Glen Campbell documentary ‘I’ll Be Me’ a powerful, profound look at Alzheimer’s

I finally had the chance to see the documentary about Glen Campbell called, “I’ll Be Me.” I highly recommend seeing it, even if you are not a fan of Campbell’s music.

The documentary is an unflinching yet loving look at how Campbell and his family have managed his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The film once again confirms the power of music. It was amazing to see how long Campbell’s music ability endured, even as he entered the late middle stages of the disease.

The film, made in conjunction with his family, doesn’t shy away from the ugly aspects of Alzheimer’s. Viewers witness Campbell’s temper, repeating questions, communication difficulties, wandering, discussions of incontinence episodes and paranoid outbursts.

Viewers get a behind-the-scenes look at the sometimes chaotic backstage scene before shows. As we all know, those with Alzheimer’s have good and bad days, until they end up with more bad ones than good ones. When you are performing in front of hundreds of people, the good and the bad are magnified.

Campbell is now in the final stages of the disease and lives in a residential care facility.

For Campbell fans it will be difficult to watch one of the greatest guitarists of all times deal with such a debilitating disease, but his phenomenal guitar work is on display throughout the film, as is his sense of humor and his fighting spirit.

If you’ve seen the film, please share your thoughts.

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A double whammy on Father’s Day

Not only is today Father’s Day, but it is also the one-month anniversary of my mother’s death. So both of my parents are weighing on my mind heavily today.

I can’t believe it has already been a month since Mom passed. Of course I think of her every day, but I especially thought of her when the tragedy in Charleston occurred. Mom was always so heartbroken to hear news like that. She truly could not understand why some people choose hate over love.

family pic

So just like with any death, life goes on, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

To honor my mom today, I’m getting my hair done, which was one of her favorite activities. She loved going to the salon, and sadly, she had to cancel her last appointment because she wasn’t feeling well.

To honor Dad on Father’s Day, I’m going to take a long walk in the park, one of his favorite activities.

How are you spending your Father’s Day?

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Mom’s final resting place a treasure trove of memories

I began searching for the perfect urn for my mother’s ashes even before she took her last breath. That may seem morbid, but putting energy into creating a memorial that would honor her life gave me something positive to embrace during those final dark days.

I scoured the Internet yet nothing was jumping out at me as ideal for Mom. I thought about getting the same urn that I had gotten for my father. It rotates and allows you to add multiple photos. I have received great comfort from the urn, which I filled with photos from Dad’s young bachelor days to the end of his life.

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Still, I wanted Mom’s final resting place to be unique. That’s when I stumbled upon Blocks from the Heart. (The following is not a solicited review, just my experience.)

Katie Patton is the artist that operates Blocks from the Heart. She offers memorials in a variety of formats, from blocks to memory poles and ornaments. She makes memorials for both humans and pets. She is great to work with, very responsive and determined to create a work of art worthy of your loved one.

I chose a keepsake box. I loved the idea of having 5 sides (including the top) to create a tribute to my mother’s life. It also was a challenge; how do you sum up your mother’s life in 5 ways?

On the top of box, Katie merged a glamour shot of my mother as a young woman with a poem that my mother had chosen before her death as a way to remember her. Then I paid homage to her being an animal lover with a childhood photo holding the beloved family dog, her Navy career, her glamorous side and finally, being a loving mother.

More images of my mom’s keepsake box can be seen on Facebook.

The results were amazing. I love the box and my only regret is that I didn’t create it while Mom was alive. I think she would have been thrilled and touched!

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Missing my mom to celebrate a piece of history

On Saturday evening, history was made, as American Pharoah won the Belmont and the coveted Triple Crown.

I know there is a great deal of controversy about horse racing as a sport, but for me, it reminds me of family.

After all, my parents met over horse racing results at a Los Angeles diner.

As a family, some of our best outings were to Hollywood Park (now closed) and Del Mar race tracks. My parents were relaxed, the weather was usually nice and yes, watching the horses run is quite an adrenaline rush.

Over the years, there have been many horses that have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, only to disappoint fans by being unable to clinch that final victory at the Belmont. Last year, the same thing happened. My mom was so disappointed.

This year, the hype was the same or even greater. This was the year, this was the horse, the Triple Crown was going to happen.

My mom and I were able to watch the first race together, as she was in pain but lucid for the Kentucky Derby. She didn’t feel like getting out of bed so I streamed the race on my laptop and we watched it from her bed.

She loved American Pharoah.

By the time the Preakness came, Mom was pretty bad off. She was sleeping most of the time and not very aware when she was awake. I didn’t even watch the race, as I forgot to tune in while busy with caregiver duties.

So you can imagine my mixed emotions when the Belmont ran Saturday. I cheered loudly for American Pharoah, who made what other horses couldn’t do for 37 years look easy.

But there was also a deep pang in my heart that Mom just missed this glorious moment. She would have been thrilled. I watched my phone as it remained silent. She would have definitely called and talked my ear off about the race.

I hope somewhere, somehow, she was aware of the historic win, though honestly, these things probably do not matter in another life. Still, I like to believe that if she was given a bit of luck as she crossed over, she sprinkled some on American Pharoah.

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Grief, relief and regret

As anyone knows who has lost a loved one, your grief doesn’t always progress through the designated stages like it’s described in books. Many of these self-help manuals make it clear that there is no one correct path, but it’s still something you have to experience for yourself to understand.

To all of you who left lovely comments, thank you so much. It does help to know you are not alone.

The first few days after my mother’s death were fueled by an adrenaline rush, to power through and focus on completing the necessary tasks. My goal was to get home as soon as possible.

Mom was a jokester, and would want to be remembered with smiles and laughter, not tears.

Mom was a jokester, and would want to be remembered with smiles and laughter, not tears.

I returned home and took a few days off from work to get settled in and recharge my batteries. I spent a lot of time receiving “purr therapy” from the cats. I went on walks. I got a massage.

Then I returned to work and the fast pace of my daily duties left me little time for reflection.

So here I am, 10 days after my mom’s death, and more than grief or sadness, I’ve experienced moments of relief and regret.

There is a sense of relief at how quiet my phone is now. Over the last year or so, I had talked to Mom daily on the phone, and over the last few months, she was calling me multiple times per day sometimes, usually to remark about her pain or lack of effective medication. I began to dread seeing her face when it would pop up on my phone, signaling a call from her.

Mom was about the only person to call me on the phone. (I prefer written communication whenever possible.) My battery has dipped low a couple of times, but I wasn’t frantic about making sure I was available by phone because at this moment, for the first time in several years, I am not managing the care of an ailing parent. There is relief in not feeling like I’m on call 24/7.

The regrets pop up in scenes played out from the last month, when I was taking care of Mom. I think what I can take away from these flashbacks is to not get so lost in the necessary caregiving tasks that you forget the simple things, like trying to make it possible for a loved one to enjoy a moment basking in the sunlight, or having a spoon of ice cream. There may be risks involved in trying to make a dying person happy, but looking back, they are risks I wish I had taken.

What lessons have you learned from grieving for a loved one?

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My mother can finally rest in peace

My mother died Thursday morning.

It was a tough last few weeks, and the last hours were frankly brutal.

I can only hope she wasn’t in as much discomfort as she seemed, despite being given copious medications for pain and anxiety.

Mom loved her time in the Navy.

Mom loved her time in the Navy.

The hospice nurses and myself kept assuring Mom that it was ok to let go when she was ready. I felt like there was some internal struggle going on in there, despite the fact that she told me repeatedly that she was ready to go and was not afraid of death. She certainly did not want to linger in the state she did, non-responsive, devoid of her lively and happy personality, unable to eat or drink, and completely dependent upon me and the nurses for every task of living.

Maybe Mom’s spirit was just fighting with her stubborn body, and that determined heart of hers. The hospice nurses were quite surprised that Mom continued to live, considering the state of the rest of her body, but her heart and vital signs continued to be good. I was afraid, for her sake and mine, that it would continue to beat strong for much longer than it did. I was at her bedside when she drew her last breath, and I felt her heart beat slow, weaken and then come to a complete stop.

As you loyal followers know, this blog exists in part over guilt I had about my dad’s death, and how I wasn’t present when he died. I know being here to take care of my mom, and being present for her passing was the right thing to do.

But of course, there is a high price to pay on a psychic level by experiencing something so intense as a loved one dying. There are things I wish I hadn’t seen, tasks I wish I didn’t have to do. Time will no doubt provide a different perspective on the experience.

The important thing for now is that Mom was well-taken care of and she did not die alone.

As for what was beyond this life, Mom often said that, “It’s a good place and it’s a right place.”

I hope she’s right.

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Playing the waiting game with Death

My mother’s health took a big turn for the worse this week.

The hospice nurse expects her to pass in days, maybe a week, though her heart is very strong, so she could last longer.

Mother's Day

Mother’s Day

For her sake, and mine, I hope that the suffering is not prolonged.

She is now totally bedridden, somewhat delirious and a new pain complaint has popped up the last two days. She now complains of severe head and neck pain. The nurse cannot figure out what may be causing it. It is unlikely that the colon cancer, if it has returned, spread to her brain, though it is a possibility.

But the morphine is not really touching the head pain, even when dosed hourly. She is so “zonked out” by the pain meds yet still is pointing to her head and grimacing. That is tough to watch.

Mom’s face has been taken over by that ghoulish death mask. Her eyes are starting to look beyond.

But her heart continues to beat hard and strong in her emaciated chest.

In one of her lucid moments, my mother asked what had happened to her. And to that, I had no good answer.

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