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It was late summer into fall of 2012 when my mom began a very steep, swift decline. Autumn has always been my favorite time of year (Mom’s, too), but for the past four years, it hasn’t held the same appeal. Now September and October bring thoughts of her last year with us and what a painful time that was. She died on December 15, 2012.

I’ve often said that I don’t remember life before Alzheimer’s (BA). It’s such an all-consuming journey, and when it’s over, after the shock wears off, you realize you don’t even know yourself anymore. The person you were BA is gone and has been replaced by another version of you. That’s not an entirely bad thing; in many ways, the experience helped me grow into a better person.

For years now, Thanksgiving has felt like just another day, but the one thing it does is remind me to reflect on my many blessings. Losing a friend of 30 years last month was a sobering reminder that tomorrow isn’t promised and today is all we really have. That loss also made me realize how much I have to be grateful for.

One of my greatest blessings is the fact that I’m able to use a heartbreaking experience to help others. I’ve been afforded remarkable opportunities to share our story, offer support to caregivers, and advocate for more funding and improved care. Through this work, I’ve met some of the most caring and compassionate human beings on the planet and have forged friendships with passionate advocates around the globe. All of these things are such gifts.

It would be easy to remain bitter – or to resent that fact that this dreaded disease chose us – but what good would that do? Life is what we make it. My mom would want me to keep moving forward with purpose, and I think she would love that her story is making a difference.

The holidays can be especially challenging for caregivers. Let’s face it, those dreamy images we see in Martha Stewart and Southern Living just don’t reflect reality. This holiday season, remember that blessings can be found every day – often in the simplest things.

Alzheimer’s teaches us to appreciate even the smallest of miracles; an unexpected smile, an “I love you” that comes out of the blue when you thought you might never hear it again, or just the fact that your loved one ate a good dinner or had a restful night.  My wish for you this Thanksgiving is that you’re able to find some quiet time to reflect on your blessings.

Peace, love, and joyful moments,

Other posts you might enjoy

Last Minute Tips for Thanksgiving 
Reasonable Expectations: Key to a Happy Holiday
Getting Through the Holidays with Alzheimer’s
Giving Thanks
Alzheimer’s and Managing Holiday Expectations
Alzheimer’s Taught Me To Be Grateful