“After a year and a half, the caregiver reality is beginning to set in for me,” a fellow traveler wrote. “I have to keep track of everything now. Thanks for what you are doing. I look forward to your newsletter and book.”
Last week I shared why your story calls out mine, and mine yours. If you’re just now reading my posts, my wife Martha was diagnosed in 1997 with Alzheimer’s, at the early age of fifty. As I go forward with this blog, I’ll be sharing more how others are contending with their own particular crises, whether they are dealing with Alzheimer’s, cancer, other health issues, or job and family and financial crises.
Here are a few more stories I’ve received, edited and abbreviated for conciseness. Again, I maintain their confidentiality…
- “Your first newsletter was very emotional for me as I struggled to read it without bursting out in tears. It’s like a walk through a part of Martha’s life I didn’t know. I continue to be amazed at her art work.”
- “I’ve found contemplative or meditative prayer to be an invaluable part of my daily life. I trust it helps me be more attentive to that ‘still, small voice,’ which has so much more to say than my own tiresome thoughts.”
- “I just forwarded your email to several close friends who deeply appreciate it. As usual, I found myself with tears, empathy, joy, excitement as I read through your note while responding with ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ Your way of transparency, of combining empathy and efficiency, truth and love…it’s so helpful. Poetry and art, sweat work, play—there are so many tools in God’s hands to help us heal and grow.”
- “Everyone has been, or will be, touched by an illness like Alzheimer’s. And I’m no exception. My mother, now 94, has suffered from dementia for nearly two decades. For years we’ve asked ourselves what purpose is being served by her continued life, albeit a life of quiet and comfort.
“One brother offered up this possible answer: When he visited our mother recently, a worker in the nursing home introduced herself. ‘Some days get pretty bad around here,’ she said, ‘but I know I can come in and visit your mother. She always makes me feel better.’
“That’s my mom, bringing joy to others even if she doesn’t realize it. But down deep, really deep, she probably does.”
- “Your writing is thought provoking. The night after I read your post on forgiveness I had this insight that to forgive as God forgives includes releasing others from my judgment, condemnation, and criticism—to allow God space in my heart for His creative, restorative, reconciling action. Judging is so ingrained in our culture and every culture I’m familiar with. Maybe forgiveness means for me to pray as God prays, think as God thinks, react as God reacts. This is a totally humbling goal, and without God's direct intervention I can never do this.”
- “I’ve been journaling for many years. I sometimes refer to it as my ‘communion time’ with God. I can speak to and hear God more clearly and feel more uplifted and inspired. I also use my journals to think of the hundreds of things I have to be grateful for each day and to acknowledge their Source. To focus on the blessings helps lighten the darkness of anger, confusion, loneliness, and despair.”
While reviewing these and other responses during Christmas week, I was listening to this moving five-minute rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel by The Piano Guys. As I did, tears filled my eyes. For this carol took on a richness I’d never realized. This hymn, this week, was calling out your stories and mine from somewhere deep within: “O come, o come…”
In closing, Frederick Buechner shares more from Telling Secrets: “Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I, of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity…that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally.”
I hope you find these stories as meaningful as I do.
P.S. I do have an immediate request. I’ve had such a strong response to the posts where I at 70 am talking with me at 40, I’d like to hear from you: What’s the one thing you would tell your younger self if you could? Look back at least a decade, preferably further.
If you’re up for sharing this publicly please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, trying to keep it to 100 words or less. If I get enough of these I’ll share them with the rest of us. And PLEASE put in the subject line: MY STORY; otherwise I might miss it.