Joy, Love, Music, Videos

painted angels and amazing grace

It’s an early new year’s morning. I sit on the sofa, sip tea and remember the pleasure of last night’s fire. Christmas isn’t long gone, and I love that I leave my decorations up until my birthday at the end of January. I want to stretch the joy of them being without swaddles and boxes for as long as possible.

The sun rises in the east and shines through the large window behind me; its rays travel across the red brick of the fireplace to strike a painted wooden angel that fell from the tree a few days ago, and which I hung on the damper crank because I didn’t know where else to put her. It looks like she feels at home there. I think of Mom, and the amazing grace of this moment as well as that of December 2014 when she and Eric and I celebrated spirit, connection and love. I hear her clap and sing, and watch her smile as if she were here with me.



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Humour, Joy, Memories, Music, Videos

mom and i love dancing. always have. always will.

Susan and Patti's dance video no YT

September 9, 2015: To honour Mom’s 80th birthday in 2008, we danced. Everywhere. All summer long.

Inspired by one of Matt Harding’s viral videos of dancing around the world, we created a similar video in our world. It was joyful. Something we could do together.  At the time, Mom was two years into her diagnosis.

Today, seven years later on September 9, 2015, Mom and I walked twenty-five “baby steps” together. She held onto the fence with her right hand and I held her left hand in mine. It was joyful. Something we could do together.

September 27, 2015, is Mom’s 87th birthday. We will find a way to dance on that day too, in our own way, no matter how things are – good or maybe not so much. If you know or care for someone living with dementia, please reach out, take their hand and help them engage life in whatever way they can for as long as possible. They will be blessed. And so will you.

Here’s Matt’s video, the one that that inspired ours (as of today, it’s had close to 50 million shares 🙂 ):

Special thanks to Michael A. Horvich for the blog post that inspired this one.

September 27, 2016: I didn’t know it when I wrote this post in 2015 that it would be the last time we celebrated your birthday together, Mom. I love you and I miss you, and I hope you are dancing wherever you are ❤

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Death & Dying, Life & Living, Love, Memories, Videos

our angel gaby is raising cain

Flashback August 20, 2015: “I love my Patti,” Gaby told me just about every day for a year and a half.

There’s nothing particularly remarkable about that. People say “I love you” at the drop of a hat these days. But Gaby didn’t just say it. She radiated unconditional love like the sun’s warmth on a summer day; showered Mom with it like a gentle spring rain; enveloped her in it as one might cocoon a chilled soul with a thick, soft blanket on a cold winter night. I was privileged to witness this profound connection, and I’ve been challenged to capture it in words and images. But I’ve tried.

In March 2013, a few months after they first met I wrote (in a longish post about being lost and found):

The way Gaby looks at my mother cleaves my heart in two. It’s full of sheer joy, acceptance and love; it’s amazing to behold. Gaby’s and Mom’s friendship has deepened in tandem with my mother’s declining capacity over the past five months. That Mom is becoming more and more lost in an Alzheimer’s haze doesn’t faze Gaby in the least. She just looks at Mom and smiles, nods, and agrees with whatever gobbledygook finds its way from my mother’s mind to her mouth.

In loving words at sunset (which was featured on FreshlyPressed and has been viewed thousands of times) I eavesdropped while the sat watching the sunset:

I’m glad I’m here with my friend Patti, enjoying the sunset,” Gaby says.

“Is it time to go home yet?” Mom replies.

Almost.” Gaby slides her hand down Patti’s purple-splotched forearm. She gathers Patti’s hand in her own. “We’ll go together,” she says.

I blogged about the time Mom serenaded us with Zippity Do Dah. I captured on video what it looks like when an angel loves you. I videoed as they sang O Canada together on July 1, 2014. Five days later, I took the touching one-minute clip below of Mom and Gaby parting company before dinner – Gaby still ate in the main dining room; Mom had to go to the second floor. They planned to meet afterward and cause a ruckus.

Not long after, I discovered some promises, like some rules, are meant to be broken. I snapped dozens of pictures of the two of them and a few of the three of us as we shared this earthly space. I felt deeply grateful every minute we were together . The last time the three of us had dinner, Gaby and Mom watched a flock of seagulls on the lawn while I cleaned up afterward. Just before it was time to go, Gaby said to Mom:

“That’s nice of those birds to come here. And walk around for us to watch them.”

I felt the tender center of my heart cave in on itself. A second or two later as if on cue, the seagulls took wing leaving Mom, Gaby and I to do the same. I will be devastated when Mom goes home. But our angel Gabrielle will be there to welcome her and raise Cain. That’s one more thing to be thankful for.


Mom joined Gaby on August 17, 2016.

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Life & Living, Love, Memories

loving words at sunset

Could their chairs be any closer together? Gaby and Mom, August 27, 2013.

Flashback August 27, 2013: I love to treat Mom and her BFF Gaby to lunches and dinners at my place.

Mom, who is in her mid eighties and living with the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, can’t really carry on a “sensible” conversation anymore. Her friend Gaby is 97; most of her marbles are still very much intact. Gaby’s only major complaint (about which she hardly complains at all) is the corn on her foot, which sometimes makes it painful for her to walk. She’s also becoming a tad hard of hearing. Other than that, she’s golden.

Mom and Gaby found each other at The Home, where Gaby has lived for about six years, and Mom coming on a year now. They met after Mom moved into the room next to Gaby’s, and they became neighbours. Their friendship is flourishing, despite Mom’s ongoing slide into dementia. They share a table, along with two other residents, in the dining room at The Home; they have breakfast, lunch and dinner together. Mealtime conversations are infrequent. People waiting to die don’t have much to say it would seem.

I visit Mom and Gaby at The Home almost every day, and I bring them to my place once a week for lunch or dinner, one of the few small pleasures they’re still able to enjoy. The atmosphere is loving and lively at my place. The three of us find more to say, to do, to be and to sing.

On this particular early summer night, Mom and Gaby help set the table. They hold hands and teeter slightly as they arrange the knives and forks while I prepare a simple feast: tuna salad with celery and mayonnaise, a few leaves of local lettuce, crisp carrot sticks, golden-toasted sesame seed bagels, and mixed olives.

They drink orange juice in crystal highball glasses I took from Mom’s real home when we decamped, and I sip sauvignon blanc from a funky goblet my cousin gave me. After dinner, I make Mom and Gaby comfortable on the back deck, then ferret out something “delicious and nutritious” for dessert: fresh peaches with yogurt and honey. On the way back to serve them, I stop short of the screen door that opens onto the deck, and pause to eavesdrop on their sunset conversation.

“Isn’t that a beautiful sky?” Gaby says to Mom.

“Yeah, and I told them it was. Dad thinks so too,” Mom looks around. “Where’s Dad?”

“Yes, you did,” Gaby says. She waits for this to sink in before she goes on. “He went to get our dessert.”

A moment of silence. Then another. Then several more. Gaby reaches over and gently feels Mom’s left arm, which is bruised because of the Coumadin Mom is being given to stop blood clots from forming in her swollen legs. She used to stride, purposeful; now she shuffles, uncertain, because of the drugs she shouldn’t be taking.

“Are you cold?” Gaby asks.

“No, I don’t think so,” Mom says. She pauses; searches. “Do I feel cold?” A fresh breeze blows through the screen door. Goosebumps rise on my arms; something in my chest squeezes like a sponge.

“You feel a bit cold,” Gaby says to Mom as she withdraws her hand. Together, they hold space for each other: Gaby in the slightly laboured rasp of her breath, Mom in the tissue she folds and unfolds, folds and unfolds, folds and unfolds in the cradle of her lap. The sun sinks a little more.

“Are you cold Gaby?” Mom asks. It’s not unusual for her to parrot what’s been said to her. It’s a way for her to conquer the aphasia that steals more of her words each day.

“No,” Gaby says as she turns to look at her friend. “I’m not cold. But you feel a bit cold.”

“I do?” Mom says.

“Yes,” Gaby affirms. Whatever Mom says, Gaby agrees. They never argue.

More silence. One looks this way, the other one that. They stare at nothing in particular: nothing in particular being the main thing they contemplate day in and day out. They have many days in. Days out are fewer and farther between. Gaby swings her right foot, and inadvertently kicks Mom’s left.

“Did I hurt you?” Gaby worries.

“No,” Mom replies.

“I wouldn’t want to hurt my friend Patti. You’re my best friend.” Gaby touches Mom’s arm again.

The sun keeps setting, as it is wont to do on kindred spirits everywhere, each day earlier and earlier until late December, then later and later until late June, when the cycle recycles itself. I guess it’s the other way around in the southern hemisphere, and different again at the poles.

Gaby and Mom don’t care about the hemispheres or the poles. They don’t worry about the length of the days: short, long, makes no difference. They’re all the same. Except days like this, when they get to go out. These are special days, even if they don’t remember them. I vow to myself that I will, until, like Mom, I don’t anymore.

“Your hair looks nice, Patti,” Gaby says. I wonder how many times Gaby has paid Mom this compliment today. Three? Five? Ten? More? Mom says nothing. She touches her head with her right hand. Pushes a roller-induced wave in and up. Still nothing. Perhaps she’s already forgotten Gaby’s words. Or maybe she needs a mirror to confirm their veracity. Not knowing the truth of one’s own reality is part of the disease.

“And that top looks beautiful on you. You have the nicest clothes,” Gaby continues, heaping one heartfelt compliment on another because she adores her friend. Mom looks down at herself. She moves her hands to just below her waist and pinches the bottom of the light-beige-and-white-striped shirt she’s wearing. She stretches it down and out to see it better. The stripes in the top match her caramel capris.

“Do I?” Her voice is flat, her face expressionless–more side effects of the medications that make her shuffle instead of stride.My hands tighten on the bowls of peaches and yogurt when I think of the drugs, the ones that kill my mother’s vibrant personality for convenience and cost saving.

“Oh YES! You are so stylish.” Gaby bursts with enthusiasm.

“Am I?” Mom doubts.

“Oh yes! Very! I wish I was stylish like you,” Gaby says, her grin as a wide as the horizon. “And you have such beautiful rosy cheeks. I love your rosy cheeks.” She leans in closer; her hand once again rests like a crooked feather on Mom’s arm. She plants a slow kiss on the pinkish flush of Mom’s left cheek. She’s oh-so-careful not to bruise her. Mom says nothing.

“I’m glad I’m here with my friend Patti, enjoying the sunset,” Gaby continues.

Mom seems not to have heard. “Is it time to go home yet?” she asks.

“Almost,” Gaby replies. She slides her hand down Mom’s purple-splotched forearm, and curls her craggy fingers around Mom’s soft, plump ones. “We’ll go together,” she says, and kisses Mom again.

I swipe the back of one hand under both eyes, nudge open the screen door with my foot, and step into the oncoming twilight.

In honour of Mom and Gaby who are surely raising Cain, wherever they are now.

A shared smile between friends, August 27, 2013.

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