Posted by: thebellalife | August 3, 2009

The Upside on Alzheimers



Vincent Favre Photography

Vincent Favre Photography


The Upside…is my personal blog. I created this blog about a year ago. I felt inspired to record my moments in time, with my mom while she continues her valiant struggle with Alzheimer’s. My inspiration was to capture those simple everyday moments and conversations between the two of us.  What started as an online journal has quickly evolved into the most precious instruction in life, love and forgiveness.  

My mom’s perceptions are of complete innocence. She is no longer preoccupied with the life she once lead. Her days are spent enjoying visits from her children and grandchildren – watching old TV shows and movies.  She loves to go out to eat, followed by a movie or stopping at Barnes and Noble (where she browses magazines and chooses a few good books to take with her).   My mom now embraces the simple life.  On one of our outings, she turned to me and said “my greatest treasure is my family”.  Then, she went on to say, “the interest I have earned on my lifetime family investment is my children and grandchildren”.  Smiling, she commented, “not a bad return.”

She has become a great story teller, recounting the days of her youth, especially her time as a single young women. The men she dated, the nights spent out dancing and time spent with her Aunt Lois.   She can recall her favorite dress, shoes and accessories as if it was just last night.  My dad has often joked that when he met my mother, she had one dress and 87 pair of shoes…My mom was blessed with impeccable taste and a love for shopping.  A love she has passed on to her three daughter and 6 beautiful granddaughters.

As my mom’s mind drifts into her past, I feel tears and sadness that this great woman is now in the sunset of her life. There are many times I want to call her to tell her about my day, feel her hug and encouragement for pressing forward. However, she no longer feels the anxiety of daily challenges.   Her struggles are confined to the group home where she now resides.  She is an ordinary girl, who continues to live an extraordinary life. She lived her life in seasons –  embracing the events of that time. 

During one evening visit I felt helpless when tears flooded her eyes, “I want to go home, I just want to go home, I am ready to begin a new chapter in my life.” she said. I thought how profound…a new chapter in her life.  As her Alzheimer’s progresses I am astounded how clearly she thinks and communicates for those few precious moments.  On occasion, she’s shared her tears and frustrations with me. Going as far as to apologize for feeling the need to complain (which is something my mom just doesn’t do – complain). She reminded me that complaining does no good, because nobody wants to listen to a complainer. I tried to fight the tears myself but to no avail….the free fall had begun.  As I listened to my mom express her concerns about her Alzheimer diagnosis my heart ached.  How could this be happening?  Then her feelings turned on a dime and she said, “Carla, I am so glad to see you!”  She shifted to a place of bravery.  My mom reminded me “life is no picnic and troubles come to all”. We talked about many spiritual experiences – the most touching was her personal witness that the veil, which separates us from our loved ones on the other side, is very thin and not too far away.  She expressed her love for her parents and the admiration she had for her mother.  She shared her favorite childhood experience of taking the train to Yellowstone…or for that matter driving in her dad’s old truck with the shell on top. She refered those trips as “really living”. She would then revert back to her wall of pictures and say, “there are a bunch of happy faces on my wall. I am lucky to go to bed and wake up every morning with all of those happy faces looking at me.”  Her wall is filled with pictures of her children and grandchildren. 

We talked about my children and how proud she is of each one of them. We reminisced about heartfelt memories. I am so grateful my children will always have such fond memories of Grandma Mannes. My mom looked at me tonight and said, “I hope we take more good memories than bad ones with us when we leave this earth.”   With a lump in my throat I nodded and agreed with her profound statement.  

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

Schweitzer, Albert

My mother’s Book of Life and legacy will be overflowing with those good memories, her countless acts of kindness, service and assistance to those in need.  In the end, I believe my mother will hear those precious words “well done thou good and faithful servant”, for she will have fought the good fight.

I will continue to blog, post and share my experiences with my mom….she will continue to teach me unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness the inner strength that will be required of each of us to endure to the end.

Live with intensity and purpose,



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