I had my own little package of Kleenexes in my pocket; there were plenty around the room.  We didn’t need them.  They had done a nice job of fixing her up, but her face did not really look like her.  I was pleased.  We had all been there when she left, so the private viewing at the funeral home only confirmed that she was already gone.

We are not done with the tears — by no means is that part of this over.  The tears will come tomorrow when we gather to confront the impact of her loss and at the same time celebrate what in our Spiritual Tradition (Christian of the Lutheran variety) we believe to be a victory.  We understand death to be a real and painful loss for us and a profound victory over death.  The Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s Dementia have done their worst and lost the war.  We still have to work through all the grief that comes with such a loss, just not complicated by a sense of defeat and concern for the one who has died. My mantra has been, “She is fine. We are not.”

This afternoon, there was a time when all the rest of the family was away from the house when I walked in.  As far as I know, except for two or three times when I stopped by to pick something up while she was at her Tuesday Morning Bible Study, that is the first time in the last two years I have walked into the house without Mary Ann being here.  Actually, in the last eight or ten years, I don’t remember that happening for more than a moment to pick up something at the house while she was with someone else in another place. It struck me pretty powerfully.  It was not long before some of the family returned, but it was long enough to determine that I don’t like it.  Have I mentioned before that I don’t like this?

There is nothing anyone else can do about it.  The last thing I want is for people to try to insulate me from the reality of what is going on.  I need to experience it and get used to it.  Any who read this who happen to have lost someone and returned home to live in an empty house understand full well that we have to learn how to accept and come to terms with that new reality.

Tonight we spent over two hours greeting people who came by the funeral home to show their support for our family.  It was pretty much hugs all around.  There were many words of comfort.  There were many who offered to help in any way they could, inviting me to call or come by, threatening to pester me with their care.  They actually meant it.  I know these people.  They meant it.   For a while, I will need to hang back and get my bearings, but it is nice to know that to the degree I am willing to be assertive, I will not need to stay home alone unless I want to.  I like solitude, but I will need to find a balance between solitude and community to remain healthy.

I now know why when talking with people who have lost a spouse sometimes they get a catch in their throat when they talk about the last moments of their Loved One’s life if they were there — even if the death came years earlier.  Images of those last moments elicit great pangs of pain.  I doubt that the capacity to feel those pangs will leave very soon if ever.  I cherish those moments only to confirm for me that it is good that she let go, that she is no longer enduring the indignity of those last hours.  It frees me not to fight the acceptance, somehow wishing her back here.

We are all very tired now. It is time to try to get some rest.  I slept better last night — a very good thing.  Tomorrow will be a day to begin the healing in earnest.

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What will she wear, what songs will be sung, what passages read.  We talked about some of those things years ago when we filled out forms for a Pre-need plan at the local funeral home.  The major decisions are already made.

I have to admit that it is painful even to talk about such things.  It was fine to do so many years ago — not now.  I am refusing to allow it to sink in and touch my gut.  The pain is there, but it is an aching now.  I have tasted it enough to know that the pain will sharpen and overwhelm when it breaks open.  Certainly I will survive as have tens of millions before me.

Friends Mike and Judy came over to spend time with us today.  As always it was a good and meaningful time.  Mary Ann connected with their presence and appreciated it.  Since Mike is the Pastor who will preach at the funeral when it comes, we needed to talk some about that.

Later, Pastor Jim, who followed me as Senior Pastor of the congregation I served for a dozen years, came over to celebrate Holy Communion with us.  There were enough of us to feel like a congregation.  Pastor Jim provided a meaningful ministry through a service of Scripture, prayer and song.  With three Pastors, two Spouses of Pastors and one Daughter of a Pastor, we surprised Jim by knowing the words to the songs (multiple stanzas) by heart.  He didn’t have to sing solo.  We were a choir.

One of the songs we sang is “Beautiful Savior.”  Both Mary Ann and I grew up in the same congregation in Aurora, Illinois.  Every Sunday worship through all the years we were growing up ended with “Beautiful Savior.”  As we gathered around Mary Ann’s bed and worshiped, sang and shared the bread and wine of Holy Communion, there was a peace about what is happening.  Mary Ann was a part of it even if she was not able to sing out loud with us.

With that said, as Son Micah commented later when he arrived, “this is hard.”  It hurts.  It just hurts.

Mary Ann seemed to have a comfortable day.  Last night, I was up a few times to listen for her breathing.  I tried to move her a little to minimize the pressure sore problem.  This morning when Lisa and I changed her, she did not show much evidence of the first stage of pressure sores — just one red spot on her ankle.  It was a relief to me that she seemed to fare well last night.  She does not move at all other than a foot moving a bit once in a while.  That is a formula for bedsores.

One happy surprise was that while Lisa and I were rolling Mary Ann this way and that to change her and check her, it just caught our funny bone.  We started laughing and so did Mary Ann.  It was not audible, but had it been, it would have been a belly laugh.

Lisa headed off for church and a local Art Fair.  I read a bit, then started a new book, titled Broken Open, by Elizabeth Lesser.  It is subtitled “How difficult Times Can Help Us Grow.”  How is that for timely.  It was recommended by the online Lewy Body Dementia Spouses group.

I decided to move into the bedroom to read, just so that I could be with Mary Ann.  It was a pleasant experience.  She seemed comfortable.  I asked how she was doing and she responded audibly that she was okay.  We just had some quiet interaction.  I gave her some water.   I realized just how wonderful it is to be able to spend this time in our lives together at home.

Later in the day, Son-in-Law Denis, arrived to provide Lisa with support and help with the girls.  Denis and the girls will be going back to Louisville on Tuesday.  Son, Micah and Granddaughter Chloe arrived at about the same time as Denis.  This was around the time Mike, Judy and Pastor Jim left.

Lisa and I changed Mary Ann again, examined her for red spots and turned her.  It was disappointing to see some red areas, indicating the potential of pressure sores beginning.  I plan to phone the Hospice Nurse tomorrow about the possibility of a hospital bed with the self adjusting air mattress on it to help avoid the worsening of those spots.

One annoying element in the day was the waterfall simply stopping.  It just stopped.  No one did anything to it.  It just stopped.  I was able to get hold of Brad (through his wife since they were driving) who promised to come after his work tomorrow afternoon to work on it.  Brad installed the pondless waterfall.  I certainly realize just how important a role that addition to our home is now that it is not working.  We built the sun room so that we could see the waterfall!

While Mary Ann is, of course, very vulnerable, and anything could happen at any time, she still seems fairly strong.   She ate a small dish of ice cream this afternoon while lying in bed. The Orthostatic hypotension has been so bad that it is pretty much impossible to sit her up for more that a moment.  Her blood pressure drops and so does she.

We continue to take things as they come, grateful for what we have, hoping for a peaceful release when the time comes.

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The oxygen is now running.  It took the oxygen and only one very small dose of Morphine to relieve the heart pain this morning.  Since then Mary Ann has been in bed 100% of th time.  She did not want to sit up any of the times we asked her today. She seldom moves at all, but just lies still, with her eyes open most of the time.

Daughter Lisa and I changed her while she remained lying in bed.  At this point it is not so much how difficult it is to help her in the bathroom but how hard it is on her for us to drag her around that has led us to that approach.  Each thing in its time.  We now have briefs that tape on the sides.

Mary Ann did take some sips of water at various times.  Earlier today, she ate a single serving container of tapioca.  That has been the sum and substance of her nourishment today.

Words are few and far between and barely audible when they come.  We have given up trying to give her any medicine.  She just can’t/won’t take it.

Daughter Lisa was due to leave tomorrow.  She has decided to stay longer.  Our Son-in-Law Denis will be arriving tomorrow evening.  He will stay a day and then take the girls with him back to Louisville, KY.  Gratefully, he has a huge, very close family there, with lots of Sisters and Nieces waiting in line to help with the girls while he is at work.

Needless to say, I am relieved that she will be here at least for a while as this new reality sets in.  Lisa has been a Certified Nurses’ Assistant [CNA] and later an Administrator of a large multi-level Senior Care complex.  She is checking carefully for any red spots that could develop into pressure sores, making sure her Mom is shifted regularly.

Son Micah opted to come for the day today. He dropped out of a BBQ contest in which he was enrolled to spend the day here.  This is hard on both of the kids.  We are all helpless to do anything about this, so we just hang out together, staying close to Mary Ann.  This could go on for some weeks.  The kids will have the challenge of determining when to be here and when to be taking care of their primary responsibility to their respective families (who are wonderful and understanding).

I was planning on attending a wedding this evening and offering the mealtime prayer at the reception.  In fact, that was one of the reasons Daughter Lisa had planned on returning home on Sunday rather than Saturday, so that she could stay with her Mom, allowing me to be away from the house for the wedding.  When all those plans were made, none of us had a clue about what would be happening.

We  have seen a Guiding Hand in the way things have been playing out.  Mary Ann’s decline came on suddenly only days before Lisa’s scheduled visit.  The girls were scheduled for a sleepover with friends, so they were not here last night to be disturbed by the Hospice Nurse and the oxygen delivery.  When there are huge things that are out of control, it is not unusual to notice little gifts that come along the way.  They are signs that we are not alone in this journey.

Tonight’s wedding was the wedding of Christine and James.  Chrissy will soon be an ordained Pastor.  I have enjoyed watching her grow in her commitment to that service.  On occasion when she was in town, as she began and continued her training, we would talk over coffee.  Those conversations always stretched me intellectually and Spiritually.  She has been in Africa a couple of times trying to make a difference for good.  She has a view of humanity that is not limited by national boundaries or ethnicity.

I didn’t like missing the wedding, but, just as I mentioned in an earlier post when I had to miss Katie and Jacob’s wedding, while they spoke their vows I was doing what they were promising.

Time for some rest.

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We are really not liking this!  The four of us, Mary Ann, Lisa, Micah and I are in limbo.  Now we know more about the landscape of limbo, at least this one, but it is still limbo.

Mary Ann has not yet begun actively dying.  Vital signs are not falling into the pattern of those dying of physical illnesses such as Cancer.  That could be comforting, especially to kids who live out of town, hoping to have time to get back when the end is near.

Of course, it is not likely to work that way with Mary Ann.  Apparently, dementia patients often don’t play by those rules.  They may have solid vital signs up to the moment they die.  When the mind precedes the heart or other organs in precipitating death, it can just happen whenever it chooses. There may be no warning.  It just goes with the territory.

I have become accustomed routinely to listening carefully when Mary Ann is sleeping or unconscious.  I listen to see if she is still breathing.  There is a new level of awareness of how easily my listening could reveal that the end has come.  Even after Hospice Nurse Emily said that, I still expect there to be more preliminary signs that the end is nearing. Many of those in the online group of spouses with Lewy Body Dementia, have described a traditional shutting down when their Loved Ones died.

When Son Micah asked if Mary Ann was now on a trajectory of probably weeks, Nurse Emily said that what has been happening suggests that that is a correct assessment of her condition.  She quickly added the disclaimer, that things could change and Mary Ann could bounce back to better health for a time.

We talked about how much of what is happening might have more to do with the medicine than the disease process itself.  Nurse Emily reviewed what has been happening in these past days, noting that Mary Ann has not had many of her pills on a regular basis.  While the meds may be having some impact, the trajectory of the decline seems pretty clearly to be the disease process bringing her to the last stage of the disease.

In responding to my request for either some form that is easier to administer or permission to drop Mary Ann’s Crestor for cholesterol, the doctor suggested discontinuing it.  He said we could crush it if we wanted to continue administering it.  The truth is, I haven’t yet tried to give her any of her night time meds.  At this point in the process, Mary Ann’s comfort is the prime issue.  Any of the meds that will help keep her comfortable, have priority.

Even food is optional.  If Mary Ann wants some thing to eat, or will take it if put to her lips, she will eat.  If she indicates she does not want the food, that is her choice to make.  If she will take water or juice, we will be sure she has all she wants.  If she will not, that’s that. When at this stage in life, the body needs very little to sustain itself.  She will know what she needs and when — and if she wants to have it.

While she would not so much as take a drink of water most of the day today, late this afternoon, whe she started moving around in bed, Daughter Lisa got her up, helped her with personal needs, and started feeding her applesauce.  She ate about a cup of applesauce followed by a small piece of ice cream pie, followed by some water.  Lisa fed her the applesauce and I fed her the pie.  She was up for a couple of hours.  We are suspecting that the Granddaughters’ activity helped stimulate her to stay present with us for such a long time. I took her in to lie down when Nurse Emily came for the family meeting.

There is absolutely no predicting how this will go.  Mary Ann is not about to follow anyone’s expectations for the path she will take.  This will happen on her terms, and no one else’s.  God’s role was making her, not telling her how and when to die.  Gratefully, God’s love for her is without limit, just as it is for the rest of us.

With that said, those of us who love her certainly are in limbo.  It is too soon to begin grieving her loss.  She is not gone.  It was sort of odd to hear Nurse Emily speak to us words that I have spoken to hundreds of others in forty years of ministry.  She urged us to work through our feelings and when we are ready, to share with Mary Ann our love for her and let her know that we will be okay when she decides she is ready to go.  It is not urging a person to die, but giving permission to go when the time comes.

Mary Ann took a few sips of water when I went in at about 11pm.  I gave her a heart med and one that helps her sleep.  She seemed to manage swallowing them.  I will be very interested to see if leaving out so many meds will affect her sleeping pattern.  I hope we can find our way to restful nights as often as possible in what time we have left together.  That would be good for both of us.

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This morning when getting up, Mary Ann looked at the cup with a red cozy around it for keeping the ice water cold for as long as possible and thought it was red Jello.  After I described what it actually was, she reminded me about the red Jello that we needed to call the lady about — the lady who brought it.  We needed to find out what to do to thicken it since something had gone wrong when the lady made it and it was runny.  There is, of course, no red Jello, no lady. (Monday’s meal was delivered by a Volunteer and it included a ring of fruit filled Jello including some that was red — it was not runny but solid.)

There was another complex delusion that she talked about in a very matter of fact voice a little later in the morning.  I can’t remember the content, just that it was surprisingly complicated and detailed, with no relationship to any bit or piece of the visible reality in which we live.

It was probably a good thing that there was a Volunteer scheduled while I have the periodic lunch with jimmy, a retired casket salesman who is enjoyable to talk with.  It was a good thing for Mary Ann since Volunteer Jacki brought her violin and serenaded Mary Ann while she was eating her lunch.

I finally got to the grocery after lunch today.  It would have been tough to go another day without more of a couple of things (most importantly, Mary Ann’s disposables).

Mary Ann had been asking to get to the dentist’s office for a cleaning since we missed the last appointment.  This afternoon was her appointment.  As always, the cleaning produces lots of bleeding. There are two reasons for that.  One is that she is taking Plavix and Aspirin, thinning her blood. The other is that I don’t do enough to care for her teeth since she has lost the ability to brush on her own.  The Aides do a little to help that problem, but it would be good if I would stop feeling guilty about not doing mouth care for Mary Ann and just do it.  I have put a Chux pad on her pillow tonight so that any bleeding will not get on the sheet or pillow.

This evening Volunteer Edie came to stay with Mary Ann while I went to another choir practice in preparation for Sunday’s Concert.  I enjoy singing, I made the commitment and will keep it, but I am very ambivalent about it for a number of reasons.  The central reason is that I will miss Granddaughter Chloe’s choir concert in Kansas City.  She is 11 years old and sings in a children’s choir sponsored by the University of Missouri, Kansas City [UMKC].  This is one of two concerts in the year.  Last year our Kids included a combination Mother’s Day/Birthday celebration by taking us and the other Grandparents out for a nice meal/dessert afterward.  We are missing out on all of that because I didn’t put the date on our calendar, and I committed to sing in the concert here before I received an email reminding us of the date. I hate disappointing Chloe as well as our Son Micah and Daughter-in-Law, Becky.

Another reason for my ambivalence is that the more I enjoy the singing in the concert, the more I remember what I am missing in my life at the moment.  Singing takes my mind off everything else.  I am completely immersed in getting the notes and rhythms right, being exactly on pitch, interpreting the phrases appropriately, blending with the other singers.  There is no room for awareness of anything else when that is going on.

When someone you love has to be away for a long time, while you long to have a visit from them, a short visit from them also brings with it the pain of knowing you will have to say good-bye again in a day or two, going through the grieving all over again when they leave.  It is almost easier just not to see them until they can come home and stay.  That is the something of how it feels when I do something that brings me joy and satisfaction, something that has no place in my life at the moment.

With enough effort, I could probably figure out the logistics of singing in some choir or vocal ensemble more regularly. There’s the rub — effort.  Serving as the 24/7 Primary Caregiver for someone who truly needs your help day and night, does not leave the stamina necessary to work out those logistics.  The will and the energy to do what needs to be done to get away at scheduled times is simply no longer there.  The role I have here is big enough to take all that I have to give.  Even at that, Mary Ann could/should receive better care (e.g. oral hygiene).

Sunday will include a mass of conflicting feelings.  While I want her to get out and enjoy the music, there will be complex transportation and timing issues if Mary Ann decides she would rather attend the concert than stay at the house with the person assigned from the Agency (a person Mary Ann knows and likes); there will be the $80-$90 it will cost to cover that care so that I can sing in the concert; there will be disappointment at missing Granddaughter Chloe’s concert and how she and her parents will feel about it; there will be frustration that I am not reading music or singing as well as in the past; there will be exhilaration in doing the singing, joy in hearing and participating in making the music that will reverberate in that building (Lutherans can really sing).  There will be the Spiritual uplift that comes with the organ music and instrumentalists and the singers in the choir, a roomful of people of faith in the congregation expressing that faith in full voice.

Right now it is getting late and all that is too much to think about.  For the moment, I just hope Mary Ann sleeps well tonight, and me too.

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Mary Ann went to bed at about 9pm last night.  Once she settled, she did not get up until 12:15pm today.  That is fifteen hours straight.  When I went to the bedside commode to clean it today, it had not been used at all.  She was not up even once.

I said in last night’s post that I hoped to get to bed earlier than usual.  I was in bed by 10:30pm (usual time is 12-1am.  I slept in until 8:30am and got my shower done quickly in case Mary Ann needed me.  After getting showered and dressed, since she was still sleeping and there was a quiet rain with soft rumblings of thunder in the distance, I lay back down on the bed.  I also did not get up again until 12:15pm. And people ask what it is like to be retired!!

The rest was very much needed for both of us.  Mary Ann was not so confused today, nor was she in that intense popping up mode that is so difficult for me to deal with.  The symptoms that suggested to me that I might be coming down with something seem to have subsided also.

Mary Ann ate well, only two meals due to getting up so late in the day, but substantial meals — with a large bowl of Ambrosia Salad as a snack in between the meals.  There was some much needed intestinal activity, demanding my participation.  There was some fainting that made that job more difficult, as usual.  She was able to sit up in her chair most of the time when she was in the living room.

Volunteer Deb came over to spend the evening with Mary Ann while I attended a choir rehearsal at the church from which I retired.  I was asked to sing one of the parts in a trio that is part of a larger piece to be sung by a combination of area choirs at a concert concluding a number of months of music activities.  This is the first commitment I have made in a year and a half, other than doctor appointments and that sort of thing.  Mary Ann’s needs at the last minute resulted in my being unable to honor a somewhat similar commitment a year and a half ago. At that time, I concluded that I simply could not commit to anything outside of Mary Ann’s care.

This time I have put in place coverage for Mary Ann that should assure my ability to honor the commitment.  Since my little part in the piece impacts the rest of the choir I can’t in good conscience just bail out at the last minute.  There is a paid Companion Care Aide from a Home Health Care Agency (Home Instead) who is scheduled to be with Mary Ann during the time of the concert itself.  Aide Debbie knows Mary Ann very well from having come each Sunday Morning to be with her for a year or two before I retired.

It was good to be singing again.  I struggled with my own ability to read music tonight as I sat with the choir, trying to sing along.  Singing in choirs and ensembles was the center of my school years.  I got to serve as student conductor of five choirs spread over high school and college years.   After that I sang in two Seminary choirs during those four years of graduate level schooling.  I sang in Schola Cantorum, a semi-professional choir sponsored by the American Guild of Organists for a number of years in Kansas City.  It is hard to accept struggling to read what would have come quickly in earlier years.  When I complained about that to the barista at the coffee shop on my way home tonight, I noted that the last time I had sung regularly was in 1987, when we left Kansas City.  The barista is of college age.  She immediately put into perspective the reason I might be a little rusty.  She was born in 1986.  How on earth did I get so old so fast!

As I was anticipating retirement and full time care of Mary Ann, I had visions of all sorts of things that I might do without 60 hours of commitments to my job as Senior Pastor of a large church filling my week.  I knew from the days and parts of days I was by myself with Mary Ann that it would be very hard to do other things.  The fall after I retired, reality set in.  Because of the vacillations that come with Parkinson’s, along with the addition of the Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, making those vacillations even more dramatic, it soon became clear that I could not commit to anything other than her care.

There are a number of folks in the online group of those in situations similar to mine, who are able to keep a few other activities in their lives on a regular basis.  I made a choice to just do the one thing.  I did it realizing that for me, the stress created by trying to manage regular commitments in addition to Mary Ann’s care was more than I could handle.  I still have no idea how, even with all the Volunteers, I survived the last seven or eight years before I retired.  I doubt that without our Daughter and her family’s move here to help out the last couple of those years I would have made it.  I continue to be grateful for the Staff with which I worked, who seemed to be willing to do anything to help, and a congregation with very understanding leadership, willing to do the same.  It is beyond comprehension that so many in the congregation were willing to give so much of their time and energy to help us in our day to day survival, some still doing so.

As I have said many times before in these posts and elsewhere, while I would not wish this horrible disease on Mary Ann or anyone else, I am in awe of what compassion in action has surrounded us on account of it.  I can only hope that those expressing that compassion have found some meaning and fulfillment in doing so.  We cannot repay what has been given so freely.  We can say thank you.  It is all I know to do.

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Tired or not, it is a beautiful, frigid, but bright and sunny morning — a good way to start a new year.  I would like it to be on account of raucous partying, but this tired morning comes after attending to needs that continued until that midnight kiss last night. I finished editing last night’s post and got to bed at about 1pm.  Then every hour, on the hour, we were up with the usual, including two snacks, one at 3pm and one at 4pm. I should have known that a large bowl of ice cream would not suffice for supper.  That is all she was willing to eat — other than the four crackers and the handful of chex mix with a little Asti Spumanti at 8pm. The 2am and 5am activities were commode related.

Actually the 6am commode trip was at 6:20am, breaking the once an hour on the hour cycle.  At 7am, Mary Ann was up for breakfast and pills.  After an hour of watching television, she is now back in bed.  I, however, am wide awake and sitting here beginning this post!  I will continue later in the day.

It is about 3pm.  Mary Ann had a two and a half hour nap, then got up and ate lunch.  She has been watching television while I worked on a Christmas card list for this year or next.  Remember, it is the twelve days of Christmas.  I still have five days to go! 

Mary Ann changed the channel fifteen minutes before the end of the program.  I watched the end of it in the kitchen.  Just as it ended she got up and walked toward the kitchen, I presume to see what I was doing.  I came out to meet her and took hold of her to support her, then asked where she wanted to go.  We walked around the dining room table, and when we got to the other side, she asked where Pete was.  I reminded her that I am Pete, and she recognized me at the same time. 

Today she has been pretty disconnected with lots of little hallucinations.  At her request I gave her a dish of ice cream after lunch, and at one point she asked if the other one was mine.  She was seeing two dishes of ice cream in front of her.  Not realizing that the person helping her walk was me may have been a Capgras Delusion.  That is the delusion that a loved one has been replaced by an imposter.  It happened so quickly that it may not qualify as Capgras Syndrome.  A number of those in the online Caregiver Spouses of those with Lewy Body Dementia have to deal with Loved Ones who are experiencing Capgras Delusions.  The bad news about this disease is that it is a roller coaster ride with some scary dips.  The good news is that sometimes there great vistas on the peaks in the ride.  The goal is just to hang on for dear life!

It is evening now.  There was a visit by a good friend of Mary Ann’s.  She brought a bag of Christmas goodies.  Mary Ann did not really participate in the discussion.  I probably should have left the room for a while to see if they could converse one on one.  Today has been such a disconnected day for Mary Ann, I did not think she would be able to respond.  In retrospect, I should have given them a little time to at least allow the possibility that Mary Ann might respond. 

She went to bed at about 7pm.  I will give her the bed time cluster of pills in a few minutes, about 8:30pm.  That is the usual time she takes them even if she has lain down for the night before then.  A couple of the night time pills have sleepiness as a side effect. 

As I have continued the online Ignatian retreat, the focus now is remembering events in my adult life and their impact, any gifts they may have given, gifts that have helped shape who I am becoming. 

One event of monumental significance was the day the diagnosis of Parkinson’s was received.  I had moved to Oklahoma City ahead of Mary Ann and the kids so that each could finish at their respective schools, one graduating from high school and the othercompleting the Eighth Grade in an eight grade school.  I left in February to begin serving a congregation there and the family came at the beginning of June. 

While everything was as welcoming as it could be in the new parish, it was just about the toughest time in my life.  It was equally tough for Mary Ann and the kids.  Just the separation was almost more than I could bear.  I had not realized fully just how important Mary Ann and the kids were to me until that moment I watched the plane take off from the Oklahoma City airport after a visit.  I could not even tolerate the thought of life without the three of them. 

During those five months, Lisa had the added pain of dealing with the murder of the Principal of the tiny Lutheran High School she was attending.  His Daughter was Lisa’s best friend.  He had been a great support for Lisa during her years at the Lutheran High. 

Micah had developed close relationships with his classmates at the large Catholic Parochial school he attended from the Fifth Grade year through Eighth Grade Graduation.  He was chosen by his classmates to speak at Graduation.  The prospect of leaving those friends behind was tough on him. 

It was that March that the phone call came.  Mary Ann phoned me in OKC with the news that she had just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.  She had to deal with that life-shattering news by herself without my support.  I had to deal with it while among wonderful people with whom I had not yet developed any history.  Mary Ann was not willing to share the news with anyone else, her or my parents, her or my siblings, her lifelong friends, the people in the parish with whom we had just spent fifteen years building relationship.  For the next five years, that secret was to be kept from all but two or three people other than the kids.   We honored Mary Ann’s request, but it took a toll on all of us, especially when the symptoms became noticeable.

It is hard to put into words the impact that the Parkinson’s has had on our lives.  There is no way to even begin to imagine what our lives would have been like without it.  It is actually a waste of time to try to do so.  Time is too precious.  It is needed to live the life we have as effectively and meaningfully as possible.  We can process the impact of the Parkinson’s and assess its role in who each of us has become.  We have grown and learned more than could possibly be written in one blog entry. 

There is a level of maturity and wisdom that our children have come to have through dealing with their Mom’s Parkinson’s.  Earlier posts include sections they have written, reflecting on their experience in dealing with the Parkinson’s.  I am a far better and more effective pastor because of it.  Mary Ann has wonderful relationships with dozens of people directly due to the Parkinson’s.

While I am grateful for all we have learned from Mary Ann’s Parkinson’s, we would gladly have read a book on it if we could have learned those things without the Parkinson’s.   

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