Thursday, January 20, 2011

One Little Quilt at a Time

When Saturday, January 15th, came, I paused to think how I best wanted to spend my day...the day that my father would have turned of my many new anniversaries of my heart.

It was a sad day for me, because I missed him so very much and because I have spent so many of his last birthdays in Alaska..I miss being there, and having that time, again.

It was Martin Luther King's birthday as well, and a day when we both celebrate, and honor his life and work, by giving and doing for others....a national "Day of Service."

So, Saturday, as well as the observed holiday of Martin Luther King Day last Monday, I chose to do what I often do....I worked on a quilt for donation to the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. My own way of making a little quilt at a time.

My little quilt, made of some of the bits and pieces from my sewing room, is blue and gold. Blue and gold for my home state of Alaska's state colors...the land of my father's birth on our little Douglas Island home, where I also grew up.

As I was hand sewing on my little quilt, I also phoned 'home' to my mother in Alaska. As my brother handed her the phone, I could hear her saying my name, so I knew it would be a good day and she would be 'clear' for the phone call.

I do what I always do...told her silly stories about my chickens, talked about how she felt, but mostly I just told her that I missed her, and how much I loved her. And I send her lots and lots of from the energies of my heart accompanied by big noisy kisses that always make her laugh out loud.

When I told her that I loved her, she responded: "I love you, too, Michele" and later when I said that I missed her, she added "You can come here anytime." Those are amazing things to hear from someone with advanced Alzheimer's. And each and every time it does happen, it is such a huge gift to me, and to my heart.

Those words turned it from a sad day, to a very, very good day. My mother still knows who I am, knows that she loves me, and most of all knows just how much I love her. And I remember that I am always welcome there, and no matter whether it is a good day, or a challenging one, she is still alive, and still there for me.

It reminds me as does my little quilt, that it doesn't matter what stage an Alzheimer's patient is at. It doesn't matter if they still can hold a phone, or are able to talk to you, or know who you even are any more! Whether they are (or were) kind or irritable, giving or withholding, able to say or show their love back....they are still deserving of being loved, of being touched, of being talked to, and of having their hand lovingly held.

I feel so blessed that my own mother is still happy, that she is not striking out with anger or harshness as some AD patients do. I am blessed to be able to love her, and to be able to visit her, and help be a care giver many times a year. But even if she was one of those who finds a different space within the horrible disease process, and trust me........even the physical challenges are absolutely enormous to a are still able to love them, and visit them, and hold their hands with a soft and loving heart, and open mind as to who they seem to be now. It's very sad and deeply challenging to miss who they used to be. You simply try to accept it and meet them where they are......each and every single day.

Alzheimer's is a slow death by loss of identity and memory, but to me it is still easier than the actual physical death and loss of someone you love. And I never forget that.

I love you so much, Dad, and I will always, always miss you. But I love you so much, too, my sweet mama...and you are still here...and so am I.

And I'm still trying Dad, still trying my dear little mama..trying to be strong, to keep my heart open, to always show my love, and to make a difference in my life, and the life little quilt at a time.

Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative: making and donating little quilts
Liberated Quilting Challenge: join our own quilt bloggers Liberated Challenge and have your donated quilts also showcased on an additional page at AAQI.

Liberated Quilting Challenge

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Michele Bilyeu quilts for AAQI..the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. Won't you please join us? :)