On this, the anniversary date of Chris’ passing, I remember. I play his favorite songs on the car stereo as drive to his grave site. I drive the old T-Bird he got for my son. If no one else is about, I’ll rev the engine as a salute on my way out. While I’m there, I tidy up a bit; trim the grass, water the flowers or add some new ones.
Of course I chat with him. He always said he wanted to be buried rather than cremated because he wanted somewhere people could come and visit him.
Some anniversaries I’ll make a coffee date with those who were special to him. Like the great gal from the Benjamin Moore paint store who would always put on a fresh pot of coffee for him.
He was a good man and my great love and these are my ways of remembering.
Everyone honours their loved ones in their own way.
When my brother died, my sister in law, Kamla, arranged a memorial scholarship for Jack. Anyone can still contribute if they like and it helps young people shape their future. A hockey and softball coach, Jack was always interested in helping young people develop their skills. Well thought of at work, Jack’s employer had a bench installed in the local high school grounds dedicated to him.
Also, my brother loved to camp with his family on this one particular site on Arrow Lake. Now every year Kamla hosts a big camp out, with games and remembrance balloons that carry felt pen messages into the sky on the anniversary of his death. Cousins, nieces, nephews, siblings, grandkids and friends from all over come for this annual event.
In some cases, budget restrictions dictate how we will remember our loved ones. It really doesn’t matter. Whether you have a mass said, or party hearty, it’s the thought, the memories and the heartfelt love that really count.
During the days of tending your loved one, you are constantly engaged. Doctors, health agencies, pharmacists, family and friends are all involved in the work you must do.
But who do you talk to when you’re suddenly feeling overwhelmed or dismayed? Or when you need respite care?
Or perhaps, like me, those days are over. And like me, you may suddenly find those days that were filled with innumerable tasks suddenly stretch before you in an endless array of emptiness.
Everything is quiet and still and you begin to feel the pain. Where do you turn for help?
Thrift shops have always been a mecca for me when I’m down–looking over the items seems to help me focus on something other than my present state. One day when I was in the White Rock Hospice Thrift Shop, I mentioned to the clerk that I was trying to find a source of grief counselling.
At once she said that the Hospice Society provided such a service. She handed me a pamphlet with a list of all the services they provide. I was surprised to see that these included bereavement walks, as well as grief counselling individually or in groups.
The best part? It was all free!
For caregivers the hospice societies offer many services including counselling for both the family and the patient. They also act as a resource centre offering information about services they and others provide, including respite care, one on one support and palliative care.
So if you’re looking for any of these services just Google your community hospice society or head on out to your local hospice thrift shop.
Once I found the hospice services, I no longer felt alone in my grief. And I’ve found it easier to situate myself in my new reality.
A client of mine lost her husband to Alzheimer’s last year. As his main care giver, she read everything she could find about people’s personal struggles with Alzheimer’s. This literary journey hasn’t stopped with his death. In her grief, she continues to read about other families’ experiences and the disease that took her loved one.
I read them to find out how other people dealt with it. You know, what I could have maybe done differently? And what I did right, she said.
This is her list of titles:
Before I Forget by B. Smith and Dan Gasby.
Come Back Early Today, by Marie Marley, Ph.D.
Slow Dancing With a Stranger by Meryl Comer.
The Long Hello by Cathie Barrie.
To Johnny With Love by Dagmar Christine Albert
My Mom, My Hero by Lisa R. Hirsch.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
She also recommended two books that are fiction based on fact:
Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova and
Turn of Mind by Alice La Plante.
Those of you who are dealing with Alzheimer’s may recognize certain aspects of your situation as you read. I hope you find new solutions and humour as well as pathos in these books.
Thanks, Donna, for sharing.
My mother had Alzheimer’s. Well, actually the doctor said it wasn’t possible at that time to distinguish between Alzheimer’s and other similar conditions. This poem is a response to her condition and the research I did at the time. And no, it doesn’t rhyme.
Grasping at Research Straws
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)
not so innocent as online florists:
scientists redefining quality of life.
A protein—progranulin-necessary to
nerve cell function; to remembering
luncheon dates and appropriate
behavior for same.
Clinical research indicates inadequate
progranulin production’s a genetic
mutation causing FTD.
Too late for Mother. Send her roses;
long-stemmed burgundy petals
peeling down, like the velvet dress
I once found in the back of her closet:
deliciously sexy on anyone capable
of flirtation and desire…
does progranulin or lack of it affect
Initial research may lead to treatment
in time, but Mother hovers nears the finish.
I wish researchers Mackenzie and Feldman
Mothers with progranulin rich minds.
frontal portal into the brain:
sensors removed, wires crossed.
isolation, depression, short circuitry
rerouting synapse to blank space.
gummed up placque, synapse
box cars skidding off the rails.
scientists probe cause and effect:
in effect the brain shrivels
and we die, wandering homeless
in a vast carapace of skin.