't accomplish if I set my sights on it. One small step at a time, I would get there. I grew up with the space program as my inspiration. Yes, there were failures and setbacks, but they didn't back down from the President's challenge.

And that night when Dad and I walked outside and gazed upon the moon knowing that there were humans standing there, we understood that there is no amount of effort too daunting or overwhelming in our own life if the great expanse of space could be conquered to safely put men on the moon.

I've traveled a lot of miles since then, and accomplished a lot of goals. I still look to the stars for inspiration and marvel in the magnitude of it all. While it was my parents that gave me the tools I needed to travel life's road, I would like to thank Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin for challenging me to aim for the stars.

Ever since that night, the moon doesn't look so far away.

Monday, September 19, 2011

You've Got a Friend in Me

This weekend I found out about the passing of a colleague from my past.  And though I didn't know about it when he died; I have found myself reminiscing about conversations we had and being sad that such a good man died too young. 

Coupled with this loss is the closing of the Casa runaway and homeless youth shelter where I spent the majority of my working career.  I initially worked the overnight shift there when I was working on my Bachelor's Degree then later after I had my Master's Degree I returned as Case Manager and Shelter Director. It was the first program of its kind in Dallas and marking its closure is also a kind of death.  Many of those who worked there over the years from the first Program Director to the last came to the "closing ceremony".  And, as I walked through that empty building, the memories came flooding back.  Some may say, it's only brick and mortar, but those walls were talking to me. The laughter and the tears all came flooding out.  Good works were done inside those walls. Friendships were made and lives were changed. When I left that building I embarked on a new career - to raise my son.  For many years I didn't look back.  I built a new life and let too much time and space come between myself and the people at the Shelter. I regret this now.  For those of you that read this, I am sorry. 

While I am happy for my friend who has found his eternal reward and trust that all my colleagues have found satisfaction in their lives; my experience this weekend causes me to miss the days when we were in each other's lives every day.  And though I know that is no longer possible, I would like to have the opportunity to reconnect with you whenever possible.  You've got a friend in me.  Let's get together. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

To Roger Staubach, still Captain America

This editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News SportsDay Forum on Sunday, May 30, 2010
The online version of this article (linked to above) was shortened so much as to loose it's effect. The article, in it's entirety, as it appeared in the paper appears below:

I've always admired Roger, but as a military (Navy) veteran himself, I am not at all surprised to read of his respect to other heroes.


Staubach's kindness benefits soldiers:

The week before last, my brother was sitting in first class on a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Colorado Springs when a couple sat in front of him. He immediately recognized the man as Roger Staubach and said he looked great, very fit. They exchanged greetings, and Staubach said he was headed to Colorado Springs for the inaugural Wounded Warrior games, a competition for injured members of the military.

After 60 or 70 percent of the plane was boarded, a female Army soldier who had lost her leg boarded. Staubach insisted she sit in his seat; she said "no thanks," but he insisted. He took her place in the middle seat way in the back. After a few minutes, the young girl got tears in her eyes and said she wanted to go to her seat and have Staubach return to his.

The flight attendant overheard, and as the female soldier headed to retrieve Staubach, the attendant said she had a no-show and both could sit in first class.

The flight attendant returned with the female soldier, but Staubach sent a double amputee Army soldier to sit in his seat. Staubach remained in coach the entire flight and disembarked last. My brother asked for an autograph for my birthday; Staubauch said certainly. It's a great gift, but the greater gift is knowing Roger Staubach is still Captain America.

— Drew Werner, Addison, TX

Friday, May 7, 2010

I Said A Mother's Prayer For You

I said a Mother's Day prayer for you
to thank the Lord above
for blessing me with a lifetime
of your tenderhearted love.
I thanked God for the caring
you've shown me through the years,
for the closeness we've enjoyed
in time of laughter and of tears.
And so, I thank you from the heart
for all you've done for me
and I bless the Lord for giving me
the best mother there could be!
- Author - Unknown

Friday, October 16, 2009

Behind Blue Eyes

The above photograph of my Mother and me was taken by my son when she was in the hospital after a fall last month. We were having a particularly good visit when this photo was taken. It is remarkable for several reasons, most notably the empty look in Mom's eyes. It is the look of Alzheimer's. It was difficult for her to find her smile that day. Though she was happy during our visit.

When I showed the photograph to Mom, her only comment was how old she looked.

My son submitted this photograph in the 2009 PTA Reflections Arts in Education Program at his school where it won an "Award of Excellence" Blue Ribbon, and will be submitted for district judging.

CONGRATULATIONS are in order to MJM for capturing such a striking, yet loving photograph.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I am thrilled to report that Mom will NOT have to have the VP Shunt replaced at this time.

The Neurosurgeon successfully reprogrammed the shunt yesterday using a different machine and said that he doesn't need to see her again for another month. He set the program so that it would not drain a lot of fluid, and will slowly (over a period of months) increase the amount of fluid being drained again. Although, not to the level it had reset itself to...the reason which still remains a mystery; as does the reason his machine was unable to reprogram the shunt the first three times he tried. He said he would contact the manufacturer of the machine to ensure it was working properly. Obviously, if his machine checks out, this could still mean there is a problem with Mom's shunt. If his machine needs recalibration, then Mom's shunt is probably ok. Only time will tell.

Ok...that's a lot of medical babble, but it's good news.

During the visit, Mom was insistent that there is nothing medically wrong with her. She did acknowledge having a fall...on her Patio at home, about "a week ago". (The fall she remembers occurred last "Fall"). Initially, I told her that isn't where she fell, but when she called me a liar and got upset, I let it go. She thinks that it's "Spring" and time to get her tomato's planted.
I asked if she'd visited the vegetable garden at AC, and she said yes, but it isn't "her" garden. After I gave her the medication the staff sent with me, we went for the CT Scan, and I noticed a chip on her glasses. When I told her about it, and said I should make an eye appointment for her, she said, "You are so good to me." I was worried about how she would act when I returned her to AC, but she got out of the car without problem and said, "I hoped you were taking me home. "
My Mother-in-Law visited her a short time later and said that she had a nice visit with her. She reported that Mom said the Doctor gave her a "clean bill of health".

The staff at AC reports that she is becoming agitated more frequently the longer she has been there (approximately 2 weeks if you subtract the days she spent in the hospital because of her fall). I feel confident that this will pass in time, though it may take awhile. Hopefully, her medications can be adjusted give her some relief from her obsessive thoughts. I pray for their patience.

Overall, I'm pleased with the day, and that's all I can ask for.