This has been a year of loss for my family. A year of agonizing choices and heartbreak we simply weren't prepared to handle. At least not so soon. Although it was a painful decision, we chose to move my father to a nursing home in May 2015. We've been losing him for years thanks to a slowly advancing case of Alzheimer's, but keeping him at home any longer was too dangerous for my mother.
And then, completely unexpectedly, my mother died in September 2015. We're still in a a state of disbelief that she's gone, and here we are, at Thanksgiving. While I've come face-to-face with many of the firsts I'll have without her, this is the first holiday. It's been a hard one.
Grief is the price we pay for loving someone, and even knowing that, I'll choose to love. We are only one of too many families who are hurting right now, and who will struggle through this holiday season. My heart breaks for them, too. But there is no going back, so I'm moving forward and remembering the many things I'm grateful for this Thanksgiving.
My husband has been a rock solid support as we've moved through the changes in my dad's Alzheimer's and my mother's death. He handles my grief with grace and patience, bolsters me when I don't think I can bear to go to the nursing home, and makes my dad laugh. He's a beautiful human, and I'm grateful to have him.
One of my mother's greatest fears was that she would live long enough to experience severe dementia, as her mother and husband have. As much as I hate losing her, I am so thankful that she died lightning fast, and that her fear of a lingering death will never be realized.
I am grateful to be a Christian, and know that my mom is at home with her Heavenly Father. She's having a great time in heaven, setting up bridge games and singing in the angelic choir. (If cards were banned in heaven before September 12, 2015, you can bet they're allowed now. She's persuasive that way, and we're talking bridge, folks.)
From what I've seen, Alzheimer's manifests itself differently for each person. In my dad's case, he's lost his knowledge of who he is, where he is, who we are, and how to do so many simple things. But his fundamental personality, the 'who' of him, is the same. He's funny and sweet and forgiving. I'm so grateful that even though he can't speak clearly any longer, his smile and his laugh make him my dad again.
One of the best things that's come from my mom's death is that my brothers and I are closer than we've been in many, many years. Like most families, we've moved in and out of each others orbits as our lives have changed. We're working through the business of mom's death and dad's stay in the nursing home together, which greatly lightens the load.
I'm also grateful that at last, my writing mojo is coming back. It's been a slow process, but the words are there again, and this next Cass Elliot book? Hold on to your hats - there are some great twists coming.
Last, but definitely not least, I'm grateful to the many readers who have picked up a Cass Elliot novel and loved it, then demanded more.
To each of you, have a wonderful holiday season and when the turkey and family togetherness are just too much, go escape into a book!
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photo credit: Unidentified women playing bridge in Tallahassee, Florida via photopin (license)
photo credit: The Fox via photopin (license)