This WordPress.com site is an insight into my personal journey on life, family, teaching and learning!

Posts tagged ‘alzheimer’s’

Stories

 

Stories.  Each and every one of us is full of stories.  Stories of what defines us, stories that have shaped us into the person we have grown into, and stories to teach and entertain others.  Stories are such an essential part of human nature.  They bind us together and give us a common ground to share our experiences with.  I have been a classroom teacher for 10 years.  I have taught 2nd grade for seven years, 1st grade for 2 years, and 3rd grade this past year.  I have been a teacher of writing and mentoring my students on how to write their stories.  We have delved into creating memoirs that were meaningful, but there was always something missing.  I modeled what a narrative should look like, but I always kept a lid on getting too personal.  Until this year…I opened up, I showed children that not all stories are happy and it’s ok.  Instead of modeling, I tried to mentor and wear  my heart on my sleeve more.

I would often write stories down in my journal and share them with the kiddos.  I wrote about the day of my father’s funeral and how we crested the hill at the cemetery and were met with a Naval Color Guard.  I told them the story of how I met my sweet kitty boy, Fred.  How I went to the shelter looking for a cat, and I’m pretty sure this one-eyed cutie picked me!!  Because I chose to mentor, rather than model, my kiddos were always asking me if I had “written” today and if I would read it to them.  It was pretty cool, they were wanting to hear MY story, instead of stories written by famous authors.  Why?  It was personal and they knew it came from my heart.

So, with this post today, I want to share a story with you.  It’s a love story.  It’s a story my sisters, brother, kids, nieces, nephews, friends…anyone who had contact with my family…heard.  Over.  And.  Over.  And.  Over.  It’s called……..

photo (3)The Love Story (very original, I know!!!)

My dad had Alzheimer’s.  It silently stole his memories from him.  But the one memory that remained with him almost until the end was The Love Story.  The story of how him and his beloved Mary met.  With the progression of the disease, the time line of the story changed, but the general basis of the circumstances in which they met remained the same.  That story has been silenced for almost 4 years, and I only hear it in my memories.  We used to hear his love story many times a day.  Momma died 3 years before Daddy and he missed her so much.  I’m pretty sure his drive to tell the story over and over was his way of allowing that one memory to never fade.

Daddy was in the Navy during the Korean Conflict.  He enlisted in the Navy right after he graduated high school in 1951.  After basic training, he was stationed in California and was a gunnersmate aboard the USS Hamner.  He was from Texas and my mom was from Kansas City.  In 1952, Momma went to Long Beach, California with a friend to be an attendant in her wedding.  Her friend was marrying a shipmate of my Dad’s.  

Clayton Strong was a shipmate of Daddy’s and was a good buddy.  He attended the wedding my mom was in and was immediately drawn to her.  When he returned to the ship he told Daddy that he met this pretty girl and wondered if he would like to meet her.  My father’s response was, “Hell yeah!  I want to meet a pretty girl, you know, I’m a horny old sailor!”.  If my mom heard him refer to himself as a “horny old sailor”, she would have surely knocked him silly!  

Daddy was smitten with her right away and they quickly got married.  He used to tell us that “I had to get my momma’s permission to marry this pretty girl.  I mean, I was in the war, killing people, and I had to get her permission to get married.  Well, when I told momma that Mary Lou was Catholic, my momma said ‘Are you sure you wanna marry her? She’s Catholic and can’t get divorced?'”  This is where Daddy would pause and giggle then finish by saying, “Momma, I don’t want to divorce her, I want to MARRY her.”  Grandma must have finally consented because, two weeks later, on August 12, 1952, they were at the courthouse in Long Beach, California getting married.  And the rest is history.  56 years, 5 children, 13 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren.  I would say that’s a great history!!!!

Thanks for listening to my story today.  I have been missing mom and dad so much lately, and I especially miss hearing Daddy’s voice telling “The Story”.  Please keep your stories alive.  There are people who can’t wait to hear your stories.

Much love,

Sharon

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Lessons Learned…Small Miracles in Life

Mom-Circa 1952

dad
My parents took us on an incredible journey through life and death. I learned so much about myself and the importance of having a positive outlook on life. Both of my parents were faced with their own mortality at too young of an age. My siblings and I journeyed with mom through her battle with breast cancer. We were with her when she first started chemo. I’ll never forget the day she called asking if I would come shave her head. Her hair was falling out and it was driving her nuts. Daddy couldn’t do it. It was too much for him to endure. So, I cut her hair. I’ll never forget the sound of the first snip I made and the tears dropping from both of our faces. But she fought and persevered through her entire war. She held on a lot longer than she probably should have, she was a fighter.

Daddy had Alzheimer’s Disease. It slowly and silently robbed him of his entire life’s memories, but it NEVER took his soul! As his disease progressed, my sister, Elaine, kept telling me we were going to write a book together about this journey. We never did, but we constantly share and reminisce of his final days. One such story of his last days with us involves a butterfly. I wrote the story down on paper and have saved it on my computer. Maybe now is a time to share it with the world…

Every Day, Ordinary Miracles…February 2, 2013
What is a miracle? According to Merriam-Webster, a miracle is “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs”. We look for miracles, we long for miracles, we want to experience the larger-than-life miracles…the changing-water-into-wine miracles. I believe those do exist and I believe people have experienced those. But I also believe miracles happen every day and often go unseen. I think God touches everyone multiple times during a 24-hour span with a miracle, but we are often unaware, or even so closed-minded to even recognize those little whispers. We may chalk them up to coincidences or even fail to completely recognize them altogether.

I have faith that God is with me each and every day. Some days, that faith is hard to come by and I have to dig down deep to find it. There are many days I wake up and don’t even acknowledge the fact that God blessed me with another one on this Earth. I grumble about the weather, the mountain of stuff I have to do, how ungrateful my family is, where am I going to find the money to pay this and that…the laundry list continues. Any of this sound familiar?? I pray for the miracles, the answers, the direction I should take but I don’t always get the answer I want, or I don’t “hear” the miracle. Until one morning I remembered a little God whisper from a few years back. Allow me to indulge awhile and explain the “whisper miracle” my family experienced.

During the summer of 2010, my siblings and I embarked on quite a journey. It was a journey of joy, a journey of remembrance, and a journey of learning how to say goodbye. Our father’s long battle with Alzheimer’s was finally coming to an end. He was dying. It was time to say goodbye again to one of the greatest men who ever lived. You see, we had already said goodbye years ago to the man who raised us; and we learned to love and appreciate the new man who inhabited his body. His mind was slipping daily; he could not dress himself, feed himself or perform the basic daily duties of life. That summer was the culmination of a marriage that spanned 56 years, 5 children, 13 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. It was the end of an era.

Our parents had quite the love affair! Was it perfect? No. Did they have struggles in their marriage? Absolutely! They buried a child. They experienced that horrific event that every parent prays will never happen to them. But somehow, through it all, they came out of that dark time together and intact. They loved each other, there was no doubt.

When our mom passed away in 2007, Daddy was devastated. From the moment we laid her to rest, Daddy was ready to join her. He longed for the day when they would be together again. She was his right-hand, his soul-mate, but it was not time for him to leave us yet.

That summer of 2010 was his last and it was during that summer that we experienced that “whisper” from God. It’s a small moment and could have easily been overlooked by us, but thankfully it wasn’t.

The final week of his life, my sisters, my family and myself took vigil at his bedside. Both of my sisters had pretty much moved in with me and we all shared in the joy (and frustruations) of caring for Daddy in his final days. Sometimes it was joyous, but often times it was tedious, frustrating, tiring and heartbreaking. On Wednesday, August 11, 2010, we had taken a break and were sitting outside on the back patio. We were talking, reminiscing and laughing when we noticed a butterfly in the yard. We did not give it a second thought until it fluttered up underneath the patio overhang. The butterfly (a common Monarch butterfly, nothing fancy) danced and flitted, and then it briefly flew over each of our heads. We sat there mesmerized and joking and waving “hi” to the butterfly, like 3 little giddy schoolgirls. This only lasted for a few moments, then the butterfly flew away. We looked at each other and immediately ran inside the house…we thought maybe Daddy had passed and the butterfly was his way of saying goodbye. We realized Daddy was still alive and just chalked up the incident as something funny…we were so very, very wrong!

Over the course of the next few days, each one of us was visited frequently by a butterfly. Once, during one of its visits to me, the butterfly even buzzed over my parent’s dog, almost as if saying “hi”.  Another time a butterfly visited me on the back porch and flew over to the back door and hovered for a while. It almost seemed that the butterfly wanted in the house. These visits began to bring us a sense of peace. We began to talk about these visits and started to wonder if God was trying to say something to us.

On August 15th, Daddy’s final day with us, one of my sisters was sitting at his bedside. She looked out of his window and there was a butterfly resting on the bush that sat underneath. It was as if it was beckoning Daddy to join it. My sister left his bedside and within a half-hour, he took his final breath. We were filled with a mixture of emotions…relief, joy and sadness. Our parents were gone and we were now the older (and wiser) generation. What an overwhelming thought!

As I went outside to take in the events, I looked across the street. I saw the most amazing sight…TWO butterflies were flying away together. They were circling each other in a dance of joy, as if they were long lost friends. I stood there transfixed for what seemed like hours, but I’m sure it was only a few moments.

Those butterflies and those visits meant something, but what? Was it mom visiting us? Were the two butterflies dancing away together Momma and Daddy being reunited? I doubt it. Over the years, I have thought back to those precious moments and asked those same questions.

On my drive in to work recently, I had an epiphany. We experienced a miracle! Not an in-your-face miracle but rather one that gently whispered in our ears “I am with you, you are not alone.” I believe that God used those butterflies to show us that there is life after death AND there is hope, even in the bleakest of times. What better creature to use than the butterfly?? I know that God used those butterflies to bring us comfort, but also to assure us that He has welcomed Momma and Daddy into his Kingdom for eternity. I am so grateful we had an open-mind and were able to see and experience the miracle. How many other miracles have I overlooked? I can assure you, many. But I plan to keep my mind, heart and soul open to those regular, everyday occurrences and listen for those God Whispers!