Published in the Rains County Leader on November 17, 2020:
David and I visited with our dog friend Spike this weekend while his people took a break from raising cattle. Spike was unusually subdued, maybe feeling the pressure of 2020 like the rest of us. More likely, though, his calm attitude is because of the strict restraints he’s under to keep him from chasing several new calves. Instead of having the run of the ranch, he stays in the barn, the house, or tethered on the patio, and he walks on a leash. He’s a country dog living a city life, but he doesn’t seem to mind as long as there are plenty of treats and an occasional session of petting.
Sunday morning I woke up a little before 6:00 am. I thought I might catch a few more winks, but I must have stirred around too much because Spike appeared at the bedroom door and did his I-need-to-go-out dance. I knew more sleep was probably out of the question, so I dressed and took him for a quick turn around the yard. He did his duty and we came back inside for a treat and a cup of coffee – his treat and my coffee. He had his breakfast while I had my quiet time, and once the sun was up enough to take the chill off the air, we took another walk to the gate and back, about a quarter of a mile round trip. He ambled along at my pace, sniffed a few bushes, and barked at a passing car. On the return trip I noticed a splash of color in the grass between the gravel driveway and the fence. It was a single Indian Paintbrush waving happily in the breeze, unaware that it was completely alone and out of season. It was a hopeful sight, a promise of Spring in the midst of bare branches and fallen leaves.
Published in the Rains County Leader on September 29, 2020:
It’s not unusual for me to turn on my phone in the morning and find a text from my neighbor Connie waiting for me. She has trouble sleeping some nights, and she finds that a good time to catch up on her correspondence. Tuesday morning was a little bit different, though. I received a message in real time at 7:26 AM telling me that Floppy, their beloved canine friend, had crossed over the Rainbow Bridge a few minutes before.
David and I dressed hurriedly and walked across the street to pay our respects. We arrived as Charles was closing the grave. David helped smooth out the dirt, and we all watched as Connie scattered some flower seeds on the freshly turned earth. Throughout the day, the gravesite evolved into a site that was outlined by two tiers of fence posts and adorned with a small American flag and a stepping stone with a cross and the first lines of John 3:16. (more…)
Alzheimer’s was the evil plaque in Dad’s brain that changed him from a hard-working, easy-going man into a cranky, ill-tempered couch potato.
Alzheimer’s was a thief. It stole Mom away a piece at a time and left me to grieve a loss that went on for years.
Alzheimer’s was a twisted comedian that made me laugh at the ridiculous things Mom did while I cried inside because of the reason behind her antics.
Alzheimer’s was the demon in my head that made me impatient with situations that were no one’s fault and angry at an opponent I couldn’t defeat.
Alzheimer’s was the monster in the closet or under the bed that changed our lives forever once the doctor spoke its name.
But Alzheimer’s was also the loser.
In spite of his difficult final years, Dad left a legacy of peace and love that lives on in the family he left behind.
While Mom’s past disappeared along with her memories, she also forgot the social anxieties and fears that had plagued her all her life and became a real party girl.
The wardrobe mishaps and other silly incidents often led to shared laughter and hugs that made life feel almost normal if only for a moment.
As the good days became fewer, I learned to cherish them when they came.
When Mom’s vocabulary was down to only a few words, one of those words was Jesus; and even to the end, she always responded to music.
Both Mom and Dad passed from this life without a struggle and with peaceful smiles on their faces as they looked into the face of the One who cares for the least of these.
I have found solace in knowing that my task of caregiving was completed not perfectly but well, and I have found comfort in sharing our story with others who are going through the same thing.
Read more about my family’s fight with Alzheimer’s in Mom’s Long Goodbye: A Caregiver’s Tale of Alzheimer’s, Grief, and Comfortreleased by Anaiah Press on March 12, 2019. Ebook now available at Amazon; print format available soon.
Caregivers are always filled with sweet, loving feelings towards the ones they care for. Aren’t they? It would be nice if this statement were true, but it is not only untrue, but it is also totally unrealistic. The truth is that caregiving often involves a lot of anger. (more…)
Betty Brendle, David’s mother, was born 86 years ago today. Yes, she was born on Halloween, and I’m sure she heard every witch joke ever written and received lots of pumpkin-covered birthday cards during her lifetime. Her children swore that her love of sweeping had something to do with the connection between her birth date and brooms.
Betty passed away in August, but we’re thinking of her today. In fact, we’ve been thinking of her a lot this week. David and I drove over to Louisiana on Sunday, and we’ve spent the week with his sisters, going through the “stuff” that a person accumulates during eight decades of life. Betty was a very organized person, so there’s not a lot of junk to deal with, but there are lots of memories. (more…)
My church family suffered a tragic loss Sunday morning when one of our members, the thirty-one-year-old mother of three, died suddenly. Her death was so unexpected that she and her husband were listed in the bulletins as the greeters for the day. This week has been a time of grieving, reaching out to each other, and asking Why? (more…)
One of the hardest things about being a caregiver is grieving a loss that is ongoing. We had a grief counselor speak at one of our caregiver support meetings, and she suggested that we consider personal and or group rituals to help us to let go of the relationship as we knew it and to move into acceptance of the present reality. The tributes I wrote about on Wednesday were part of that process. Another was our “Favorite Photos and Memories” night. The idea was simple. Each caregiver brought a favorite photo of their loved one and shared the memory behind the photo with the group. It was one of my favorite meetings. (more…)
Last week I exchanged several e-mails with a friend who had just returned from a trip to care for a loved one in distress. In addition to travel fatigue, she was feeling especially sad because of the approaching anniversary of the death of someone who played a major role in her life. Her last e-mail was short and to the point.
It’s been a pretty tough week. Jet lag and grief apparently enhance one another. (more…)
There is a scene in “Ordinary People” where Conrad is talking to Dr. Berger after Karen has killed herself. Dr. Berger is trying to console Conrad, but it’s not working. Finally, Conrad explodes in frustration.
“I feel bad about this! I feel really, really bad about this. Just let me feel bad about this.” (more…)
The story of a lonely, innocent girl who gets tangled up in the sex trafficking trade in a small Texas town. It’s about her relationship with Eric, a slick suburban pimp; Jesse, a Christian tattoo artist and motorcycle rider; and Mrs. G, a compassionate but tough attorney and foster parent.