Sing this Lullaby and Hold On Tight
A little over two years ago on Christmas Eve, my mom’s 77 year old sister (my aunt) got up, went outside, walked down the front steps, picked up her newspaper, turned to go back up the stairs and fell. The result? A broken ankle, a deep gash over her eye, and the end of life as she’d known it for 45 years.
That moment of that day also ended life as her husband, my mom, and I had known it. My aunt and 78-year-old uncle, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, could no longer live independently in their home. They lived in a split-level house that was hard on my aunt’s knees even before she fell and the daily demands of caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s were becoming way too much for her to bear alone. They had no children and their closest friends were dealing with dementia and other challenges of their own. The two of them were alone and close to 1,000 miles from family.
We had no choice, but to act and act fast. My mom and I left Raleigh, NC and flew to Kirkwood, MO the day after Christmas. We assessed the situation and knew we had to get them to a safe place and surround them with support. My aunt agreed that she’d rather be near us than move to an assisted living facility in Kirkwood. Within a five-day period, I obtained Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, listed their home, sold their cars and began the process of figuring out their financial situation while my mom and sister coordinated finding a temporary apartment in Raleigh for them. In retrospect, I’m completely amazed at how smooth everything fell into place. Don’t get me wrong. It was absolutely one of the most stressful and difficult things they or we had ever experienced, but the mere fact that we had accomplished in days what can sometimes take months was nothing short of a miracle.
At one point in the process, I glanced over at my aunt and saw her sitting with tears in her eyes. Her life’s possessions were being sorted through and packed up in front of her. Neighborhood college kids were hauling loads of what we identified as ‘trash’ to the dumpster in her driveway. Everything she’d ever known was somehow not really hers anymore. The worst part was my uncle sat oblivious, starting at the TV.
Shortly after returning home, I picked up the guitar and wrote the song, Lullaby. Memories of my aunt caring for me as a child flooded my mind and now it was my turn to return the favor. Aging is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage to face the later years of life and the gradual or in many cases, sudden, loss of independence. And it takes courage to stand up and walk beside someone in that stage of life. Remember, as bossy or stubborn as an older loved one can sometimes be, it’s just because they’re facing deep, deep losses that we’ve yet to face.
As I write this blog, I’m sitting next to my aunt in the apartment she now lives in near my home. My uncle died suddenly of a heart attack three months after the move so she’s on her own now. All is well, for now. She’s snoozing while reading her paper.
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