Category Archives: Memories

Marking 8 years since my mother’s death

With each passing year, it becomes more difficult to believe so much times has passed since my mother’s death in 2015. Death has a way of warping time, so one can feel the distance of those elapsed years but also be surprised at the sharp pangs of grief that can arise at random moments.

I made an active choice to stay in the caregiver community after the death of my parents and have no regrets about that, but it does keep the illness and end-of-life memories fresher than perhaps they would be otherwise. What is most disappointing is seeing so many family caregivers dealing with the same bureaucratic roadblocks and healthcare challenges that I experienced.

I’m grateful to be able to share my caregiving story and read the moving accounts of other caregivers.

An unusual thing happened this morning after I published this blog post. As I came down the stairs, arms full of laundry, I turned to a portrait of my mother that hangs on the wall at the top of the staircase. I said, “Hi Mom,” and continued on my way. About an hour later I was in the kitchen when I heard a crash and then something tumbling down the stairs. When I went to see what had fallen, it was the portrait of Mom I had just acknowledged an hour before. Mom was never a subtle communicator. It would be just like her to make a dramatic statement. For now, Mom’s portrait has a new spot in the living room.


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Mother’s Day and loss

I was going through family photos ahead of Mother’s Day and opened an envelope that I haven’t look in very often because it’s photos of my grandmother in her casket at her funeral. My grandmother on my mother’s side died exactly 2 months before I was born. I had never noticed that my grandmother’s funeral date and my mother’s day of death were just a single day apart in the month dedicated to mothers.

Behind the funeral photos were a set of tiny photos, just a bit larger than postage stamps. I don’t remember seeing these photos before. They were of my grandparents at the grave of my beloved uncle, Jim Carroll, who died just before his third birthday. He died from complications after an accidental drowning. I can only imagine the pain and sorrow his untimely death caused. My mother was born the following year, and she always said that she believed God gave her a sense of humor to lift the spirits of the grieving family, especially her mother.

In the photos, my grandparents are older, so I can assume this was taken in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Little Jim Carroll died in 1936 but the decades that had since passed had not lessened the love for their beloved child.

I think of Jim Carroll often, as I have what is a most precious heirloom: his shoes. Still caked with clay, the tiny shoes were handed down to my mother, who was disturbed by the sight of them. I told her to keep them for me. Now they sit on top of my family memorial display, next to his moving obituary.

If you are grappling with family loss this Mother’s Day, I hope you can find some peace and comfort.

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Marking Dad’s birthday

Dad would have turned 91 today. This is the earliest photo I have of him, taken at school and addressed to his beloved mother.

Such a serious young man, with his whole life ahead of him.

Dad didn’t have an easy life, but I’m sure while his feet were planted in the grass of his beloved Belfast, Northern Ireland, he never thought he’d live in sunny Los Angeles. His journey as an immigrant shaped his life, but he never forgot home.

At the end of his life, while in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, he talked about returning home, to see his sisters. We were able to honor his wish, in a way. Some of his ashes were sent to his family in Belfast.

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Celebrating the Irish spirit

My father was fiercely proud of his Irish heritage, but was not a fan of the commercialized St. Patrick’s Day festivities. As I grow older, the more I appreciate the culture of my Irish ancestors: resilient, creative, and brilliant storytellers who can tell the funniest of jokes and sing the saddest of songs and care deeply for family and country.

Of course, there is a darker side to every culture and I witnessed my father struggle through what he called “black” moods of depression and over-indulging in alcohol. I touch upon this in my book, The Reluctant Caregiver. But his love of his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland and his hopes of a united Ireland never wavered. In fact, in the last conversation I had with him just a month before he died, deep in the fog of dementia, he told me he wanted to go to Ireland.

So I will raise a toast to Dad with some Irish whiskey tonight and continue my exploration of my Irish heritage.

Murphy showing off his St. Patrick’s Day spirit.

I have a lucky giveaway to share with you. Get my e-book, CBD for Caregivers, which I recently revised, for free through April 1.


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Wishing you a happy, healthy new year

Another year is in the books. As we look back on 2022, it’s easy to focus on the negative, but I hope you will cut yourself some slack and take time to celebrate what went well this year. Finding those good moments can be difficult when one is in a challenging caregiving situation. One suggestion that I’ve seen online is to get a jar and write on a slip of paper one good thing that happened each week. At the end of the year, the jar will be filled with highlights. If you are more digitally inclined you could keep a spreadsheet or use an app. It’s a simple way to make sure you don’t overlook your achievements.

My biggest achievement in 2022 was publishing my children’s book, Slow Dog. I began the year taking a course on writing for children, where I came up with the idea but waited until the summer to get serious about the project. If I had waited any longer, the book may never have existed as I got laid off from my job just two months after it was published. Timing is everything and sometimes the universe gives you a nudge just when you need it.

I hope 2023 will bring you good health and success in what matters to you.

Photo by Moritz Knöringer on Unsplash.

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Season’s Greetings

Christmas was a simple affair for my small family, but a holiday I remember fondly. I can still smell the cinnamon sticks featured in the holiday decoration in the far left of this family photo. I kept some of the brightly colored balls we used to decorate our small tree and they now decorate my tabletop tree, some 40 years later.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy holiday. I hope you get to spend it with loved ones and that the deep freeze doesn’t disrupt your plans. Stay warm and safe!

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Marking 11 years since my father’s death

It has been 11 years since my father died. The weather is similar as it was on that day, a chilly rain, which in turn is typical Irish weather and reminds me of my father’s homeland.

The moment I received the call from my mother that my father was gone is forever embedded in my memory. The death of a parent is one of those world-stopping moments. It’s not something you get over, but the tide of life will continue to push you forward.

Witnessing the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease first-hand in my family prompted me to become an advocate for finding effective treatments and for better support of family caregivers. I join many others in those causes and I’m grateful for the connections I’ve made through the years.

Sharing your dementia caregiving stories is important and I hope you will continue to do so, whether it’s through a blog or other outlet. I know it’s not always easy to share such personal details, but putting a real face on a disease that has long been kept behind closed doors is essential in raising awareness and building public support for better treatments and services.

My father mattered and so do your loved ones. When those difficult anniversaries come, embrace the good memories and use the tough ones to inspire you to push for change.


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Happy Halloween

I have fond memories of Halloween as a child. My mom went out of her way to make it a fun holiday for me. One year my mom made me a homemade Planet of the Apes costume. I’m so sad there are no photos of my mother’s epic creation. Another year I got a Jaws game, where you fished items out of a plastic shark replica with a hook and tried to avoid the jaws shutting. It was one of my favorite games.

40-plus years later, I still enjoy Halloween: the spooky decorations, the scary movies and yes, the candy. Pets also make Halloween fun.

For those who celebrate, hope you get all treats and no tricks! If you need a last-minute Halloween gift, you can buy Slow Dog as an e-book.

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Reflecting on Father’s Day

Thinking of Dad on this Father’s Day weekend. One thing I’ve been reflecting on lately is how even when my father was dealing with the latter stages of dementia, he would tell my mother and I to be careful. He was still trying to protect his family.

To those who have lost their fathers to dementia or who are actively caring for their father with dementia, I hope you can find comfort in loving reflections. For those whose fathers are still alive, I hope you get to spend quality time with him this weekend. Finally, I want to recognize all of the amazing male caregivers out there, fathers and husbands and brothers and sons, who care with compassionate strength.

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Marking 7 years since Mom’s death

The top of Mom’s urn.

It has been 7 years since my mother died. The pandemic has made time’s passing more difficult for me to track. Seven years feels both not long ago and yet another lifetime ago. I think my mother would be very upset about the state of the world right now, as she always looked for common ground and the good in people. Those things seem to be in short supply these days.

I did have a moment of synchronicity today. I was listening to Glenn Campbell’s late masterpiece albums, Ghost on the Canvas. It was recorded after Campbell’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and was one of my mother’s favorite albums. It’s one of my favorites too, and I’ve listened to it dozens of times. Today I played it on the YouTube app on my TV and when I looked up during one of the instrumental interludes, I realized the song was titled, May 21, 1969.

I had never noticed this before! According to information I found online, May 21, 1969 was the date the date Campbell’s network variety show debuted on network TV. It would become a hit and known as “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.”

What are the chances that May 21, the day my mother died, would also be in a song title of one of our favorite albums? The moment felt like Mom’s spirit connecting with me through the wonders of the universe.


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