Category Archives: Memories

Marking 2 years since Mom died

Mom school

It’s hard to believe it has been two years since my mother died. The world seems like such a different place, even though two years is but a speck over the course of history.

While merely coincidence, Mom’s death seemed to send the universe into a chaotic spiral. I feel like I’m living in perpetual survival mode, just like I did when I was a caregiver.  Mom’s eternal optimism would have been sorely tested over the last year or so.

The grief is less oppressive and not as constant at this point, but it continues to lurk in the dark alleys of my mind, popping out like a villain in a movie from time to time. The “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve” mantra hasn’t been silenced quite yet, but I’ve been able to turn down the volume on the second-guessing for the most part.

Just like in this photo of Mom, I will spend the day writing. She always loved this photo, which appeared in the yearbook. Mom took her education seriously, which wasn’t always a given for farm families when crops could trump classes. I inherited a similar love of learning from both of my parents, which is a precious gift that I use every day.

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Thinking of Mom

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Mom and I at the library, before taking a stroll through the park.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the wonderful, patient and loving mothers out there, both living and departed.

Even though it is easy to roll one’s eyes at this “Hallmark holiday,” it is a good opportunity to remember those who have cared for you and those you love. Mothering comes in many forms, from traditional to caregiving to caring for pets. A simple thank you, a sympathetic ear, a helping hand, all of these go a long way to honoring the mother(-s) in your lives.

Mother’s Day is extra difficult for me because once I get past today, the anniversary of my mom’s death looms on May 21. It’s a double gut-punch of a month now.

I’ll remember Mom today by doing some birdwatching in the backyard (our birdfeeder has become quite the hotspot) and taking a walk to appreciate other wonders of nature that my mother loved. One of Mom’s best qualities was always “stopping to smell the roses.” She appreciated every flower, every bird, all of nature’s offerings. It’s a good reminder for me to take time to enjoy nature as well and seek a healthier balance between work and other demands of modern life.

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A Sad Good Bye To An Amazing Woman Shifting Dementia Care and Cure

This is such sad news, and quite a shock, as her death was sudden. Trish was a very active advocate for those with Alzheimer’s and their families. Her legacy will live on and her dedication is an inspiration to all of us.

Alzheimer's Speaks Blog

A Sad Good Bye To An Amazing Woman Shifting Dementia Care and Cure

trish V usagainst alz head shot (2)

Trish Vradenburg

May Trish’s  family and friends feel the love and support the world is sending them

Trish’s Deep-Rooted and Unflinching Passion to Fight Alzheimer’s Creates Admirable and Aspirational Legacy

UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Co-Founder and Vice-Chair Trish Vradenburg’s unflinching spirit – her creativity and imagination, quick-witted humor, empathy, generosity and her exceptional tenacity to stop the suffering of others – was captured in her every action. It is with immense sadness that UsAgainstAlzheimer’s announces her passing, and it is with the utmost gratitude that the organization cherishes her legacy and forges ahead in her memory.

Trish’s life was an inspiring portrait of creativity and versatility, employing her gifts of writing and storytelling throughout a successful professional career. She began her career as a speechwriter in the U.S. Senate. She wrote for various television shows, including Designing Women, Family Ties…

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Missing the milestones

dad-easter

My dad would have turned 85 on Monday. It’s been several years now since his death, and the milestones are starting to become less likely to imagine.

My father has one sister who has lived into her 80s, but most of his family died in their 70s or younger. His immediate family survived the brutalities of WWII so they’re a hardy bunch for sure. Dad made it to 79, and was just 4 months shy of his 80th birthday.

But it’s difficult to imagine my dad at 85. A smoker since his teens, who was diagnosed with COPD and emphysema, those conditions would likely have taken a great toll on him by now, and perhaps he’d be tied to an oxygen machine. He definitely would have hated that. And would he have become so frail as to need a wheelchair? That’s another thing he would’ve loathed. The man loved to walk in a long, fast, striding gait. This was a major problem when he developed dementia, because of his tendency to wander.

So all in all, I’m at peace with the fact that Dad’s not around to be an octogenarian. If I’ve learned anything over the last several years, life isn’t about reaching a certain age but the quality of your day-to-day living.

Since Dad’s birthday is close to Easter this year, I thought it was appropriate to include the one Easter photo I have of us together.

 

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Delivering Bad News in Dementialand (Or Do I Tell Mom Her Sister Died?)

This is such an important topic, and one that I know some readers of The Memories Project have had to deal with in their families. How much bad news do we deliver to our loved ones with dementia, and how many times do we repeat the information?

Thanks Elaine for the thoughtful response.

Source: Delivering Bad News in Dementialand (Or Do I Tell Mom Her Sister Died?)

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Should we reconsider our bucket lists?

Setting new resolutions and goals is a big part of a new year for many people. I’ve never had an official bucket list, but after watching my parents move on from this world, I couldn’t help but wonder if they had any unfulfilled wishes. That in turn, made me think about my own “bucket list.”

But an article I read recently in Aging Today has me rethinking the whole bucket list concept. I discuss this in a post I wrote for The Caregiver Space. The gist of the article is that we may be better off aging with purpose and participating in activities that offer deep engagement versus waiting until we are retired for that dream vacation or grand adventure. The doctor who wrote the article doesn’t think bucket lists are necessarily bad, but encourages a broader perspective so that we can live more fully in the here and now.

I like this approach. While I hope to enjoy a grand tour of Europe some day in the not-so-distant future, I also want to find joy and meaning in the present. Learning and trying new things, writing more and hopefully getting published more, and helping other caregivers, those are more immediate goals that offer true fulfillment.

What do you think? Are you a fan of bucket lists?

 

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A new year, sparked by old memories

nye

Many people use the new year to try and wipe the old slate clean, and create a new version of themselves that’s thinner or stronger or smarter. There’s nothing wrong with working out more, eating more broccoli and fewer doughnuts and resisting  vices. But what I’ve found in my 40-plus years is that the goals are less important than the journey we take each year on our life’s path.

Caregivers, former and present, understand that life can turn south at a moment’s notice, no matter what the calendar reads, and temporarily disrupt goals, dreams and projects. A “new normal” emerges, and it may not look like what one hoped for at the beginning of a new year. After my father died at the end of 2011, I thought there was a new beginning for my mom and myself, one in which every moment wasn’t spent worrying about my father’s well-being. But just six months later, Mom fell ill and wow, was I ever in for a change. I have no idea what my 2012 resolutions were, but they sure didn’t involve being a caregiver!

So I don’t make resolutions anymore, but I do have goals, which I’m all too aware are subject to change. I’m nearing the completion of my collection of caregiving essays, and I will be working on a prototype for my Respite Care Share concept, which will be presented at the Aging in America Conference in March. These things will keep me occupied for the year, and I’m sure other opportunities will come along the way. New opportunities, but tied to memories of my parents, their lives, the illnesses they battled, and their deaths. While the sharp turn in my life path in 2012 made no sense to me at the time, it got me to this place, where in 2017, I can hopefully give back a bit to the caregiving community.

There is much trepidation about 2017, even though for many, there is a great relief 2016 is coming to a close. Caregivers are survivors, a hardy bunch who push through and find a way to make it another day. Maybe 2017 is the year others will learn the value of caregivers in our society.

I wish you and your family a happy and healthy new year.

 

 

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