On September 20, 2009, Mom and squeezed together in the steel blue armchair in the southeast corner of the living room of her big red brick house on the hill. Mom’s cat Pia Roma sat on her lap with a pink ribbon tied around her neck. Mom stroked Pia’s velvet fur as we sat filming a message to mark the International Day of Peace. Pia wasn’t feeling very peaceful because of the ribbon.
I had taken Mom to the geriatrician two years earlier when her memory problems and cognitive issues became evident to me. During the filming of our peace message, Mom forgot Pia’s name. None of these things interfered with our ability to experience joy and laughter in the moment. Alzheimer’s disease did not define Patty then, nor did it define her over the seven years that ensued, or even on August 17, 2016, the day she died.
Today, September 21, 2016, besides being the International Day of Peace, is also World Alzheimer’s Day. I like the synchronicity of that. I believe we need to make peace with this disease. Not that we should stop looking for a cure; of course research should continue and hopefully one day a cure will be found. But between now and then, we need to find ways to live more peacefully with this disease and the people who have it. We need to find joy, laughter, and healing amidst the challenges and tragedy, we need to learn to care better while we search for a cure. We need to find ways to be grateful, not hateful, and to integrated people who live with dementia into our lives and communities.
I am grateful to have shared many amazing moments with my mom as she lived with Alzheimer’s disease, moments like delivering our 2009 Peace Day message in the video below. And, unbelievable as it may seem, I’m grateful to Alzheimer’s disease for the fact that I was dragged (kicking and screaming) into the role of care partner and in that role found healing as well as love and purpose.
I hope you will join me in reflecting on the meaning of peace and healing on this 2016 International Day of Peace and World Alzheimer’s Day.