My Fellow Caregivers,
When I was asked to share my story, I readily agreed. Always-anything to support the cause. My mom has been in heaven close to 6 years, I am no longer in the role of active caregiver, so the emotional payout to me, in this already challenging year, would be nominal. Or so I thought. Though I have been writing ‘our story’ (Alzheimer’s. A window inside) for the past several years, I had put it aside-both because it was hard to go ‘back there’, and because I was rebuilding my life after our 10 year journey through Alzheimer’s. But, before starting this story here, I thought, let me read some of what has been shared by others in the past.
The very first line from the very first story I picked up, my heart and eyes filled with emotion. I was ‘back there’-not physically, but emotionally. You see, our stories are the same. We really are woven together in this purple tapestry called Alzheimer’s. You don’t know me & I don’t know you, but our stories interlock. I know what you’re going through, because your story is my story. And my story is your story. As Caregivers, our common thread is LOVE, shown & given through sacrifice. Repeat that to yourself please. Say it out loud. We sign on, not knowing for how long, often unprepared for all that lies ahead (even though we think we are prepared), but knowing in our heart it is the right thing to do. It is the only right thing to do. We also know-through Faith-that no step is taken alone. We will be given the strength we need for the journey, start to finish, however long. Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This was my life verse, especially through Alzheimer’s, with everything personalized…I can do— (fill in the blank) because He will provide all that I need to do in what has been asked of me.
It is not my wish to go into the negatives of the disease. We all know those-we have or we are living it. The Alzheimer’s Association is your most valuable resource to assist with all of the stages. I don’t want to talk the Good, the Bad, the Ugly with regard to Dr.’s, Caregivers, stages and the like. No, I want to give you Hope. Though you may not know it now, you are in the midst of creating some of the most beautiful moments for you and your loved one. Defining moments. Moments that you’ll remember, moments that you’ll cherish, moments that will carry you. You have been positioned to help the one you love finish well, that is your sole focus. This season of life requires that you give it your all. When you think you can’t, you will. Believe me, you will. Alzheimer’s will bring out the best (and the worst) of who you are-all the while showcasing the true beauty and heart behind sacrificial love. God was with us. He walked in front, behind and alongside. He may show up in a moment that is personal only to you, but that moment will come when you need it most. He may show up through friends, or an encouraging word, a support group, or your own strengthened resolve. But He is there. In your next breath.
My mother was my best friend. I honestly felt that no one in this world would ever love me more. And when the time came for her to leave, how hard would that be? How could I go on without her and that love? A gift came to me during one of her lucid moments, it came smack dab in the middle of a very hard, trying hospital stay. She looked at me full on, with intention and asked me to promise her that I would enjoy my life. It made me cry then. It makes me cry now. But that is exactly what I am doing. I know I will see her again one day in heaven. I also know that she lives in me and through me. There is nothing I do that does not cycle back to her influence and love. My mother, like all those who are living with Alzheimer’s, was very courageous. They deserve our best. They did not ask for this diagnosis. We, the Caregivers, are courageous too. We are Warriors. But one day, the battle will be won. One day we will have our cure, and all of us, will have played a part in that victory.
Fellow Caregivers, stay the course. THANK YOU for all that you do – hear this loud and clear-what you do matters. Tuck that away in your heart for as often as you need to hear it. May God bless you and yours on your journey. We, all of us are praying for you and supporting you.
Sincerely, Peggy Martino
On behalf of my mother, my best friend, my Boopa… June Martino