When Mom was in the late stages of Alzheimers’ she couldn’t talk, feed or clean herself, or even move from place to place. It took every ounce of my willpower to visit her. There was no falling back on letting the other person decide what to say, so I’d hold her hand and sometimes sing to pass the time.

In the moments our eyes met, I’d put all my energy into loving her, and my anger, sadness and frustration would drain away. In those moments I experienced something like bliss, when all there was, was love. And then I’d leave the nursing home, walking into the blast of heat and humidity, and be back hating the disease.

Even though the disease gave my mother a chance to receive love, it was something she didn’t seem to know how to do. Maybe that’s where wellbeing starts — with letting love in and accepting joy wherever it arises. 

One of my colleagues lost her mother and her brother on the same day, and one way she’s processing the loss is by creating a blog from her brother’s writings. I love this one, a gratitude list written the week Bill died. 

The richness of Bill’s list calls me to be less stingy with my own gratitude. I’m grateful for 

  • The recurring dreams of my mom, lucid and active, being a giver of love again
  • How John and my dad used to shake their heads across the table when my mother and I had nonsensical conversations that we understood completely — They decided to bring… and did they … yes in the kitchen. Clara … oh, she had it all mapped out. The platters … the one with the blue border? Sue left that by the coat rack.  
  • How John and I erupt with identical responses to things – a word, tune, or joke. 

There’s part of me that will always argue “things should be different.” Writing is a kind of secret wand for working through doubts and misgivings and coming out on the other side.  

If you’d like to experiment with that yourself, join Nancy Dorrier for a pro-bono writing session next Wednesday from 11:30 to 1 ET. Email me vbrien@dorrierunderwood.com if you’d like me to send you the invitation. What you write will probably surprise you.