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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dreams

From the time I was a teenager, I dreamed of writing a book. For many years, my writing consisted of journaling, and I never seemed to find the time to actually write the great American novel. Then, I had a dream to compile a book of slice-of-life stories about Alzheimer’s. My blueprint was drawn from images in my mind. I visualized the completed book: circular pictures of the people featured in the stories, divided into the stages of the disease, and articles to help people find resources. I dreamed the book could influence legislators to increase research dollars when they read these personal stories, saw the faces of dementia, or learned from the title of the book that 110,000 people in Missouri have Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s Anthology of Unconditional Love was printed in September 2007 and will be distributed to legislators on Memory Day, March 12, 2008. Sure, it took a lot of work and perseverance, but no one said turning dreams into reality was easy.

Now my dream is to write a book devoted to early onset dementia. My dream is that this book will be better than the first one, and send a new message: Alzheimer’s is a brain disease, not a normal part of aging.

Alzheimer’s is a dream shattering disease, and throughout Jim’s illness, I rebuilt my dreams many times. The disease made me feel powerless, and to regain control of my world, I directed my efforts into volunteering. A new network of friends and a focus on the big picture became the basis of new dreams.

Dreams don’t come true by merely wishing. They come true through work, faith, and giving. As we give of ourselves, we receive blessings. If we have faith that our dreams can become reality, we work toward our goals which align us with our dreams. And we must always keep the faith, for without it, we cannot dream.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Indelible Mark

When I sleep, my thoughts open up to new possibilities, and inspiration can lead me in a different direction. Last night, my vision was an indelible marker and its similarity to dementia.

What does an indelible marker have to do with dementia? When someone we love has Alzheimer's or a related dementia, we often think they are fading away as their memories and skills are erased. We grieve for the past and dread the future. Yet, we are blessed with living in the present and find moments of joy radiating in the midst of an ordinary day.

When Jim developed dementia at forty-nine, we knew life would never be the same. Our memories eventually became my memories. The disease stole Jim from me, but it could not steal the indelible mark he left behind.

In the end, instead of erasing Jim, dementia ensured he would never be forgotten. His two pictures on the cover of Alzheimer's Anthology of Unconditional Love are indelible images of Jim. In one picture, he smiles from beneath his favorite Stetson. In the other, he walks away from the camera on a beach in Oregon. I can't imagine his indelible memory living in a happier place.