Daily our lives are touched by people in many different ways. Sometimes these experiences happen but do not register with us in any sort of profound way. Lately, I have been reminded about certain individuals who stand out. There are many people who have made a difference in my life in many ways, but I am thinking of people who have helped me through one of the hardest things that I have had to deal with. They have helped me through the many ups and downs of dealing with my mom having Alzheimer's Disease. These people are my angels here on Earth.
Chinel - My mom knew Chinel before I did. Chinel has done my mom's hair for years so she has known Mom since before Alzheimer’s and through all the stages of Alzheimer's. Mom knew Chinel as a single woman and through a marriage and having her first child. Even when Mom couldn't drive herself, she insisted that it must be Chinel who did her hair. Mom always talked about how kind Chinel was and that she enjoyed her time while in her chair. She was angry and saddened when she thought some of Chinel’s fellow employees were being mean to Chinel and not treating her right. And even now, now that Mom doesn't know what is going on, we always return to see Chinel. Alzheimer's patients don't always do well with some of the things we take for granted, but sometimes they seem to know that they are in good hands. Just yesterday, for instance, it was obvious that Mom still knew, in her heart of hearts, that Chinel is a kind and loving person. Chinel is always so patient and sweet. She talked with Mom, even though what Mom says often makes no sense. Chinel listened to Mom as she talked in her own confused way about the pictures of Chinel’s daughter Trinity that she saw in Chinel’s workspace. She understands even when my mom is confused about the “Lady in the Mirror.” And we certainly have had many laughs over the years, as well as more than our share of sadness. Yesterday Chinel had a hug from Mom, and I know it meant the world to both of them. Chinel is about to have another daughter, due any day now. She will be off for at least six weeks, and we intend to wait for her return before Mom has another haircut. We will wait for our angel. She is our angel because I don’t think I could have continued to take my mom out as much as I have without knowing she had Chinel's chair to sit in and her company to share.
Liz F.- I met Liz in college, and through Facebook and because of a mutual hardship, we have reconnected. That hardship is Alzheimer's. Like my mother, her mother-in-law is suffering from this disease. And despite the miles between us, we know that we have each other's back. It doesn't matter what time of day, we both know that a text from the other means that we need a strong woman to help get through some crisis. Because our loved ones are at different stages, I have been able to offer much help and many suggestions. I can relay to her what I did in certain situations, hoping that maybe this would work for her MIL. And this is not a one-sided deal. This is not a relationship in which I am only helping her. No, we help each other. We understand what the other person is going through. We know the real pain that we have like no one else does. We have lived it and still live it each day. One day she told me that this fight can be so lonely. That some of her friends have abandoned her. They are tired of hearing her struggles, tired of wiping her tears. This broke my heart. I am lucky. People have stayed strong for me when I needed them. They have not left my side. And Liz, my Colorado angel, I will stand strong with you, listen to your struggles, wishing I was at your side to give you a hug and wipe those tears away. Count on me, my angel, you can count on me.
Stacie- Stacie started out as my workout buddy. We would labor through our CrossFit workouts, pushing each other to be better than we thought we could be. Always listening and offering advice, she helped me stay healthy and keep working out, even when I just wanted to put that bar down. She understands that this is what my body needs both physically and mentally. Now that workout partnership has turned into a close personal friendship. Stacie, I thank you for being a friend who has surprised me in so many good ways. I will not forget the offers to help with my mom, even though you have never met her. Offering help for when I was out of town and couldn't help her. You are a selfless friend and I thank you. Also, thank you for keeping it real and making me laugh. Your brutal honesty and one liners crack me up. We sweat away the toxins and the sweat angels remind us why we are there.
Morgan - My sister and Mom’s other daughter also has this struggle to get through. I understand that she is far away and not physically here all the time. She just can't be, but I know that I can pick up the phone and call her anytime. Despite her own pain with the situation, she listens. She helps dry my tears, even 12 hours away. She offers suggestions when I need them. We share laughs when a story strikes us as funny, and she stays strong for me even when she also is sad and it is hard for her to be strong. She is a caretaker, a friend, and the best sister I could ask for. My words seem simple for such a complex situation, but I can feel her love and her strength no matter the distance. My sister, my angel.
Jason and the kids - They have been with me through this entire struggle. They have known my mom through every stage. Jason offers whatever he can, depending on the situation. They have helped Mom when I was out of town, visited her with me, or given me hugs and kisses and let me cry, because sometimes that is exactly what I need to do, just cry. The kids have known their grandma through every stage. They continue to be excited to see her. They accept her for whoever she is on that day, at that moment. They dance with her, they tell her she is beautiful, and they share their treats with her. They visit her with me when I am not strong enough to do it on my own. And they all have shown true love, patience, and understanding not only with Mom, but with me. These angels I hold close to my heart.
Last and certainly not least, my Dad - Remember first, as you are reading this, that he edits every one
We must surround ourselves with those who can help lift us up when we cannot pick ourselves up. We are caretakers for others, but as we care for others, so do we need others to help take care of us. We all have our own angels. Find yours, keep them in your life, thank them, and love them. Blessed be the angels, for they are us.