Today I’m honoring LuAnne and the 47 million people around the world who are living with Alzheimer’s by participating in The Longest Day, a sunrise-to-sunset event that symbolizes the challenging journey of those living with the disease and their caregivers.
How can I tell you about my wife LuAnne? In the simplest words, she is the love of my life and my bride since the age of 19. But words escaped me when, at 55, LuAnne was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.I still love being with LuAnne, but because of Alzheimer’s, she can no longer tell me what she sees, what she feels or what she wants. And while conversation eludes us, on The Longest Day I will use words in another way. From sunrise to sunset, I will write poetry in honor of LuAnne, and share my work publicly on a blog I created just for the event. Why poetry? Because, in the words of poet and philosopher David Whyte, poetry is “a language against which we have no defenses.” It’s a way I can speak of LuAnne that encapsulates everything I’m feeling — from my continuing love for her to my deep sadness about this devastating disease.
Writing poetry was unexpected. As LuAnne’s condition worsened, I didn’t know how to describe my intense emotions, and I needed to find a new way to articulate the impact Alzheimer’s was having on our lives. I participated in an online course about caring for a person with Alzheimer’s, which focused on ways to reduce stress and agitation for those living with the disease.What I also learned that is just as important, and what I would advise any other caregivers, is to figure out what you can do to reduce your stress and be a better spouse, partner, friend, and caregiver. Poetry was an answer for me. Once I started, poetry quickly became my go-to language to express my feelings about our battle with Alzheimer’s.
Today friends and family will find me writing at home and places nearby that are special to LuAnne and me. I may struggle to find the “right” words as I reflect on the emotions that come with being LuAnne’s caregiver, but I know my fight will be nothing compared to LuAnne’s battle with Alzheimer’s. I will not let Alzheimer’s have the final word – those words belong to me, and to LuAnne, and our love story.
(from ‘Prairie Dance’, a poem by Brad Anderson)
I walk amidst her memory
Through the tallgrass and the dreams
I dream upon the hilltop
Of her spirit and her dance
It feels empowering to be able to honor LuAnne through the written word today, The Longest Day.
About the Author: Brad Anderson wants to show those facing Alzheimer's disease that they are not alone in Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day®, a sunrise-to-sunset event on June 20, 2016, to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.