There’s a special connection that comes with preparing meals for others too heartbroken to cook for themselves. Making those dinners with a group of volunteers brings an intimacy and humility that cannot be matched. And one of the best spots I know to do that is at the Ronald McDonald House in Falls Church, Va., a place that offers comfort, refuge and care for families whose children are battling life-threatening illnesses.
She carried me when I was tired. She protected me when other kids were picking on me. She introduced me to new experiences and music, from dancing to the Beatles in 1964 in our West Lafayette, Ind., living room to my first Grateful Dead concert in 1968 — where she lifted me to the stage so I could dance with the band — to the music of Keith Jarrett in 1982.
At less than a foot tall and under 25 pounds, Mr. Jackson might not seem like the powerhouse that he is in our family. His floppy ears and big brown eyes make him adorable, but it's the intelligence and sensitivity that are apparent through those eyes that have made him my constant, loyal and vital partner in caregiving for my parents over the past five years. As caregivers, we all need to build a caregiving team - no one can do this alone. But I couldn't have predicted the crucial role this four-legged team member would play. I can't imagine my caregiving journey without him.
In World War II, families learned of a loved one killed in action by telegram. My husband's grandfather, with two military sons, recalled watching the telegram delivery man ride his bike down the street and praying that he would not stop at his door. Today a uniformed service member delivers the notification in person. Since 2001, the families of almost 7,000 men and women have opened their front doors to that devastating news.
The path of grief is a very individual journey - no two people grieve exactly alike. It has been six months today since my mom passed on. For me it has been a very bumpy path, complicated by continuing to care for my dad and support him in his grief as he battles Alzheimer's disease.
His shoulders slump and his head bows as if his very life force has been suddenly drawn out of him. His face reflects the pain and confusion that his mind and heart are toiling with, struggling to grasp a wisp of reality and understand that the impossible has indeed happened. "I just can't believe it; I can't fathom it," he says. "Are you telling me the truth? She's not available anymore?" This happens every time my dad asks about my mom, the love of his life, his partner and companion, and in recent years his anchor who steered his mind to safety and security in the here and now as it's slowly being undermined by Alzheimer's disease. She was his North Star. It's been almost six months since she died.
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