On April 24, 2015, I gave a guest “lecture” to third-year special care counselling students at a local community college.
April 24 also happens to be my Auntie Jean’s birthday; she died in January 2012 after she she fell out of bed and broke her hip. She had dementia like Mom did. Their younger sister Leona had it too; she died of cancer in 2006. Their baby brother Eddy has it too.This will be the story of millions more. It could lead to the downfall of our economies and societies if we don’t learn how to better deal with the disease.
This was the second time I had done such a lecture; I intend to do many more to honour my mom, my aunts, my uncle and maybe myself as well as the countless others who have dementia and the people who care for and with them. I’m keen to share what I’ve learned with others so they don’t make the same mistakes I have. Let them make new ones and pass on what they learn to the next generation. We and they will need all the help we can collectively get.
Like my long-ago public speaking courses, this three-hour “mini workshop” to the college students was jammed packed with hands-on activities that prompted them to think for themselves. One of the exercises invited the future counsellors to “play detective” and tell me as much as they could about Mom based on 1) a short bio and then 2) a series of photographs, videos and stories.
One of the videos in the second part of the exercise was the first clip below, filmed in the summer of 2003 or 2004; it’s my Mom (on the right) and her sister Jean telling me a bit about their childhood.
Does anything strike you about Patty based on what you see in the video of her with Jean? Now take a look at this clip from summer 2014 when I had her for dinner at my place:
Any similarities jump out at you? See any differences? Yeah. Me too. Here’s the thing: the people who love us, who really really love us and see us and know us, do everything they can to nurture the essence of who we are and help our spirit soar no matter where we are in our life journey. And to be able to do that for someone you love, especially when their capacity is different than it once was, is a great privilege and blessing.
That’s a pretty cool lesson in the midst of a whole bunch of shit.
Thanks Mom and Auntie Jean’o for sharing your stories and wisdom with me. I love you both.