May 29, 2012

The First Day of the Next Stage of My Life

I learned a great deal during my tenure as an Alzheimer's caregiver. Much of what I learned relates to life. Living life.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Yesterday seemed like the first day of the next stage of my life.

A bit eerie right now for sure. I can do anything I want to do, any time.

I went and had my hair cut. Went to the store and did some grocery shopping. I went over to the pool and stayed 15 minutes. There was nobody there but me. I did get my daily Vitamin D injection. I need some Vitamin D for sure.

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While I was walking later in the day, I bumped into a not too distant neighbor. I had not been able to talk to him for any extended period of time in quite a while.

He asked how Dotty was doing. I explained to him that she had passed on Friday. He seemed genuinely sad. He knew Dotty for about ten years.

I asked how he was doing? He said not good. I asked why.

He is still carrying around the burden of the death of his twin brother at the age of 57, four years ago. I asked what is wrong. He talked.

Well into the conversation I asked him if he had ever looked at the situation through the eyes of his twin brother. He said, no. I asked him if he thought his brother would want him to be carrying around the burden of his death all this time? He said, no.

I already knew quite a bit about the brother, and this was not our first discussion around the issue of his ongoing burden.

I asked, didn't you tell me your brother was comfortable with his own situation and death. He told me, yes.

Next he told me something his brother told him. His brother told him that he was glad that he was the one dying, and not the other way around. I asked him, what did he mean. He responded, I don't know.

I asked. It is possible that your brother knew how terribly difficult it would be for him if he lost you? Was he telling you that death would be easier on him, than life might be on you? He contemplated this.

I suggested to him that he sit down from time to time and try to imagine what his brother would want for him. Would his brother have wanted him to live his life to the fullest? Would he have wanted him to be happy? What was his brothers wish for him?

He should be able to thing these issues through. After all, they were identical twins and spent much of their life together. Even in business together.

Burden. Burden.

I have spent many years thinking about Burden and Joy. It seems to me now that there is a very thin line between burden and joy.

It really comes down to what you think and what you feel. And, whether or not you want to think about the negative or the positive.

In these kinds of situations it boils down to how would the person who is dead and gone want you to live your life? Would they want you to be sad? Would they want you to stop living your life?

Or, would they rather sit on your shoulder and cheer you on?

Dotty and I chose joy. Once we chose, our situation just got better and better. I realize this next statement might be hard to believe or accept.

Dotty and I had the best time of our lives together in the last 18 months. Dotty became kinder, gentler, more loving, and caring. You saw her in the videos and heard her in the podcasts.

Dotty and I accepted the way things were and we chose. We chose the path to joy. Real joy. Not a fleeting moment of joy.

I'll try and help my neighbor get to the fork in the road labeled Burden and Joy. If I can get him there, I'll let him choose. I won't tell him what to do, or how to feel.

I learned a great deal during my tenure as an Alzheimer's caregiver. Much of what I learned relates to life. Living life.

Yesterday, was the first day of the next stage of my life. I am looking forward to living.

I choose to believe that Dotty will be sitting on my shoulder much of the time cheering me on.

Dotty is not gone. Her physical body is gone. She lives on in me in spirit.

This feels good. Although, I will freely admit I miss my real life cartoon character right now.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 3,511 articles with more than 297,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room