Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Gratitude and Hope

Prologue to blogpost. I've mentioned my good friend, Karen Fletcher, in my posts before. Karen and I were friends in high school and graduated together, went to college together, and we lost contact for several years. We re-connected after a few decades and found that both of our husbands had dementia (her husband's diagnosis was Inclusion Body Myositis that often comes with frontal lobe dementia, and Billy has Alzheimer's Disease), and Karen had just placed her husband, George, in an assisted living facility. It wasn't difficult to see why God led us back to our friendship. For the last few years, we've met monthly for dinner. For the first time, one of us had to cancel last week when Karen called and said George was sick with the flu, and she just couldn't leave him. The next day, the medical staff felt he had suffered a stroke also, but at that time he was fairly stable. Since Karen was also sick with strep throat, she went to the doctor and home to rest. The next morning, she received a call that George was declining rapidly, and he passed away that afternoon. Tomorrow I will attend George's funeral, and I will hug Karen tightly and wonder what I can say that will convey how terribly sorry I am. This is my third friend to lose her spouse to a dementia related disease in less than one year. Karen Henley lost Mike last February, and Delores lost David in October. Now George has passed. Each woman of faith knows that her loving husband is whole again, but the pain of their earthly absence is not diminished. Lord, come quickly.

As we close out 2012, I remember well how I was feeling this time last year. Holiday time had been tough. Billy's needs exceeded my abilities, and I knew it was time for a residential placement. I can hardly believe that in less than a month Billy will have lived in Lexington Place for a full year. I am at peace about Billy living there with caregivers around the clock - all of whom care deeply about the residents and are trained to care for patients with dementia.  A few of the aides work very well with Billy, and some of the others are less connected to him, but they get the job done. Dementia patients depend on routine, and the nursing home staff provides consistency in the nurses, but the aides rotate on a schedule I have never figured out. I find myself grateful for so much this past year. My list follows.
  • Jesus. Lord and savior, comforter, Prince of Peace, the Great I Am.
  • Billy. I'm thankful I can still touch him, hold his hand, kiss his lips, and stroke his face. He is drifting away from us in so many ways, but he knows that I love him, and many days, he knows my name. His spirit knows my spirit. I am grateful.
  • The staff that cares for Billy each day. I can assure you they do not make enough money for all they do. One aide brings nice shampoos and bodywash, so she can shower the residents with something other than the all purpose soap that dries out their skin and hair. Another aide brings him burgers from McDonalds to snack on.
  • Memories. The good ones especially, and the not as good ones because they are reality. Billy was big on tradition, and he didn't like to veer from it. He loved Christmas, and in spite of his years working with Wolfe Nursery where the Christmas season meant 12 and 14 hour work days often in very cold temperatures, he enjoyed decorating our house with lights that outlined our house and rivaled the Griswalds.  Each year he got on the roof and freehanded the shape of Texas in Christmas lights, and then he wrote Merry Texas Christmas inside the outline.
  • Family. We have always been a loving family and what I would consider a close family. With all the "events" in the last several years, we are more loving, more tightly knit, and living in close proximity of each other, and we never take each other for granted.
  • Friends. How would we survive without them? We are bolstered daily by those who pray for us, check in with us, laugh with us and cry with us. I am touched by those who visit Billy even though it's so difficult for them to see him like he is now. I am humbled and grateful to those who so generously help with the financial burden of caring for Billy.
  • My job. As a good friend often says, I love my job always, and on bad days I still like my job. I work with remarkable people who care deeply about children and always help me focus on what is important.  
My hopes and prayers for 2013:
  • I pray that Billy remains stable for as long as possible. For the over 31 years I've been married to Billy, he never weighed less than 200 pounds, and I never minded that. I pray that his weightloss will stabilize because he's lost over 50 pounds and a great deal of muscle mass.
  • A cure for Alzheimer's Disease that will spare generations to come.
  • I pray for the successful removal of my mom's tumor and a cancer-free life for her.
  • I pray that my dad's disease stabilizes.
  • Reconciliation and forgiveness in broken relationships.
I could write many more prayers for this coming year, and I most likely will. However, these are the most prevalent in my life at the moment.

I've struggled with writing lately. Everytime I decided to write, I couldn't find my positive spin. The holiday season has been busy, stressful, and some of the days seem blurred. I'm coming out of my fog and seeing the positives again. Happy New Year to all, and thank you for reading. God is faithful.


  1. Yes I totally understand your prayer request....I too have struggled to write to find that positive spin also. December was a blur, but here is to another year and fresh start. Praying for you and Billy always!! BTW, Curt has lost about 30 lbs and so much muscle mass also. He used to be so STRONG and fit, now he is just mushy! :(

  2. Kathy,
    I'm glad to see you writing again. I was becoming concerned with the long gap in time. You know you don't have to wait until you find a positive spin to write something. We all understand that there are going to be some down days, too. You and Billy continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

  3. Beautifully written - Thanks, Kathy, for sharing your heart. You and Billy continue to be in my prayers.

  4. Hang onto those sweet pictures and memories. I pray that Billy has many more good days....one step, one day at a time.
    Hugs and prayers to you!!