Life and Loss: In Motion

Dear Hayley,

It’s been a while. We’ve been on the road for one month: transitioning from our home and friends and family in Vermont to our new home in New Orleans. On the way, we stopped in Maine to spend an amazing week with Allan’s (and mine by marriage) fabulous sons and their wives.

From there, we hit New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Each place was memorable and meaningful. And in each place, I made connections with people like us: loving life yet suffering loss from Alzheimer’s. (Or something else. There is no shortage of suffering in the land of the brave and the free.)

Even today at Super Cuts in Naples. The hairdresser, who made me look like Mick Jagger with her jagged scissors, lost her mother to the A-disease. I have been encouraged by the amount of courage out there.

Mid-way through this trip, my Uncle Woodson died. He was my father’s eldest brother: a military man with a creative streak. My heart hurts for my beloved and brave cousin, Nancy Dunlap Bercaw, who was there when he passed. I’m not sure how well I will handle my father’s passing. I don’t need to think about that now.

Beau is doing okay. I had breakfast with his neurologist, Matt, who said this in an email afterward:

I enjoyed meeting with you. I feel a special connection to daughters of neurologists because of my own little mermaids!

Matt describes my father’s condition as “fair.” I told Matt that my father was shuffling his feet a lot. Matt said that my father “is forgetting how to walk.”

In the time I spent with Beau, I could tell that his brain couldn’t remember who I was. But I sensed that his heart could. I invited his brother Peter to join us one afternoon and Beau looked at him with some glint of knowing but a stronger look of not knowing. Beau and Pete are the only remaining Bercaw brothers now. There were four, now there are two.

Navigating a Bercaw-brother conversation made me laugh despite the sadness.

“Dad, do you want to watch basesball?”

“No,” he said, and then looked at Pete. “Do you like baseball?”

“No,” said Pete.

At the same time, another resident of Juniper was trying to enter Beau’s room. Whenever she did, Beau put his long leg out to stop her—well, actually, to trip her. I finally shut the door to prevent any accident. But I loved Beau’s instincts to protect his privacy and territory while he was talking with his brother and daughter.

I said goodbye to Beau today. He kissed me on the lips about five times——something he never did pre-ALZ. I cried my eyes out in the parking lot afterward.

So Hayley, that’s our life and our loss in motion. I feel extreme gratitude for the support I’ve received on this literal road. And I’ve learned that our covert mission on this trip, in our loaded-down vehicle, was to lighten loads and be enlightened on the way.



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Allan says:

    I think I wrote all I can say about the magnitude of the affect this is all having on me, in my letter to you yesterday. This trip, this move, this summer has been an emotional sleigh ride that I am glad we have had and responded to, and I look forward to a cup of cocoa in the lodeg.

  2. Allan says:

    that would be “lodge”…where’s spell check when you need it?

  3. drixey1 says:

    Nancy, I love your last line in this post…we’ve been going through a similar journey with Mom. It is so bizarre to lose a parent to “the long good-bye.” The only way I can connect to my mother now is to TRY to imagine what she’s going through in each moment and then, try to meet her there and ease her journey. I obsessed over issues of “dignity” on my last trip out to see her in May (she’s now in hospice) but finally came to realize that no circumstance is going to take away her inherent dignity. So I could relax and practice acceptance. I can’t make friends with dementia (though I agree that humor can be an antidote to the sorrow). But back to your last line…”lighten loads and be enlightened along the way.” Thank you for sharing through these postings. You honor your dad in a very real way in each one.

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