The first part of this post - the "above the fold" bit - was originally posted on the Her Final Year blog page. Reprinted here with minor adjustments.
The following excerpt is adapted from something I’d written online in 2008, after Georgia ("Mumsie") had passed on from this life:
Georgia used to wryly tell me that I had an answer for everything; she saw it as an opportunity to always try to one-up me. As a result, our playful banter sometimes annoyed Kathi.
I’d teased Georgia a bit on her last birthday: she’d chided me for trying to ensure that she ate food instead of candy, and said “Are you trying to keep me around forever?” She asked me how old she was, and I told her. “Eighty four? That’s older than anyone else in my family. How long do you expect me to live?” I told her with a wink and a smile that I was shooting for another thirty five or forty years.
She told me she wouldn’t live to see her next birthday.
She’s probably chuckling wryly that she was right — she loved to prove me wrong. She was always trying to one-up me in zingers and sarcasm; Kathi says it gave Georgia a challenge, and helped forge the strong friendship that we’d developed during the course of her caretaking.
She won that one; It’s one of the few losses I truly regret.
Now, looking back at the caregiving years, and the brief time I knew her before then, I am grateful for having the opportunity to meet her & to be a part of her life. I’m also extremely thankful that Kathi & I have the memories of our time with her, which also have – chronicled within – some of our best memories of our whole little eclectic family, consisting of the three of us plus Missy, Ember & Jack.
I’d never been much to favor journaling. Before the caregiving journey began, I only haphazardly kept any form of journal. As a result of the caregiving process, however, I found myself writing more & more – it was an outlet as well as a form of transcription & external memory storage. I’m not entirely sure what the original motivation was, but I am very glad to have these memories chronicled.
I’m still marveling at the strange turn of events that brought us into contact with Jim, Martha & Martha Sr., and which resulted in the creation of Her Final Year. I consider that to be an invaluable treasure, helping not only to forever record that important episode of our lives and enabling us to share it with others, but also because it brings one other dream of Georgia’s to fruition: she’d always thought that Kathi would be an excellent writer, and had expressed the thought more than once that she should write a book.
Now, she has. Co-authored with friends & family, and from the heart.
Georgia has even more to smile about now. And that, too, is a very good feeling.
Today is Shadan7's birthday. That's special in and of itself, but it's also special because he's giving folks a gift: a free download of his science fiction book, Communion of Dreams. Shadan7 had written Communion of Dreams and polished it up during the caregiving years. It's a good read - I thoroughly enjoyed it. Please take a moment to snap up a copy - you won't need a Kindle to read it, either: you can use Amazon's free Kindle Reader app or the browser-accessible Kindle Cloud Reader. For more information on those, go here.
If you've wanted to get a copy of Her Final Year: A Care-Giving Memoiri, you also don't have long to wait: we've been doing periodic promotions that permit people to download the ebook version for free. So far, there have been well over 8,000 downloads of it, and there are currently 12 five-star reviews up on Amazon.
We've been really touched by the comments, and - in a very real way - the creation of the book came about due to the interaction & feedback we received here on Daily Kos throughout the caregiving & recovery cycle.
So many people responded with sympathy & empathy, and so many others remarked how they were learning a lot & benefiting from our experiences that we had each contemplated putting out a book consisting of a collection of our blog posts & journal entries. When we met up with each other online and saw the amazing similarities & synchronicities between our separate journeys, it only seemed natural to pool our efforts. The result was, I believe, a much more solid work that others will find (and have found) truly helpful.1
The one-year anniversary of the publication of Her Final Year is coming up on July 14th. We're doing another promotion - you, or anyone you know, can download the ebook version for free on that day.
Please mark that date on the calendar & let anyone who you think might benefit from a free download of the book know about it.
Thank you, and Happy Fourth! (Please don't blow anyone up, accidentally or otherwise, and watch out for stray fireworks, wildfires & disoriented conservatives.)
1 What I'd written, which Jim/Shadan referenced in his post, included this:
It was through my participation on DailyKos that I became aware of another person who, like me, was caring for his mother-in-law at home -- James Downey, a.k.a. Shadan7. Jim was more organized and thorough than I was about recording the events and effects of the changes as his mother-in-law's disease progressed. His blog was -- and remains -- rich with anecdotes and references that help convey the myriad of emotions and challenges that face Alzheimer's patients, families and caregivers.
We've been in touch -- we found it an odd coincidence that we ran into each other, as we'd each heard that it was rare to find a son-in-law serving as the primary caretaker of his mother-in-law. Our personal stories are different, just as our mother-in-laws and our wives are different, yet we shared a common thread of understanding regarding the ups and downs and day-to-day events that comprise the role of an Alzheimer patient's caretaker.
I was reading through some of Jim's entries today -- several of which I'd initially missed -- and stumbled across one particular entry that contained a very powerful video...the video that is embedded at the top of this piece.
I was floored.
I was nostalgic.
I was thrilled. I was sad. I missed Mumsie.
I felt relief -- for myself, for my wife, but most of all for Mumsie. And I had to share the video with everyone. As Jim said in his blog entry,
That’s basically the last six years of my life compressed into six minutes. You want to have some idea what it is like to be a care-provider for someone with Alzheimer’s or other age-related dementia? Watch it.
-- Jim Downey, 12/18/2007
Less than 24 hours after Jim posted this video, Mumsie passed quietly away.