When thinking of Alzheimers symptoms, do you think of what is lost?
It’s normal. Alzheimer’s symptoms are associated with memory loss. And often a loss of personality, wisdom and judgment.
Today’s guest post is about finding something wonderful in forgetting — a hidden talent. Please welcome Blaze (Barbara) Lazarony as she shares her amazing story about her mother-in-law, Jean and her Alzheimer’s symptoms —
“It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.”
Wife, Mother, and Nurse are words my mother-in-law Jean Lazarony would use to describe herself.
The label Artistic never entered the mix. Rather, these words described her father, a talented and prolific self-taught painter and her five children — creative artists with numbers, words, and images.
Clearly, the artistic gene had skipped her; at least that’s what she told everyone.
Jean was a first generation American. Her parents were immigrants from Scotland, descendants from the Royal Stewart line. As their first-born she learned to straddle two cultures with grace.
She was proud of her family’s history and passed down stories from her parents to her own children, allowing them to experience the sights and sounds of Scotland on American soil.
She knew who she was.
She was frugal beyond measure and could stretch a single dollar into one hundred opportunities, while ensuring her family’s needs were met. Jean was a no-nonsense practical nurse and gave doctors a run for their money.
And most importantly, she loved with her whole heart. She wasn’t demonstrative with affection, but you always knew where you stood, especially when her first-born son brought home an Irish-German girl to meet the family — me.
She fell in love with the fair-skinned, freckly girl in spite of my Irish heritage! A tease through and through, she’d send me cards every St. Paddy’s Day just to make me laugh.
In 2001, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the “Long Goodbye” Disease. I watched her transform from a talkative, vibrant, fun-loving woman to a shell of the person she once was. A heartbreaking and bittersweet experience.
The circumstances were so painful for me that I questioned why God and the universe didn’t take her home; instead, she slipped away a little more each day.
When I’d visit her, she’d look at me with her beautiful blue eyes and ask, “Who are you? Do I know you?” And I’d remind her, “Yes, I’m Barbara, your daughter-in-law; I’ve been married to your son David for more than a dozen years.” She forgot me, her children and even her husband.
She also forgot that she wasn’t an artist.
One day when the art therapist visited the adult day-center, Jean picked up a paintbrush and swirled it in warm blue pigment — her favorite color — although she had already forgotten that, too.
Laying down layers of paint on a small canvas, she created a lush garden scene with a blue and green plant covered with rosy-pink flowers. Perhaps it was a rose bush or a hibiscus. In reality it didn’t matter; she was painting.
She was an artist.
Upon finishing the painting she was so proud of herself even telling her daughter, Lucy, with great enthusiasm and an open heart that she was going to take the painting home to show her Daddy. Her father had already been dead for over thirty years. She had forgotten that, too. Her brain, a miraculous computer riddled with Alzheimer’s, couldn’t distinguish 2006 from 1945. She lived from her soul.
She forgot with her mind, loved with her heart, and lived from her soul.
I believe her soul knew she was an artist. At the middle of her soul was her essence, her way of being in the world — what I like to call her “inner-spark.” And her brilliant inner-spark is: loving, creative, collaborative, generous and playful.
I was teaching a class at California State University in 2009 about discovering your inner-spark to become a visionary leader when I had a light bulb moment. I finally understood one of the many reasons why God allowed her to remain here on earth: God was offering me an opportunity to see her and her unique inner-spark throughout the progression of her disease.
I had to set aside all of the labels she once was, and see her in the moment for who she was being now. I had to stop clinging to the memories of her and embrace the woman in front of me. I had to learn to love the woman who once treated me like a daughter, yet no longer remembers me.
I had to forget who she wasn’t, to see who she was in the moment.
Today my mother-in-law is considered to be at the late-stage of Alzheimer’s.
She lives her final days on earth with my father-in-law, who has vascular dementia. She doesn’t speak and her body is slumped in her wheelchair from a recent seizure. Although she barely opens her eyes, her grip is strong.
Most days, you can find the two of them sitting together holding hands, him whispering into her ear that he loves her and that she is beautiful as she sits silent.
The question is:
Do you need to forget who you’re not in this moment to celebrate who you are?
–Blaze (Barbara) Lazarony
August 15, 2012
Blaze, aka Barbara Lazarony is a Certified Transformational Life Coach, Workshop Leader, Speaker, and Author. She helps visionary leaders, purpose-driven entrepreneurs, and heart-centered professionals light up the world by following their own brilliant path. She radiates empowering energy, playful intuition, and unblinking honesty. Step into your light at www.BlazeABrilliantPath.com
On so many levels this is amazing, including —
- A first painting complex with layers from someone with Alzheimers symptoms…
- Anything positive in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s…
- The obvious love throughout the story and its telling.
Thank you Blaze for sharing this.
To your healthy and happy knitting & caregiving,
Ina Gilmore, M.D. (Retired)
“The Knitting Dr.”
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