When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was still living close to me – I spent some time reading about the disease so I could prepare myself and other family members for the eventual fate of Alzheimer’s. One book that meant the most to me was “Losing my mind” by Thomas DeBaggio, a well known herb farmer in the United States. When he was diagnosed with the disease he set out to write a book about the various stages of the disease – what makes this book so interesting is that he was going through the stages as he was writing about the disease. At times he said he couldn’t remember what a word looked like never mind write it. The book fascinated me, saddened me, frightened me, taught me much about Alzheimer’s and about the journey we were about to embark upon with our mother. Below is a poem he received from a woman who wrote this poem dedicated to her husband as she watched his mind being robbed by the disease – the poem struck a chord with me and I kept it close to my heart. Two years after reading it, I included the poem at the end of the Eulogy I said at my mother’s funeral. As the disease robbed my mother of the joys in her life, this poem reminded me of her because she fought the disease with all of her heart – determined to try and remember. For anyone who is suffering of watching a loved one waste away with Alzheimer’s or anyone who has been through this experience I believe it may bring you some comfort.
Today I hear the voice of a 58 year old man,
As he spoke of losing his memory,
Word by word, thought by thought,
He said “The only thing I never forget
is that I have Alzheimer’s disease.”
As he spoke of exercising his mind,
I pictured, once again, my husband
sitting at his desk, writing his name,
over and over, letters missing,
writing fading into a meaningless scrawl.
Then a group of near-perfect signatures.
Strong will and determination to not let go,
Beaten by the inevitable progress
of a mind-stealing illness.
At that moment I wanted to reach out
and tell this family that I too could
never forget that I loved one who
had Alzheimer’s disease.
I wanted to tell them too,
That times of pure love and closeness
will be theirs to savour and enjoy.
The simple accomplishments
are like a mountain climbed.
A victory against all odds.
That the act of unlearning
is like a book read backwards.
The words and stories there
to be unscrambled, interpreted,
and imprinted on the minds of others.
My mother pictured at our wedding – one of the last good times everyone was all together before she got sick.