Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Celebration of Peg's Spirit

I have nothing written for today. Yesterday my husband's grandmother, Peg, was not doing well. Hospice told us that " it will not be long". I spent the later part of the day with Peg and our family.
I will be back for Thrifty Thursday tomorrow, so please do come back.
Forgive me as it seems life continues to happen and my responses to you sporadic. I read every single one and am always humbled that anyone would care enough to swing by Bloggeritaville and comment. I appreciate you so very much and feel so blessed by the friendships I have in my blogging community. Thank you, a sincere thank you. I hope to be back in the saddle before to long.
In the meantime, I ask a favor, that you please pray for Peg's comfort as she makes the inevitable transition from body to spirit. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and it is in that we find comfort and peace. Tremendous peace in that she will be at a much happier place. Only God knows when.
Thank you friends for your prayers.
For now, I rerun this post about Peg dated 8/17/08 (almost a year ago). Peg is one amazing woman. One tremendous spirit. It is her life that I celebrate and am thankful to have met such a wonderful woman....

I wondered when we arrived at the assisted living facility if we would find Peg asleep. It has become a way of life for her. Though that seems like a oxymoron. Life and participating in it, should not include much sleep. And certainly for someone that used to be the life of the party, the one you would fight to sit over at a dinner party because you could always depend on an interesting story, it especially is an oxymoron. Peg, is Big Daddy's grandmother. When I first met her, some fourteen years ago, I was especially fascinated in her gift of story telling. Much like my idol, Katherine Tucker Windham, she could spin a tale that might cause one to sacrifice a good meal rather than miss a word of what came from her mouth. Stories that included seeing Frank Sinatra in concert (!!!), having poet Robert Frost sign a first edition book for her, to stories of her courtship as children (no less) to the boy who eventually became her husband to the day of Big Daddy's birth (twins were not expected).

Today a disease has robbed her of her story telling and has made this once vibrant and spirited woman a shell of herself. The disease is called Dementia. It is a progressive brain dysfunction that leads to a gradually increasing restriction of daily activities. It's the most well-known type of Alzheimer's disease. Dementia not only affects patients, but also those surrounding them, as most patients require care in the long-term.
Peg was always a very fit woman and very conscious of being just that. Even in her late 70's, as a very independent yet widowed woman, she would bike five miles a day (one way!) on the southern Florida beach where she resided. She was well traveled and loved to see & experience the world and all that it had to offer. I recall years ago Peg accompanying Big Daddy and I along with my brother in law and his new wife to Amelia Island. We walked everywhere, from sun up to sun down, and not once did she drag or tire. In fact, it was all that we, as some young thirty somethings, could do to keep up with her. It was a fantastic visit. I cannot say that many young kids would want to tote around an elderly person...but she was no "old Fart". She stirred up much of the fun.
I recall another trip, on a Caribbean cruise...me, Big Daddy and my cousin were calling it a night sometime after midnight. The three of us strolled the ships upper deck on the way to retire to our cabin. We came upon an elderly woman, silhouetted by the full moonlight. I whispered to Big Daddy that it was awfully late for a woman of that age to be strolling around at that hour, especially alone. As we got closer, the moonlight revealed the face, it was Peg. "What on Earth are you doing up here this late?" I asked. "Oh, getting in some laps (walking) around the deck. The night is young!..." and off she strolled at a quick pace. We were all tickled at how she could outlast any of us.

(Photo taken in May 2003)
Today, Peg sleeps up to 22 hours a day in bed; rising only to eat meals and these she has to be reminded to do so. Smiles are as infrequent to her life now as the medication and doctor visits are frequent. The spirit that could once be found in her eyes is now clouded. There are some good days, but most often they are coupled with challenges.
It is a heart wrenching situation. It is difficult to go and see her to always find her in bed. No longer, does it seems that this woman , who was always so interested in genealogy and devoted to her family and times with them (most notably her children and grandchildren) finds pleasure of even being with those who love and adore her. Her zest is gone. It is almost as if she is waiting...to move on.
My mother in law has the daily ritual (sometimes several times a day) of checking in with Peg to make sure that she is being properly cared for. One must stay on top of things as anyone with a loved one in a geriatric facility knows. With such a disabling disease, it does not only affect an individual, it affects all that knew them. But for my mother in law, it has affected her the most. She is the main caretaker for Peg. Though she is the {adult} child, She has been forced into the role of parent. It has not been easy. It has been one with protest from both sides. Have you ever tried to tell your mother what she needs to do? And what if she didn't want to do it, but you had to make her. It's a situation that is often met with resistance. Many times there are arguments & guilt associated with it. Though my mother in law does her best to remember to find laughter in what is a very strenuous situation. Her mother has regressed to a childlike state and must now be treated as so. It can not only affect the mind of a dementia patient, but also the mind of a caregiver. Dealing with dementia symptoms in your own parent can stretch the limits of your sanity. It's a struggle. But it is one of two most extraordinary women. Peg, and T (my MIL and Peg's caregiver).

(Picture taken 2007)
Eighty nine years is a long time for anyone. Eighty nine years for someone with a disease that erases the memory can be almost overwhelming. My husband's side of the family all gathered at the assisted living facility where his grandmother lives to celebrate her 89th birthday this past weekend. A bittersweet celebration. Each day that one has here on this earth is a gift, but when those days are filled with an ever decreasing quality of life, the years that preceded that are even more appreciated and more revered. And it is this reason, why I wrote this post. To celebrate the Peg who was always the life of the party. One that looked for an excuse to celebrate any of life's situations. We come together and celebrate the life of Peg, and the ways she has impacted each of us in the family circus. And how she continues to do so. Yesterday, Today and Always.
Peg, Happy 89th birthday. We love you. For who you once were and who you are today. We are blessed by your presence and treasure the stories of our past- the gift- that you have given each of us.

(Photo taken August 2008)
Excerpt from the book Helping Your Aging Parent


Keetha said...

Sounds like your Peg and my mom are going through very similar things - - - mom has also been robbed of her personality for the most part. We were, however, fortunate that she kept her sharp wit until the past few weeks when we are basically waiting for death to come.

Leigh said...

It is a difficult thing, Keetha. My prayers go out to you and you family. May you have peace.

DebraK from ~the Bunnies Bungalow~ said...

This post was very difficult for me to read....it IS SO very hard on caregivers even if the loved one is being cared for in a facility.
What a nice tribute to your loved on on her birthday. Thanks for sharing, Hugs, DebraK

Zinnia said...

This is a beautiful tribute. I both cried and laughed because I can understand what you're going through. I remember going through the same things with my dad. He lost his ability to speak a couple of years before he died and while he's been gone almost a year I miss his voice most of all.

Tammy said...

What a wonderful tribute to what sounds like a wonderful woman.

Dementia is a terrible disease and I'm sure it is hard on both the person and their family.

Looks like a wonderful birthday celebration!

butterflygirl said...

It breaks my heart to read this. Keep all those fond memories close to your heart.

"J" said...

Awwwwwwwwwwwww that breaks my heart!!!! What a great story you did for her!!! I love it!!!!

She sounds like a total hoot! I can't get over her being out at the pool taking laps after midnight! WOW!!! I wished I could say I have that type of energy!!!!

Himey said...

Leigh, I'd like to paraphrase a little on the Caribbean cruise...

"Oh, getting in some laps (walking) around the deck. The night is young!..." and off she strolled at a quick pace with margherita in hand. We were all tickled at how she could outlast AND outparty any of us."

That was a memorable trip because we were all astonished at how much fun a young 80 something woman could have. Grandma was always the life of the party and was always an inspiration for us in how she lived her life.

Leigh said...

Debra-I knew that you especially would relate to this post. I kow you too have had a hard time adjusting to being a "parent" of a parent. You were many different hats as a child of a parent who is afflicted. When I read your post on your blog when you speak of your mom, I cannot help but think of Peg. You are in my thoughts.

Zinnia-I cannot imagine such a loss, but his tribute to his life- YOU-through your words and spirit live on in you. I love you.

Tammy, "Fly girl" and J- Thank you for your kind words. Peg is an inspiration to our family, as is her mother for the time and commitment she gives. I hope that anyone that has gone through a similar situation (and there are so many-even if not even dementia but an ailing parent or grandparent) can relate to this story and know they are not alone.

Himey-It was a memorable trip. You are right Peg WAS the party. Or as she would say..."potty". A fine woman and I feel blessed to have known her so many years and be a part of her life. I love her and the entire family.

jennifer said...

Aw Leigh. I'm sorry for what Demensia has robbed you all of but thankful that Peg has folks that love her so much, even in the hard times. We went through similar heartbreak with my Grandmother. I told my Mom that God allowed us to mourn her slowly through her disease because if we had lost her all at once it would have killed us too. And that is what this disease can feel like - a slow death of that SPIRIT that you know. I really am sorry for what you all and Peg are going through.


printersdevil said...

Leigh, my prayers are with you and your husband's family in this difficult time. I watched my DMIL go through this and it was so hard to see her just slip away from us. This is truly a devastating disease. Be comforted in the memories and the knowledge that she is headed to a wonderful place.

We buried my DHs only brother today, so I am really feeling the loss of family. God be with you and yours.

Casey said...

Wow, I am floored by the tribute.

I read this at work and I am trying to hold back the tears.

I am praying for you and your family.


Kristy Morris said...

Hey Leigh.. Just wanted to tell you that I will be thinking of you and Tom and the rest of the family during this hard time. Something like this is never easy, but sending many prayers up for your family. Also tell Tom Happy B'day. I saw on FB it was Tony's and sent him a Happy B'day wish so could not leave Tom out. Keep us posted. Love ya girl!!

B. J. Brooks said...

Leigh what a beautiful tribute to a Beautiful Lady, may we all Live such a life and have someone like you to sing our praises.

I know she must have been a delight to have around. My father-in-law is 89 and going strong, very clear mind and still driving, (that leaves me speechless)himself and his wife who's 82 to all our family functions. It's amazing that he is still so vital, a World War II fighter pilot.

My prayers are with you all, just remember memories are forever, so talk about all the good times often.

Many Blessings

Glenda/MidSouth said...

I am so sorry you and your family are having to deal with this. :( Don't even think about whether you have or have not posted on your blog. You and yours come first in your life. Take care of yourself also.

Melanie said...

My prayers and thoughts are with you all!

Much Love,

Anonymous said...


I will be praying for Peg and hoping that the Lord will come and release her from a body that is burdened. She will soon be young and beautiful again up there in heaven where she can stroll the decks til after midnight! Blessings to you and your family.

"The Boss"

Anonymous said...


I'll be praying for your sweet family in this difficult time:) Prayer is so healing!
Also, I LOVED the Helena video you made. You are so talented & smart! I'm blessed just knowing you and your kindness is legendary at our home. We have so bragged on you at City Hall..I know your ears must be burning!

You are loved!

scrappydee said...

AsI am wiping the tears from my eyes I am still amazed at how much our virtual lives are entangled. The main reason for going to Ohio was to say goodbye to my Gramma. Momma went to stay with her 4 months ago as we figured out from a distance that this once vibrant woman was no longer really "there". My heart was broken when I knew she was struggling to remember all the wonderful things we did together BECAUSE of her vitality when I was a child. Dementia is a thief that cannot be caught. Your family is in my prayers. Thank you for sharing.

Mid-Atlantic Martha said...

Oh Leigh -- My mother had Alzheimers and my grandmother (her mother) died three years later in a nursing home with some form of dementia as well -- It's so hard to see those we love being slowly erased and to mourn their loss even as they live. I know and I feel -- thanks for sharing a wonderful tribute. May peace come for you all. -- hugs

Kelly said...

What a beautiful lady. Sounds like she enjoyed her life to its fullest. I'll pray for her, your MIL and you -- indeed your entire family. A presence like hers will be missed by you all I'm sure.

Chandy said...

Leigh, my aunt has dementia as well and since it was my mom and my brother who cared for her, it was quite frustrating and exhausting for them. Her situation was that she reverted back to being a child which made things that much more difficult...

Hugs dear lady and prayers will be in her behalf on this end.

Kirby3131 said...

My prayers are going out to you and your family. We've had some of this in our family and it is so hard. Just remember that their spirit is fully aware of all that is around and knows of your care and concern. The mind isn't there, but the spirit is. (at least that's what I believe)

Many many prayers.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Leigh, thinking of you...



Zinnia said...

Thinking of you and keeping you guys in our prayers! Let us know if there's anything we can do

Christina said...

It is hard to watch someone you love go through these things. My grandfather had dementia and didn't always know who we were and it is so difficult to watch. I'm sorry you and your family are dealing with this. Sounds like you have some wonderful memories.

jennifer said...

Honey, I'm sorry I missed this re-post. Prayers for your sweet family and especially for Peg.

ASouthernSunset said...

Your beautiful story, from the heart, has touched me deeply. I send up prayers for your family...for peace and strength as they walk this path through life....and for Peg. Please know that you are not alone. There are those of us who are right there with you. We understand completely because we, too, are walking that path. As an only child whose mother has this illness, I choose to believe that we are exactly where God intends us to be. We don't always have answers or understand, but that is where faith comes in. Sometimes we just have to let go and let God.
May you and your family have blessings of peace and strength.