PLEASE NOTE: Even though this blog is now dormant there are many useful, insightful posts. Scroll back from the end or forward from the beginning. Also, check out my writer's blog. Periodically I will add posts here if they provide additional information about living well with Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Beauty of Grief

The title for this post was suggested to me by a friend who is working through her father's Dementia/ Alzheimer's and trying to help her mother work with it as well. "I've been reading the blog, thinking of you and Gregory and my dad. You express your feelings so well. I would like to share some of the entries with my mom but I don't know if she'll be able to accept them. Thank you for ...sharing... the beauty of your grief," she said in a recent e-mail.

I do appreciate all comments added to the posts, separate e-mails people send, and sometimes the in person hugs. In this case her compliments mean a lot to me if only because she is not only a wonderful person but a Librarian, avid reader, story teller herself and one of most articulate, intelligent, world traveled people I know. So "beauty" coming from her to me regarding my blog means a lot!

Her use of the term "Beauty of Grief" caused me to want to sit down and think, in writing, about what that means to me.  
Grief | grēf | Noun. Deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone's death. Sorrow, misery, sadness, anguish, pain, distress, heartache, heartbreak, agony, torment, affliction, suffering, woe, desolation, dejections despair, mourning, bereavement, lamentation.

But beauty?

Actually, yes beauty. If one can allow oneself to see the beauty in grief and not just the loss. In loss there can be gratefulness as well, if one looks deep enough. Gregory has died. I am sad and at times my emotions resemble all the nouns listed above. But I also feel a sense of joy and yes beauty, when I allow myself to be grateful for the wonderful life he and I had together for 40 years. 

I feel good that he was able to be mostly calm and accepting of his Dementia/ Alzheimer's diagnosis and that we, together, were able to make his life joyful and full as we compensated for the changes the disease gave us. I am grateful that we enjoyed each other and our condo and our sexy Audi convertible, and living in downtown Evanston. 

Even with the diagnosis, we didn't lie down and die but rather hunkered down and kept going. We enjoyed cooking, entertaining, travel, theater, opera, family, and friends. For as long as he was able; he continued reading, doing crossword puzzles, taking walks, helping prepare meals, going shopping with me, helping around the house and with the pets. Slowly these abilities disappeared but he kept up the best he could and let them go with dignity while remaining content with what he was still able to do.

He trusted and deferred to me but more than that I trusted myself to take care of him when he needed it with regards to matters of home, health, finances, entertainment, etc. I didn't disrespect him by making decisions unilaterally or prematurely which would affect his life and his well being. Even though he usually let me take the lead, we continued to "operate" as a team in decision making. We continued to "fall in love" with each other more than ever.

The last phrase became one of our guideposts: MORE THAN EVER. It became the name of the More Than Ever Trust we established which would take care of him if I died or take care of both of us if I no longer could make decisions on our behalf. It protected both of us, with Power of Attorney of Health and Property and wills, in our "same sex relationship" when church, state, and national laws and opinions wouldn't.

The phrase was also used to name the education fund that we had talked about so many years ago but now were able to do something about. The More Than Ever Education Fund which will help provide scholarships for homeless youth and will be administrated by our long time charity friend, La Casa Norte.

I am grateful for his days at Lieberman Center which were spent with his usual grace and compassion for others. The care they gave him was superb and Manny, his private pay day care partner, was if not a Saint, a very highly placed Angel! Everyone on the staff at Lieberman and other residents and their families loved and enjoyed Gregory.

I was fortunate to be able to visit Gregory almost every day and we enjoyed those times fully with touching, talking, singing, fresh air, and sharing meals;  musical concerts and other events in the Lieberman Community Room; and especially treating Gregory to his favorite cookies, chocolates, and rice puddings!

He died peacefully after four days of preparing himself to let go of this life and move on to his next adventure. Many of his friends were able to sit with him and help him to let go. Family who live far sent continuous prayers and love our way. He gave me one final kiss after being in a coma for three days and on the fourth day he slipped away. He didn't go out with a bang which would not have been his style. His death reflected his life: calm, simple, compassionate, and loving. 

So BEAUTY? Yes BEAUTY! Gregory was a beautiful person, lived a beautiful life, shared his beautiful love with me and so many others, created beautiful friendships, designed and built beautiful homes and temples, and left much beauty behind in many ways for many others to continue to enjoy. 

I miss him so much. Death is still one of the great mysteries of life. I am lonely, I am sad, but I am blessed. It was a good run, thanks Gregory!

• • •

P.S. I need to add some thoughts that people reading this blog may be thinking. Believe me, I have had some of them myself. Gregory's and my entire time of 12+ years dealing with Dementia/ Alzheimer's, let alone our 40+ years of being together, was not always beautiful.

Sometimes as we grew in our relationship,  our earlier life was very difficult and at times our life with Dementia/ Alzheimer's seemed like the word CRAZY personified. Sometimes I was mean or impatient with him. Sometimes we did not resolve issues. Sometimes anger reigned. (Although we vowed and succeeded in never going to bed angry.)

Yes, there are things I would have done differently and yes, there are things I would still like to tell him. I apologized often and he always forgave. For the most part we did not leave too many things unsettled. I know that for a lot of people, and for me as well, we have regrets at missed opportunities or things not said.

How can there be beauty in that? Well maybe there can when the word forgiveness is added to the word beauty. Forgiveness of the other person and most importantly forgiveness of oneself.

I still talk to Gregory and believe that he is listening. No matter your believe system, if you want to believe something ... it can be true. So I believe that Gregory is listening to me, answering me sometimes, and watching me ... as well as watching over me. If I want to believe, and if this makes me feel better ... it is so!

Maybe you can do this as well. Sit down in a quiet place and talk to the person you love and tell them what you are thinking. Tell them what you are feeling. Tell them what you wished they had been able to give or say to you as well as what you wished you had been able to give or say to them.

There will be forgiveness and love shared, even if you feel it might be too late. But I believe that it is never too late to forgive and to love and to share ... and because I believe it ... it is true ... at least for me ... and maybe for you!

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