Nov 10, 2013

They Who Love an Old House

We also hope that the next generation will understand that this work we are doing has meaning; that it is important to celebrate the end of a family’s life with the dignity and gratitude that it deserves.

By Tom and Karen Brenner
+Alzheimer's Reading Room

They Who Love an Old House border=

We are in the middle of an emotional and physical nightmare.

We are cleaning out a family home; trying to sort through and sort out almost 70 years of living in one house.

Not only is there the clutter, jumble and detritus that comes with so many years of inhabiting one place, there are also the psychological and emotional pitfalls that lurk in the corners, drawers, boxes, closets.

Subscribe to the Alzheimer's Reading Room
Email:

What memories should be saved, what mementoes should be donated, what should be tossed?

We have taken on this mammoth task because we believe that it is important that the lives lived here are remembered with the dignity and the love that they deserve. Some members of the family wanted to hire auctioneers and junk men to come in and sort out this tangle of living.

Even though that would have been the easier and more expedient course of action, we did not want unfeeling strangers to rummage through the lives of our family.

You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello: 
The Montessori Method for Positive Dementia Care

It has been a hard slog.

We are dealing with the past lives of people who collected wonderful treasures as well as family members who were terrible hoarders. We are facing mountains of junk interspersed with special, beautiful works of art. So, we have to decide: do we throw, donate or wash and pack?

The physical toll on us is one thing. This is very hard physical work. It is, however, the emotional toll that is much more difficult for us. So many memories: happy times, traumas, tragedies, triumphs. All the emotional clutter, jumble and detritus that comes with living.

There is no one to advise us. We are just trying to do the best job we can under very difficult circumstances.

Our goal is to save for the younger generation those things that were were loved, donate those things that could be useful to others and recycle (toss responsibly) what we cannot save.

Washing some cherished table linens, we dab stain remover on splotches of old coffee stains, faded marks from smatterings of gravy, droplets of wine. We remember the parties and dinners and wonder who it was that spilled the coffee, the gravy, the wine.

We look in wonder at the workmanship and wonder whose hands crocheted the gorgeous tablecloth, who ironed so carefully all of these napkins?

While some of our family think we are crazy, or at best, silly, to go through this anguish, sorting out the old family home, we continue to slog our way through every drawer, cabinet, closet, book case.

Everything we touch, each object we either recycle or carefully wash and wrap, everything reminds us that we bring meaning to the task at hand, even if others believe that the task we have chosen to complete is meaningless.

Through all of the dirt and drudgery, there is a beauty that we have unearthed; it is the knowledge that we honor and respect the lives that came before us.

With great love and care, we will hand on these family heirlooms to the next generation so that they might know that they come from people who cherished beauty, good food and great parties.

We also hope that the next generation will understand that this work we are doing has meaning; that it is important to celebrate the end of a family’s life with the dignity and gratitude that it deserves.

“They who love an old house
Will never love in vain
For how can any old house
Used to sun and rain
To lilac and larkspur
And arching trees above
Fail to give its answer
To the heart that gives it love.”
-author unknown



___________________________________

Related Articles
___________________________________
*Tom and Karen Brenner train family members, professional caregivers and medical staff in the use of cutting edge interventions for persons who have dementia and Alzheimer’s. The Brenners use the Montessori Method as the foundation for their evidence based memory support program. This program uses the five senses, muscle memory, and spiritual engagement to maintain connections for persons with memory loss. Tom and Karen are the authors of You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello: The Montessori Method for Positive Dementia Care
You are reading original content +Bob DeMarco , the Alzheimer's Reading Room