Footprints On Our Hearts

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“Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon.  They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”

We lost a dear Christian lady, age 56, to cancer a few days ago.  Her funeral is today.  Her husband, mother, children, grandchildren and friends have watched her suffer for quite some time.

“Love the people God gave you, because he will need them back one day.”

It has been almost 6 months now since I lost my brother to dementia.  Being his caregiver for years and watching him suffer was so sorrowful. He left footprints on my heart and I will never be the same.  Grief becomes more bearable with time, but the loss is always there.  Never judge someone who is grieving until you have lost someone. Never judge until you understand grief is a healing process.

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A Tribute To Our Friend Ronnie

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Our dear friend Ronnie passed away last night.  Ronnie was a gentle, kind, caring, good man who was 70 years old.  He received a purple heart for his service in the Viet Nam war.  We believe that Agent Orange was what caused Ronnie’s death.  He suffered for a very long time.  Our hearts go out to his wife, children, and grandchildren.  He was deeply loved by his family and friends and he will be greatly missed.  God bless those who feel the loss of this good Christian man.

The Shadows of Sorrow

 

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My brother has been in the hospital, he is better and returning to the nursing home today. I have been thinking about J.R. a lot during his hospital stay. I thought back to our childhood.  My brother J.R. was active, hyper, impulsive, and jumped up instantly as some exciting thought entered his mind.  There was no middle ground in his world.  My brother was either on top of the world or down in a deep pit of gloom and despair.

Years ago J.R. was staying with my husband and I to acquire support to go into the missionary fields in another country.  His wife chose to remain at home, in another state, with their three children.  My brother was excited, a letter had arrived from his wife.  As he opened the letter and began to read, the expression of joy turned to disbelief and sorrow.  J.R. passed the letter to me, I found out the reasons he looked so sad.  I sat watching my brother’s face.  I have never seen such devastation reflected on anyone’s features.  I felt his pain, the hopelessness, as his shoulders gradually sank lower into his chest.  His wife was leaving him, his children were disowning him.  They had decided that every family problem and all their unhappiness was my brother’s fault. This time it was not something trivial in my brother’s life, it was something gut wrenching.

I raised my eyes, looked at my brother’s face, and I saw tears streaming down his face.  I walked over to him and wrapped my arms around my brother in a protective hug and tears began to wet my cheeks.  There were no words I could utter that could possibly help my brother.  J.R. could not be consoled.  He hurriedly walked out the door, down the lane, and into the woods.  We left him to his solitude.

Several days later we learned the church had received a letter from J.R.’s wife.  Leaving J.R. was not enough, she chose to destroy him as a preacher and a human being.  She took thousand of dollars of collected support money and she disappeared.  She left J.R. to pick up the pieces of his shattered life.  She ruined J.R.’s reputation as well as ours.

There was no consoling J.R., there was nothing we said to him that mattered.  J.R. sank into his pit of gloom.  He told me his life was over.  Kind hearted, generous, loving J.R. felt his life had hit the bottom and there was no way back up.  I thought his wife had to be cold-hearted to do something like this to my brother.

J.R. packed his bags and went to Arizona to stay with out parents.  His wife would call my Mother and tell her J.R. was a horrible person and that he needed to be committed to a mental institution.  These phone calls truly upset my Mother.

For 20 years my brother grieved for his family to the depths of his soul.  He began a business, he continued to preach in Arizona.  He stayed near our parents to help them with their lives.  Not once did J.R,.’s wife or children contact him.  We were never able to locate his family.

Most of you know what J.R.’s business partner did to him in Arizona.  Stole everything he owned.  J.R. has been mistreated by so many people in his life.  He does not remember his family anymore and I am glad.  Life seems to beat all of us down and sometimes we lose the strength to get back up.  Perhaps God gave my brother dementia to relieve him of the burden of his pain, sorrow, and loss.

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A Tribute to Mom

My mother Wilma died over a decade ago on July 16, 2002.  Mom’s absence from my life is still overwhelming.  My Mother was my best friend.  I am certain I will miss Mom until the day I die.

Mom’s diagnosis of dementia was extremely hard for me to process.  Mom was such an intelligent person with so much common sense.  Mom kept us laughing with her very funny sense of humor.  She was a good Christian, a strong person, very loving and kind.  She loved her four children equally, she nurtured us, fought battles for us, and instilled morals and values in our brains.  We never doubted Mom’s love for us.

Dementia is a sorrowful, grieving process.  The hardest part of dementia is dealing with the disappearance of a person’s mind.  When someone who loved you so much has forgotten who you are, it is devastating.

So, “Mom” here is my tribute to one of the best Mothers that God could possibly have given me.  Mom, I love you, I miss you, and God willing I will see you again one day in Heaven.

2 Timothy 4:6-8

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:  Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

An Early Goodbye to Someone You Love

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I always thought the final goodbye happened when death took you from this earth.  Then on Mother’s Day, I realized the final goodbye for someone with dementia may come much sooner.

My brother J.R., who has dementia,  has been spiraling down hill since February of this year.  He was in the Psych Hospital in February and now on Mother’s Day he was placed there again.

J.R. has had 4 altercations with other nursing home residents since February.  Saturday he went into the room of an elderly female patient and kicked her in both of her legs, bruising them very badly.  He took her flyswatter to hit her and she began to scream and yell for help.  J.R. does not know what he is doing, another section of his brain has died. That does not help those that he assaults. A police report was filed, an aide assigned to watch J.R., and a trip to the Psych Hospital the next day.  I do not know yet if J.R. will be placed in a lock down unit for violent dementia patients.

My brother was always a kind, caring person, a preacher for 40 years.  He was a great son, brother, friend, and human being.  We miss his humor, his love, his hugs, his smile that would light up his whole face. J.R. has not known those who love him for sometime now.  I see mentally that J.R. has disappeared before our eyes.

The stress for me for 3 years has been overwhelming and the guilt of my decisions for his life have caused me sorrow and remorse.  I am once again shedding tears for J.R.   You see – at last as I sit here on Mother’s Day I said goodbye to my brother J.R. and it broke my heart.  I will continue to make decisions for his care.  Do not judge me for saying my goodbye now unless you have dealt with the devastating disease of dementia.  You have to eventually, emotionally, detach yourself from some one you have loved for years.

To those who are caregivers I want to say – when the mind is gone it is ok to say goodbye. Never feel guilty for decisions you have had to make for your love ones with dementia. Through stress, sorrow, and tears know that you have done your best.  God bless all caregivers.

Walking Into The Fog

My mind was engaged in thoughts of my brother J.R. the other day.  I was thinking how disoriented dementia had caused J.R. to become in the past 3 years.  I tried to figure out which word would best describe dementia.  The word that finally popped into my mind was FOG.

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J.R. was a fantastic preacher for 43 years.  He went on missionary journeys into Africa, India, and Mexico just to mention a few.  He preached throughout the U.S. for years. The hardest part of watching J.R. walk into the fog of his dementia journey was watching his knowledge of God’s word disappear.  The loss of his understanding of the scriptures caused extreme sadness in my soul.  Dementia is such a waste of a person’s mind.  When we first brought J.R. to live with us he could participate in Bible class.  As time went by I tried to help J.R. find scriptures we were studying.  J.R. would get distracted and simply turn pages in his Bible.  Soon J.R. could not tell the Bible from the songbook.  Sadness overwhelmed me as I watched dementia destroy the brain of someone I loved.

J.R. loved singing church songs.  He often filled in as the song leader at church.  In a span of 4 months he could not understand how to return to the top of a page to begin verse 2 of a song.  I would take my finger and point to verse 2 for him.  J.R. could not comprehend what I was trying to do.  He would begin to turn pages in the songbook trying to find the 2nd verse.

J.R. was also a very good locksmith for 30 years.  He lost all of his skills as a locksmith. He did manage to disassemble door knobs at the nursing home, without tools(?).  I never knew how he managed that feat.

Dementia destroys sections of the brain over a period of time.  There is no rhyme or reason to let anyone know which section of the brain disappears first.  From years of dealing with my mother, brother, and a friend with dementia I describe it as, “Walking Into The Fog.”  The farther they walk into the fog, the more they become lost to you and themselves.

Try as we might we cannot defeat dementia.  Dementia has become an epidemic through out the entire world.  I often think pesticides, food additives, chemicals, dyes, and many other things we should not ingest are causing dementia.

Dementia causes a totally confusing, frustrating, jumbled, perplexing life for the person who has dementia.

Dementia causes depression, distress, unhappiness, regret, guilt, sadness, stress and grief for the caregiver.

God bless those with dementia and those that care for them.

Dementia Robs You of Your Mind

Just as winter robs this Oak tree of its leaves, Dementia robs a person of their mind.  Your mind slowly dies and disappears.  It takes from you, your personality, your ability to understand, the memories stored in your brain. It causes you confusion, takes your skills on how to perform daily tasks of life.  It takes you from those you love.  I have shed many tears for the loss of the brother I once knew.  How many times have I wanted my brother to return to me.  I cannot count all the things I miss about my brother, they are too numerous.  The hardest part of dementia, for a caregiver, is to watch their loved ones deal with the loss of being a normal human being.  Their dignity gets lost in the shuffle as their mind slowly fades away.

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Sorrow really rears its head when you are a caregiver, but the emotion that truly hits home is guilt.  It is not the caregiver’s fault their loved one has dementia.  You never feel as if you are handling the situation correctly.  You do not want to make the decisions for another human being.  You feel helpless when those in authority force you into making a choice, between 2 alternatives, for your loved one’s care.  At times grief kicks in and the tears flow.  You feel selfish, because you tell yourself you do not want to be a caregiver any longer, yet you know that is what you have to do.

Anger plagues the caregiver, because you try to protect your loved one from all the drugs that doctors prescribe.  You see your loved one with dementia turned into a robot that the nursing home can control.  It makes you feel as if the drugs are destroying what brain your loved one has left.  I fight for my brother constantly about the over use of drugs.  I have to admit it seldom does much good, but I have to try.   Caregiver means you are required to protect a person who is incapable of protecting themself.

It’s hard for me to enjoy my life, because I realize my brother has an inferior life to mine. Somehow this seems cruel and unfair.  You want to turn the clock back 20 years and give back to your brother, the life he lost.

Perhaps someday no one else in this world will have to suffer with this horrible disease called Dementia.  That cure will be discovered.  I know it is too late for my brother, but I pray to God that the cure will be found soon.