Why Your Story Calls Out Mine, and Mine Yours

When I set out last September to share takeaways from our family’s story with Alzheimer’s, I was a bit scared. It’s risky business laying your life out there publicly and not knowing how it would be received. My worst fear was dead silence—that there would be no response.

That fear was misplaced. 

I’m unsure what my expectations were, but the response has far exceeded my best hope. Hundreds of folks have signed on to receive my blog posts via email. And from the feedback I’ve received I sense that scores more are reading pass-alongs or catching my posts on Facebook.

A handful of friends from my elementary-school years are following our story, and even more from high school. This is my second-grade class, the picture compliments of Mollie, Nick, Ella, and Jenny. Guess where I am. (Psst…I’ll let you know at the end of this post.)

A little over half of the subscribers reading our takeaway posts are friends, acquaintances, or family. As for the remainder, I have no idea how they showed up. But I’m glad they did. 

A former newspaper colleague and I have reconnected after three decades. Another reading my posts crossed paths with Martha early in our marriage and kept up with her during her City Council days. I’ve heard from a football teammate who I haven’t seen since Georgia Tech. An adult friendship has begun with a guy several years my junior—we haven’t seen each other since 1963, when I graduated from high school.

As you might expect, several who are reading these posts have dealt with or are contending with varying degrees of dementia, either as patient or caregiver. But a lot more seem to be wrestling with a wide variety of crises. 

In all, I’ve heard from a hundred or more folks sharing their own stories.   

What’s going on? 

In Telling Secrets, Frederick Buechner describes it this way: “But I talk about my life anyway because if, on the one hand, hardly anything could be less important, on the other hand, hardly anything could be more important. My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours.”

While maintaining confidentiality here are some of the responses I’ve received, which I’ve edited for conciseness… 

  • “Thank you so much for writing about forgiveness. I am turning 45 tomorrow and want to add this to my journey. I have a sibling where forgiveness is a constant issue because just as I work through one she adds another. Maybe I’m forgiving incidents rather than the person, myself, and the relationship…”
  • “I could hardly imagine a worse disease than Alzheimer’s. My husband was diagnosed with it—his was not early onset, as he was much older than your Martha. I am extremely interested in knowing more about how other families coped with the challenges.”
  • “I do struggle with a lot of fear. I feel as if I have lost control of life’s course but have realized that I never really had control. That is a false perception on my part. That I need to let God be God. But then fear creeps back up. So it’s a cycle.”
  • “Once again I’m in tears. Not only do I have my journey with my husband’s illness, but also one of my dearest friends is going through early onset Alzheimer’s. So your words make me cry, laugh, and be grateful. Thank you.”
  • “I have been in a Bible study with the same girls for nine years. I am sharing your blurbs with them every Wednesday. We are getting so excited about your book. I love that you are writing from your heart and soul. I’m already looking for my quiet places that you wrote about.”
  • “We always celebrate Thanksgiving where my wife grew up. It’s always with a blended family; attendance ranges from 30 to 60. Soon after I arrived on Thursday I was chatting with the host, who normally offers a pre-meal prayer, and I showed him your email on A Thanksgiving Memory. He asked if he could use the prayer you sent, and of course I agreed. His recitation was a moving one.” 

I’ll close with a link to a website post you may want to check out. While aimed at caregivers contending with Alzheimer’s, many of these hard-learned lessons would make good chicken soup for almost any crisis: 25 Lessons Learned from Alzheimer’s Caregivers

BTW…In the picture above, I’m on the top row, fourth from our teacher, Mrs. Henry. 


P.S. I’ve received many other comments, several of which I’ll share next week and later.

P.P.S. Forgive me if I bore you with my reminders. But you may share this post and others with your friends and family. Or they may sign up to receive their own copy at www.carlenmaddux.com.