Today I’m very happy to share a guest post from award-winning author and blogger, Ann Campanella.
As Ann and I exchanged a few initial emails, I felt an immediate kinship with her. Alzheimer’s is life changing. For me, that manifested itself in a strong desire to use my experience for good – to help others. I’ve always said that I need to know this journey was not in vain and that our story has purpose. Ann shares that sentiment.
“Like you I’m passionate about reaching out to those who need support in their journey through Alzheimer’s,” she said. “My mother lived with the disease for almost a decade and a half, and, at the time, I felt very alone. That’s part of the reason I hope to share my story…to give others an emotional road map through this kind of difficult life circumstance.”
Please join me in thanking Ann for sharing her uniquely beautiful story with the world.
A Guest Post by Ann Campanella
My mother was a kind and gentle soul who loved words. She came from a family of writers and artists who had a deep appreciation for nature and family relationships. Every summer, when I was a child, we canoed on the clear waters of Lake George near her ancestral home in upstate New York, and she taught me that if I looked closely, I could see all the way to the bottom.
After having Alzheimer’s disease for fourteen years, my mother passed away. But I’m still plumbing the depths, looking for beauty, the way she taught me.
In her early 70s, Mom first began showing signs of Alzheimer’s at the same time my husband I were trying to start a family. We had just moved from Houston to North Carolina, and were planning to build a barn for my horse Crimson.
I had my first miscarriage as Mom’s memory began slipping.
My memoir, Motherhood: Lost and Found, tells the story of losing my mother to Alzheimer’s as I suffered through several years of infertility. For almost a decade, I walked a path of questioning who my mother was becoming and if I would ever be a mother myself.
I yearned to have my own children, yet I was thrust into the role of caretaker for my parents. My mother had always been kind and compassionate, so it was a shock when she wasn’t able to comfort me in my pregnancy losses.
In the beginning of her illness, Mom became angry and upset at her own confusion. I made regular trips across the state to spend time with and try to understand what was happening to her. In the book, I share my mother’s heart-wrenching anguish and our family’s bewilderment over her gradual descent into Alzheimer’s.
As my mother’s condition deteriorated, writing and nature were my solace.
I poured my emotions into my journals, and they became the backbone for my memoir. Writing provided a way for me to put some distance between myself and the grief I was feeling. When the pain was too much to bear, I would walk down to the barn. Some days, I would take a ride on my horse listening to the birds my mother used to love. Other days, I could do no more than lean my head against my horse’s neck.
Despite this decade of loss, a part of me felt vibrantly alive. Each loss made me more aware of the transient beauty around me. While my mother lost the ability to clothe, bathe and feed herself, I sensed her enjoyment of a gentle breeze or a sunlit window.
Mom often thought she was back at Lake George, at her childhood summer home. “Is that a sailboat?” she once asked me, pointing to a telephone pole in the parking lot of her rest home.
I was inspired by my mother’s will to live, her desire to connect even as her faculties slipped away. My faith, which had lain dormant for years, blossomed. As I learned to let go of what I had hoped for, I discovered gifts of grace all around me.
Motherhood: Lost and Found is my journey through my mother’s Alzheimer’s. It was not an easy road, but I am so grateful to have had those years with her. The memoir shares a story of transformation – how I lost the mother I thought I would have, but found, under the surface, a deeper appreciation for who she was and what it meant to be a mother.
Ann Campanella is the author of the award-winning memoir, Motherhood: Lost and Found. Formerly a magazine and newspaper editor, her writing has been widely published. She blogs about her life and horses at Fields of Grace and is a guest blogger about Alzheimer’s at www.careliving.org, a blog created by Kim Campbell, wife of country music singer Glen Campbell. Twice, Ann has received the Poet Laureate Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society. She lives on a small horse farm in North Carolina with her family and animals.