It's been five short long years today since I lost my Nana. I know, short long contradicts itself. It seems like it was just yesterday we were making our weekly trips to the wound care clinic at St John's.....but it also seems a lifetime ago that I was able to hold her hand, touch her skin and hear her voice.
She had battled Alzheimer's for 11 years, diabetes almost as long, and had a known heart defect for over 3 1/2 years. When she was first diagnosed with the heart defect (by a kind, loving and caring doctor who was her kindergarten student at church many moons ago), it was believed she'd make it only a year and half to two years with such a valve leakage. She lived almost 3 1/2 years. My mom is fully credited with the wonderful care she gave her, night and day, weekly, monthly and yearly.
Diabetes was a manageable disease. Not a disease a sweets loving, Dr Pepper-aholic wants to have, but at least manageable.
Alzheimer's. A total other story. It is a cruel disease that doesn't care who it affects. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, well cared for and well loved, or abandoned by your family. It doesn't matter if you are the strong leader in your family who is dearly loved, or if you are being cared for by a single daughter and her daughter who watch you wither away in front of their eyes.
Alzheimer's robs. It steals. It devastates. It takes away the one thing that those you love you value the most.....Your life. It robs your memory, it robs your personality, it robs you of all you have that cannot be purchased back anywhere. I heard it said a while back that money can buy most anything....but it cannot buy life. It's true. You simply cannot buy your way out of Alzheimer's.
I'm saddened that 16 years after my Nana was loosely diagnosed with this dreadful disease that we are no closer to a cure. No breakthroughs in treatment, no real way to stop or even slow this thief.
Although this day is one we mark with a special tribute of new flowers at the gravesite or a special time of remembrance as we turn the calendar to this page...there is never a day I don't think of my Nana. I'm blessed to be carrying on many roles my Nana had through the years.
One is landlord. When I work at a house, I have special memories of working alongside her. I remember peeling all the loose wallpaper off a wall at a house, and then having to repaint it because I'd done so. I learned to paint with her. I learned to hang light fixtures and change doorknobs. Because of her I can put in a pane of glass and lay linoleum. I can change a faucet and hang a storm window. I learned alot from her. When mom thought I should get a 'real' job out of college....I resisted. I liked working with my Nana and I learned valuable skills that I use most every day. Mom is now glad I took the path I did.
Entertaining was another role my Nana loved. She held many, many parties in her home through the years. Her friends spoke about the fun times they had with her and my Papa. She knew how to throw a party and was a fabulous hostess. She wanted everything to be just right. Down to the color of the rum balls at my cousin's wedding shower she hosted.
Church hospitality and involvement was another love of hers. I remember many times taking food to those who'd lost a loved one, attending a visitation or funeral of a special friend or even someone she just felt needed a special show of respect, serving at a wedding or baby shower or a special anniversary celebration. She gave her all to those she cared for.
I have so many special memories, this blog could go on for pages and pages. I'll close it with a special gift she gave me overnight.
Pennies and money on the ground were something we talked about often. Her mother had a knack for finding money on the ground. So do I. I've always believed in Pennies from Heaven. It's a sign from a loved one and from God that it will all be okay. In God We Trust it says. Many say you shouldn't pick up a penny if it's tails up....that's bad luck. But how can anything that says "In GOD We Trust" be bad luck?
Before she died, I was walking out of Walmart thinking that I have so many great memories of my Nana, but I won't have any memories of her in this store with me. And I found a penny......
Shortly after she died, I was having a hard day....and looked down and found a penny under our truck.
Last night...I dreamed all night long of picking up pennies. I know she was telling me "It will all be okay."