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Let's Dance
By Diane Shepherd

Let me tell you about someone really special - my Mother.

Mom had a terrible stroke last September that escalated her dementia into about Stage 6 Alzheimerís ó complete with aphasia. After the stroke I brought her back to the home she and I have shared for the last 12 years, but of course this homecoming was different. This time Mom canít stay by herself or take care of herself any longer, so we have a sitter with her from 7:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.; then I take over.

My Mother has always been a really funny person. She was a wonderfully nurturing parent to me, to my brother and sister, a steadfast wife to our Dad (who passed in 1993); but always, there was a twinkle of mischief in her eye. In fact, the engraving on Dadís tombstone says, ďTill we meet again my Little Starry Eyes.Ē The quote is from a poem Dad wrote to Mom while he was fighting in France and Germany during World War II. What Iíve discovered in our journey together is that there are some aspects of a personís character that never change. Sheís still a joy to be around, even under these sad circumstances.

Hereís my story, or more importantly, Momís story.

One night not long ago, Mom and I were going through our nightly routine. It was her bed time; I helped her from the living room to her bathroom (sheís at severe risk for falls). After she finished in the bathroom, I helped her stand, then holding both of her hands, I walked backward so she could walk forward but not fall. As we walked toward the sink where she would brush her teeth, for some weird reason (the nut doesnít fall far from the tree) I said, ďMom, letís dance! Letís cha-cha; no letís rumba!Ē I started humming something that wasnít a rumba at all and began swaying to my own off-key music. Mom laughed out loud and indicated that there was no way she was going to dance (I must admit, sometimes she looks at me like Iím crazy)! I proceeded backward to the sink, still humming. She brushed her teeth, then I started leading her, in our same awkward way, toward her bed.

A few feet from the bed we stopped, as we always do, and I helped her off with her robe while still facing her. When I slipped it off her arms and threw it across the chair, Mamma did a surprisingly wonderful thing. She put her arms around me and we DANCED! I started humming again and we held each other, swaying to my awful rumba for maybe only a minute, but in that brief minute her bedroom was transformed into a beautiful, starlit night on the terrace of the most majestic ballroom with a fifty-piece orchestra playing all our favorite music just so we could dance for this minute. I know, that sounds very melodramatic, but I want you to understand that this was a magical minute with Mom; that magic can still happen in a relationship even in the face of this terrible disease. After that brief minute we hugged and told each other that we loved the other. I helped her into her bed, tucked her in and left her that night with both of us smiling.

That was one of the ďminutesĒ that happen occasionally in our home that make everything else worthwhile. Iíve been truly blessed these past months in my life with Mom. God could have taken her from us last September, but He knew that we needed more time, time to say goodbye and to show our love in a very real way to one of the most special angels heíll ever have in heaven. I am truly grateful for the caregiving opportunity He has given me.


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