Marcia and I discuss life on so many levels. She is such an interesting person and she has beautiful stories to tell. Our friendship spans a period of probably 8 years. I met Marcia when I went to a Unity Church class teaching “A Course in Miracles.” They still meet every week. It was all a bit above my head – I was not spiritually advanced enough to absorb the lessons – thats ok, one day I will be. I left the class, visit occasionally, however I left with one special friend. Marcia Lamb.
Despite our more than 20 year age gap, we are good friends. We may agree on most Spiritual beliefs however we are on differing political spectrums and with an unspoken rule, we seldom discuss politics. Feisty Marcia gets her jabs in though. Smile…..
The Gift In Alzheimers – Marcia’s perspective
When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers I realized I couldn’t change the disease, but I could change how I looked at it. I felt angry. I had a choice – remain in anger and pity or embrace this wonderful mother and receive her gifts. I embraced it and started to look for the gifts.
Alzheimers – The Unfolding:
I knew something was wrong. Mother was 86 – so was it the process of aging? Was it more? I decided that until something happened I would do nothing. That something was her not taking her insulin for 2 weeks. She was always exact on her insulin and managing her diabetes.
The fear was gripping through the process of accepting the diagnosis. As we left the Doctors office, I had a terrible sinking feeling. “What if this wasn’t right and I just branded her for life?” It was an awful feeling.
There were so many decisions to be made. My biggest hurdle was medication. I don’t believe I would allow the medication if I could choose again. Aricept for Memory and Zoloft for depression. The expensive medications keep them on the edge – just enough to know, that they don’t know. When I pulled the medicine, she became a happier, nicer person – the person she always was. This was the moment that I realized that Alzheimers was not such a terrible disease.
We Are All Leaving Earth – no one gets out alive. How we leave will be different for each one of us – age, health, pain, sudden or perhaps a long illness. We don’t know and we may fear it. My Mother did not know any of this. That in itself is a gift.
Caring for the elderly is big business and getting bigger every day. Alzheimers is the cause of much pain to the loved ones making decisions. They fear it.
Alzheimers is God’s Gift to us that are leaving. I believe God leaves our bodies a bit longer, after our Souls have long gone, so that our family can get used to the ideas that we are going… going…. gone. It is a relief for those that remain. They who remain feel the guilt, not see the gift. Look for the gift.
The True Meaning Of Relationships
We, as humans, try to put relationships into boxes – we love this one, we like that one, however that one is not ours. We judge relationships with expectations. Through the eyes of the Alzheimers patients – we are all one. We are companions. There is no difference between you, you and me. Isn’t that just wonderful? It’s a peaceful world.
Alzheimer Patients Gifts to Us
- How to Live in the Now
- Giving up Attachments
- The Beauty of Companionship
# 1 How To Live In The Now – not the past or the future.
My Mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimers came into my life around the same time as I was studying the book “The Power Of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. She was to become a living example of what I was trying to learn… living in the now. The only thing that my Mom knew, was the present moment. What an incredible gift.
#2 Giving Up Attachments – Nothing matters.
The second gift I know now, was when she left her home and never looked back. The home she loved and treasured. She did not miss the jewelry that was so much part of her life. She lost her glasses and didn’t miss them. She would be able to wear someone else’s glasses and seemed to see just fine. I watched others in the care center that lost their hearing aids and yet they seemed to hear. All those things that were so important, no longer mattered. Nothing matters.
# 3 The Beauty Of Companionship – that we are all One
The third gift is the meaning of relationships. It is all companionship. We are the ones that spend the energy and time trying to to define a relationship, what it looks like, how it should be and finally if we approve of it. With Alzheimer patients, we are all the same. We are all one. No gender, no classification – just being.
What if I continue to be sad upset and looked at this disease as so terrible? I would always be correcting her, not allowing her the now, wanting her to look perfect all the time. I might be upset if she found companionship with others, especially if they didn’t look or act like I thought they should.
Our Gifts to Alzheimer’s Patients
- Embracing the process
- Letting go.
What are the gifts I could give my mother?
Moving her to a safe, secure environment, which was not her home. This would be her place of sanctuary, a place of no judgement and a place where she could just be. She seemed content for the most part.
#2 Embracing the Process
Entering and embracing her world and not making her try to live in my world. This one was hard for me as our relationship was built on honesty. I had to enter her world, wherever she was. Being able to enter her world – we had such joy and fun. I was able to receive her gifts – the final lessons with great gratitude.
#3 Letting Go
My first meeting with Hospice – I learnt so much. Letting Go is the last gift we give them. I was able to let go knowing that I would be alright.
- How do we know when that time is here?
- As we watch a loved one, can we say that we would like to trade places? This is a very hard decision to make.
- Are we being caring when medicines are used to keep life going?
- Who are we thinking of? Is it them or is it for us?
I recently read that the people that are ill, suffering great pain or dying, often called out for their mothers. It is the call of the heart to go home again to return to its source, to wrap its final breath in the memory of being loved.
Pause for Thought
Looking back on my life with my family – my Mother was an incredible women. My parents enjoyed 61 years of marriage. When Dad died, we were all surprised that my Mom seemed to adjust so well. I believe that may have been the start of her Alzheimers. Alzheimers is so very subtle. During this time it is the most difficult, to see strange behavior and not understand it. You are inclined to think they are manipulating you for attention and you end up judging them so unfairly.…… Then, you have the guilt. The guilt you feel, while having to make difficult decisions. The guilt for telling the ‘white lies’ you learn to tell, for their sake. This is especially hard when your relationship is built on honesty and trust. The acceptance of the disease takes time and education and it requires a shift in our attitude to embrace our loved one.
I listened to family members visiting with their loved ones in the care center, asking why their loved ones were not being more active. Why are they were not in a more social setting? It is just not important. I hope that someone is not getting me up at 6.00am and making me get dressed, if it happens to be a day I want to spend in my PJ’s. Don’t herd me down with a bunch of new friends to play games that I cannot remember how to play – that is crazy. Do not keep these beautiful Souls in our world – let them do them. Why do you think you know whats best for them? In fact, Alzheimers patients get upset and aggressive when we make them do what they don’t want to do. Let them be who they are. Join them in their world.
Think about all the stuff we move in with them to their care center. Is it because they will be more comfortable with their familiar surroundings, when they don’t know it or remember it at all. I remember my Mother loved her rings. Her diamond was beautiful and she would often sit and turn it on her finger, handling it fondly. When it started to fall off her finger I took it off her, rushed to the store and replaced it with a $12 bling, bling. Five minutes later she had no idea what I was talking about when I asked her about her ring. Who did I buy the ring for? Was it to make me feel better?
What about the times we get upset that they are not being cared for properly? They are over it and have forgotten it within 15 minutes or less, yet we write the story and go over it again and again. Who suffers? Not my Mother.
What about the medicines we spend money on to keep them alive longer to enjoy their situation? Is this God’s choice or our choice? What would be the difference between living here or serving a life sentence in a prison?
Why do we fear death so much? Our human body may pass, but our Soul lives on. When our loved ones ask to go home – do we really know what HOME they are talking about?
Is it possible that Alzheimers is here to teach us about ourselves? Isn’t that what illness and sickness is all about?
She was a Grandmother and a Great Grandmother, however she was my best friend. My Mother – Shirlee A Mathiason.
By Marcia Lamb
The Alzheimers Prayer
Please grant my visitors tolerance for my confusion
Forgiveness for my irrationality and the strength
To walk with me into the mist of memory
My world has become.
Please let them take my hand and stay awhile,
Even though I seem unaware of their presence.
Help them know their strength
And loving care will drift slowly
Into the days to come just when I need it most.
Let them know when I don’t recognize them,
That I will ….I will
Keep their hearts free from sorrow for me.
For my sorrow, when it comes,
Only lasts a moment and then it’s gone.
And finally, please let them know
How very much their visits mean,
How even through this relentless mystery,
I can still feel their love.