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Still Barb – by Amy Brathwaite

Alzheimer’s is so cruel. It robs people of their words, their memories, their loved ones, their capacities. And as she retreats to her happy memories, it’s hardest on the family members who are left behind. Barb is retreating, so quickly. She is not old, it has not been long, but ever so swiftly is slipping. But two things illuminate her … music, and her grand-daughter. I spent time with Barb and her girls this past weekend at the farm. Her daughter is balancing care, affection and attention between her mum and her little girl, this little girl who came to the world 2.5 years ago just when we needed her. She is too young to understand what is happening to her grandmother. But she is so gentle with her. She reads to her, helps cut her nails and brush her hair and she talks to her. They dance. In fact, the only time I heard Barb speak this weekend was in conversation with Shela. And when she did, there she was – Still Barb. Her twinkle, her smile, her movement to the music, her love of dancing. She’s still there, just quiet now.

I stand in admiration of the grace and courage demonstrated by my dear friend, a caretaker, a daughter, wife, a mum, a sister. Navigating this journey with such empathy, strength and compassion – and – so thankful that Shela came along just when she did. More and more, I’m feeling drawn to the photos that connect generations, that celebrate the long journey’s our parents and grandparents have been on and to remember to laugh, dance, connect and hold hands, right now … right this very moment.

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.” – Rumi.

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2 Comments

  1. Judi March 2, 2015 Reply

    Tears in my eyes....but good tears...the kind that appreciate the love family can share....a beautiful story ... and a beautiful lesson..I myself have not been touched by Alzheimer’s but I have had the opportunity to be with friends who have and to admire their strength and their respect for their loved ones. Thanks for sharing this story, Amy.

  2. Lesley March 3, 2015 Reply

    This is beyond one of the most beautiful pieces you have written, which was an easy task when you're faced with the incomparable Pamela! Grace. No better word. This is a celebration of the silky strings that make up the webs that hold people together; that run between mother and daughter and daughter and mother -- that run between generations, time, reality, perception.

    I am in awe of not only this beautiful family, but the ability of the storyteller to capture this moment in time.

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