Caregiver

Caregivers Have Stories To Tell

The narrator says this in reference to Cinderella’s grief over the loss of her mother. Cinderella © Disney 2015

There are some Disney film quotes that linger in my mind. In the live action Cinderella, the narrator, who is Fairy Godmother, explained that after Cinderella’s mother passed away, “Time passed, and pain turned to memory.” I struggled with this for a long time because the pain was palpable and hardly fading into memory. In my mind, referring to it as a memory meant I had to dig a bit to conjure it. Now, it has been ten years since I lost my dad, and this summer will mark nine years without Ben. Although I still cannot say that pain turned to memory, I realize that I do not live in the pain any longer. Today, I realized that living at more of a distance from that pain makes harsh memories of those days extremely difficult. Setbacks throw off the balance I have achieved in my coexistence with grief and I’m back in the memories.

If you regularly read my blog, you know that theater is my favorite activity and my treasured escape. Today, I attended a play called Mary Jane, by Amy Herzog, and starring Rachel McAdams. It is the story of a single mother who is the caregiver for her baby son, Alex, who has Cerebral Palsy. We never meet Alex, who is on a ventilator, has seizures and seems to be nonverbal. The play revolves around Mary Jane’s conversations with various people, including nurses, doctors, strangers in the hospital, and a chaplain. It is a beautifully done play and it is very emotional. I knew it would be difficult for me to watch. But, I needed to see it and I wanted to support it. It was not an escape. It was a step back into my own experience. I made a point of going by myself so I could be alone with my thoughts, my tears, my recollections.

I could instantly relate to watching Mary Jane go from one challenge to the next, often with a smile, and always as an advocate. Hearing people tell her to take care of herself and watching her take it in and not even reply brought me back to my own reactions to advice I knew was heartfelt but that I also knew I was not going to follow. I had to force myself to focus on the play because my mind jumped to my own still vivid interactions. I was very fortunate to have a majority of wonderful people tending to my dad and Ben. Still, I learned to use my voice to ensure their good care, something that did not come naturally to me at the time.

Grief remains enigmatic to me. I never know exactly what will spur a setback. I knew that this show would bring tears. Indeed, it was a tragic story and I empathized on a deep level as Mary Jane dealt with her son’s episodes and emergencies. It was a scene with music therapist that hit me the hardest. Mary Jane is at a breaking point when a music therapist came by after the baby had a medical procedure, so he was sleeping. The music therapist explained that she wouldn’t be able to come back later that day and wouldn’t be at the hospital for another few days, when she couldn’t promise that she could return to see Alex. This was the one thing that Mary Jane simply couldn’t accept because she said that Alex was looking forward to this. In speaking with Mary Jane, the music therapist said that it was possible that Alex was conscious enough to hear the music, and she played a song. It soothed Mary Jane as much as we want to believe it soothed Alex.

Of all that happened in this play, this interaction, and the mention of music, affected me intensely. At one point, Ben had a crisis and he had to be intubated. It was terrifying, and in order to cope, as I stood outside the room, I tried to shift my focus to how fascinating it was that they converted his room into a kind of operating room, with people and equipment quickly moving in and out. Afterwards, I sat with him as he slept. When a nurse came in to check on him, she told me that although his eyes were closed and he wasn’t entirely awake, he could probably hear me. I remember being overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness and I burst into tears. The nurse hugged me, and I asked if she thought he would hear music. I had brought his iPad to the hospital so he could listen to music. The nurse encouraged me to play the music, which I did. I remember asking Ben if he heard me and he nodded slightly. I asked him if he wanted to listen to the music and he nodded again. Music was always a driving force in Ben’s life, and it proved to be an important part of his hospital experience, too.  

When Ben was first admitted to the hospital, the palliative team asked about his interests and I told them music and computers. At the time that this crisis occurred, we had not received a visit from a music therapist. However, when he was transferred to the ICU after an emergency intubation, a music therapist visited the ICU- which was unusual- and cheered Ben with guitar music. He even played some Beatles music, which Ben loved. Ben enjoyed several visits from music therapists, and the guitarist even played for him at his bedside on the day he separated from the vent and left this world.

After the play, I walked home with my thoughts. I listened to my “Ben Playlist” of songs that were important to us, some of which were played on the day he died. I gave myself permission to feel the grief. I was grateful to be by myself. I did not want to hear any other opinions, or comfort, or suggestions of what I “should” do or think.

As stressful as it is to revisit those days, I always come back to that as awful as it was, there was so much love and caring. As Iago said in Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, You’ll be surprised the things you can live through.”  The pain of those days is now tempered with perspective. The pain may be a memory, but it is easily summoned and, on days like today, it lingers. I do not avoid the memories, or even the tears. That experience has impacted my life and taught me a lot about myself. Feeling the grief also lets me know that I have grown and moved forward. I’m grateful to be able to articulate my feelings here, and also grateful when I hear from people who relate and then want to share their own experiences. We have the experience of caregiving – and sometimes grief- in common, and it is okay to feel, internalize, and grieve differently.

ALS,Caregiving,Grief,Iago,Aladdin

I could not have seen this play when I was entrenched in caregiving. In fact, I avoided anything that was at all sad for a few years after I lost my dad and Ben. Now, I’m ready. I felt compelled to see this play to honor my experience but also to support art that puts the spotlight on caregivers and the caregiving experience.  Not long ago, I wrote about another play that I saw about caregiving, called Cost of Living, by Martyna Majok. (click here to read that post) This play also left a lasting impression on me. There are more than 53 million caregivers in the United States. They have stories that need to be told. I am so grateful for the artists who bring these issues to life.

Thank you for reading my stories. Caregivers, tell your stories. You matter.

Thumper- A Special Bunny Who Knew About Caregiving and Friendship

Bambi (1942)
Copyright©Walt Disney Productions

Easter seems a perfect time to honor my very favorite bunny, Thumper, from Walt Disney Pictures Bambi.  I’ve always loved Bambi, and when I first started this blog, I wrote about the song Love is a Song that Never Ends and how it resonated with me in caregiving and in grief. My experience as a caregiver led me to see Thumper’s relationship with Bambi in a whole new way.

Thumper was the very adorable and lovable young forest gossip, and he certainly didn’t always say the right thing. He was the one to point out that Bambi was “kinda wobbly, isn’t he?” and “he doesn’t walk very good, does he?” This is not exactly the positive reinforcement someone wants when struggling and self-conscious! And while his mother had to remind him that “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all,” Thumper was just a child making an observation, albeit tactlessly, but his heart was in the right place. Actually, he was quite devoted to his new friend, the young prince Bambi.

Thumper and his siblings (also incredibly adorable little bunnies) play with Bambi but also watch out for him. They anticipate where he is going to struggle and they gather around to help him so they can play together. Thumper was Bambi’s motivation. I especially love this clip, in which Thumper assesses the situation on the ice and tries to position Bambi’s legs, advising Bambi to “walk both ends at the same time.” It doesn’t go so well and they both end up skidding and falling. It reminded me of the way I had to work with Ben to help him up and figure out the best way to get around. We each had to trust each other and there were times we were nervous and other times it was fun. There were times that I managed to keep him from falling and got him safely onto the bed or a chair. There were also the times that we both ended up on the ground, fortunately unharmed. And, like Thumper, we often found ourselves saying, “Gee whiz, what happened that time?” I always loved this scene in the film, but now I see it in a new light.

Thumper never gave up on Bambi or their friendship in the same way that as caregivers, we never give up on our loved ones. And, Thumper was so happy when Bambi did have an accomplishment like walking steadily. Though Bambi is first learning to navigate the world and Ben was adapting to new ways to do some tasks and dealing with losing the ability to do others, I could relate to Thumper’s positive attitude of problem solving and encouragement.

Also touching was that he never left Bambi behind in pursuit of his own fun. ALS is known to be an isolating disease, particularly because you lose the ability to communicate. Thumper was determined to have Bambi join him with their other forest friends. It is an important lesson for all caregivers, friends, relatives and others to find some way to remain engaged with our loved ones. Visits, cards, texts, emails, photos, videos and a simple presence can all help a person feel remembered and included in life. Ben and my dad always enjoyed hearing that people thought of them. As their caregiver, it lifted own spirits when my friends reached out to them, too.

The film also deals with Bambi’s fear, confusion and sadness when he loses his mom. He did not know what the future and the world held in store. But, time went on and winter turned to spring, and Bambi grew up. He reunited with Thumper and Flower and the rest of his friends and all their families, and none of them ever forgot the friendship they shared. Thumper and Bambi- and a dose of Disney- remind us that love never dies and beautiful memories stay strong and sustain us as we move through life’s good and bad times.

If you haven’t seen the film, or haven’t watched it in a while, treat yourself. It is a beautiful story.

To everyone who celebrates it, Tinker Bell and I wish you a Happy, Peaceful and Healthy Easter!

Wisdom From The Silly Little Bear On National Winnie The Pooh Day

Halloween 2012. Eeyore’s wearing a birthday hat!

Today is National Winnie the Pooh Day, in honor of A.A. Milne’s birthday. Pooh and his 100 Acre Woods friends have a most special place in my heart and memories. My relationship with Ben blossomed around Piglet and Pooh and it is one of the ways Ben won my heart. When Ben and I first started dating, we often walked to the flagship Disney Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It is no longer at that location. We wandered the three  floors and I often left with little gifts- the courting phase of a relationship is fun, indeed!

Having spent increasing amounts of time with me, Ben was becoming fully immersed in the Disney mindset, and loving it, sometimes to his own amazement.  One day, as we strolled through the store, Ben called me over to look at a figurine, exclaiming, “Abby, look! It’s Piglet and his best friend, Pooh!” I stared at him, speechless, and then started to laugh. He shook his head, laughed, and said, “I was macho before I met you!” Truth be told, he was not so macho. He was a big teddy bear, and his great hugs could calm me down and completely surround me with love. He was a big kid at heart who indulged my inner child, and that was us.  He bought me that figurine as a surprise, and it will always be so special to me.

Disney Store,Winnie the Pooh,Piglet
Piglet and his Best Friend Pooh! A very special figurine with very sweet memories.

Today seemed a good day to revisit some favorite quotes from the silly little bear and his friends. They resonated during my caregiving days, through the darkest days of grief, and they continue to be meaningful and touching.

In the Disney Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin, Christopher Robin tells Winnie the Pooh, “If ever there’s a tomorrow when we’re not together, there’s something you must remember…You are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think…. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you. 

I am still so deeply connected to my mom and dad, Ben, grandma, aunt Eleanor and many others who have left. They are all a part of who I am and are unquestionably always with me. The truth is that it is not always enough- sometimes not even close to being enough- but it is a lot.

“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh.

“There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”

That’s caregiving. It’s that simple and that complicated. My presence was the tea and honey that my dad needed to feel more secure and cheered. As ALS took away his abilities, there were times that Ben was understandably frustrated and sad. All I could do was be there, trying to bring him comfort.

Sometimes it’s a matter of being present, sometimes it’s being a good listener, sometimes it’s ensuring that routines- including medications- are followed. Mostly, it’s about caring to figure out exactly what will soothe the caree at the moment. For Pooh, honey was always a good solution. It’s not always that easy. But communicating the desire to be there, to help and support, can only strengthen a bond. Although we could lose patience with each other, and sometimes we both needed our moments to feel down, Ben knew that I would always at least try to find the thing that would be his tea and honey.  And, I knew that he would find a way to show me he loved me.

In another conversation:

“What day is it?” asked Pooh

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

“My favorite day,” said Pooh.

It’s hard to imagine that any day with ALS, or any terminal illness, can be a favorite day. There were definitely the big highlights, like when Ben woke up on January 1, 2015, and he said that he had such a fun New Year’s Eve. I had ordered matching Mickey Mouse and Friends pajamas for us and even for my cat, Disney. Ben always loved the fireworks at Walt Disney World, and I found a toy that supposedly simulated fireworks, with sound effects and LED light “fireworks” that were activated by a remote control. We played the soundtrack to the “Wishes” Magic Kingdom fireworks show and Ben chose the sequence for our fireworks show while we had our photos scroll on his computer. It was pretty hilarious to pretend we were at the Magic Kingdom as we watched these pretty unconvincing fireworks splash on the wall. It felt almost magical to laugh and enjoy the evening. That silly celebration was a most favorite day and is now part of my treasure trove of beautiful memories of moments sprinkled with pixie dust.

Any days spent at Walt Disney World were favorite days when Ben felt free as he rode around in his scooter or electric wheelchair. The Disney magic allowed him to enjoy most of the attractions and to temporarily abandon his worries.

Once he was homebound, Ben’s days did not vary much. But, every day that he was okay and things went smoothly, when we handled or averted a crisis, solved a problem, and enjoyed each other’s company, was a favorite day. We recognized, acknowledged and treasured those.

Winnie the Pooh commented, “There’s always time for a smackeral of wonder.”I think that’s true. And, it’s so important. My dad never lost his desire to learn and help others. Ben never lost his curiosity, sense of humor and ability to be inspired, particularly by music. When we were able to go to Walt Disney World, his inner child shone, and he marveled at everything he saw and all the music he heard. When he was home, he watched movies and documentaries and listened to music, always questioning, always learning, always with a sense of wonder and delight. I think that helped him to navigate ALS. Always finding time for a “smackeral of wonder” is good advice for all of us.I believe that Ben would be especially happy that these lessons came from Piglet and his best friend, Pooh.

One of the most profound and bittersweet quotes from Winnie the Pooh, is“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  This time of year, in particular, is filled with a lot of milestone dates. I begin each New Year commemorating the anniversary of my mom’s passing. Then, February is a month filled with reminders of the many goodbyes I have had to say. The month is marked by my dad’s birthday, Ben’s birthday, and the anniversary of the passing of my grandmother and aunt Eleanor. It is also the anniversary of the passing of my sweet cat, Disney.

My memories are important to me. They are everywhere. Sometimes past and present blur in my mind and the reminders of the losses and the goodbyes are crushing. At the same time, I am so grateful to have had these people in my life. And, I’m grateful to Winnie the Pooh and his friends for helping me to find wonder, whimsy, insight and a positive, comforting, and honest perspective. Thank you, A.A. Milne, for bringing them to life.

October 2012
Ben would not be at all surprised that this Eeyore came home with me. Making new memories in 2018, but carrying Ben in my heart.

2024- My Year to Step Through Doors

It has taken me a while to get a grounding on my thoughts as the new year approached. I have found myself searching for the words and thoughts that best convey my feelings. I am not one for setting specific resolutions. For me, despite cautions about looking back, it is important to revisit how I feel about how the year went, and what I might like to feel like this year. It is a time to identify my growth and achievements, but also to focus on my struggles and look for inspiration and motivation. Of course, Walt Disney provides my guiding wisdom and captured my sentiments so well in this quote: We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. I have referred to this quote a few times in this blog. It resonated when I was beginning to reshape my life as the depths of grief subsided. It continues to resonate as I choose new paths that I hope will lead me to fulfillment.

The past year had professional and personal highlights. I traveled, made strides in my writing, brought awareness of the needs of student family caregivers to my school. I made new friends and am at peace with shifts in friendships. Retirement is within reach, which makes the stress of teaching and our education system somewhat and sometimes more manageable. I have expanded my support group and workshop offerings, which is creating a whole new intriguing path. When I get nervous about the reality of my next steps, I remind myself that Walt Disney said, Fantasy and reality often overlap.”

I have been thinking about the film Up, and when Ellie wrote to Carl in her journal, Thanks for the adventure – now go have a new one!” I have opened new doors and continue to do so, I have had new adventures, and I have created a new life for myself. Lately, however, I find myself thinking that in many ways I am only standing in the doorway, not willing to fully step through into new adventures.

Although I have such a wonderful network of friends and colleagues, I still struggle with feeling very alone. Ironically, I am very independent, and grateful to be that way. If I want to go somewhere, or see a show, I am perfectly comfortable going by myself. Maybe even too comfortable. However, I am caught off-guard when doing something as simple as strolling, by a sense of aloneness. Yesterday, walking through the first snow in New York City, I immediately recalled how I would record these events for Ben when he was homebound. I even brought him snowballs. I whipped out my phone and recorded the snowfall as I always did. And I cried. I don’t know if that feeling will ever go away. At least, it doesn’t paralyze me as it once did, which is good.

My memories fill my days. They also fill my apartment. Once again, I ordered my photo calendar of Ben’s and my favorite Walt Disney World moments. I thought about creating a new 2024 calendar that featured my new memories. I thought I could even combine some of my favorites from the current calendar with photos I have taken over the past several years. Ultimately, I could not do it. It was not really that I felt disloyal to Ben either. It was that I could not stop keeping those memories alive and, basically, keeping our relationship alive. I still use our photo blanket, our photo shower curtain, and a bathroom filled with our Walt Disney World photos. Only recently did I start to really look around my home and what surrounds me. Can I really say that I want to find a new romantic relationship when my old one literally pervades so much of my current life? Would I be attracting love into my life without really being open to it? In the Pixar short, Carl’s Date, I related so strongly to Carl’s insecurity about finding love again. I felt like I was also looking for guidance, connecting to how he still acknowledged Ellie and had the support of Dug when he stepped forward. But he did step forward, and so will I. (Click here for my post about this.)

This year, I have made a great deal of progress with my writing. I have always loved to write, but it was my experiences in caregiving that led me to start this blog and stirred my passion. Ben and my dad, as well as a host of memories, were front and center of my writing endeavors. My book, which is now almost ready for submission, is based on this blog. A couple of years ago, I decided to pursue my long-held dream to write children’s books. After all, as Walt says, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Though Christopher Robin has taught me that I am braver than I believe, I do not consider courage to be my strong suit. Still, I have taken writing courses, joined professional writing groups and learned a lot. I did find the courage to allow a small group of trusted people to read my book and children’s stories. Still, I stop short of seriously taking the next steps. I know that it is fear of success as much as fear of failure. This year, my intention is to walk through that door and see if I can at least get closer to having my fantasy of being published overlap with reality. I do know that all my loved ones believed in me- often much more than I believed in myself. Mufasa tells Simba in The Lion King, “So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.” Ben, my dad, my mom, my grandma and my aunt Eleanor are a part of so much of who I am and what I do. I will always strive to honor them in my actions. I just need to fully accept and find a way to place them in my heart while acknowledging that they are not here.

My book in progress.

So, 2024 will be the year that I apply some faith, trust and pixie dust to pursue a better balance between past and present that will let me not just open doors, but fully walk through them, knowing that I am on my own but bolstered by so much love.  

I wish everyone a peaceful, curiosity-filled 2024.

Best wishes from Abby and Tinker Bell

Thanksgiving, Gratitude, And What Does It All Mean?

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. Of course, I always take comfort in Disney, so I try to heed the advice of Walt Disney who said, “The more you are in a state of gratitude, the more you will attract things to be grateful for.”  I have really tried to embrace that attitude and, for the most part, it helps me. I also give myself permission to acknowledge the difficult moments and not force myself to deny or spin those moments.

The truth is that Thanksgiving is a bittersweet holiday for me. Yesterday, I awoke teary, thinking about the family I have lost. These were the people to whom I was closest. While I am indeed grateful to be included in the plans of my friends, I cannot escape the feeling of aloneness. Though I have learned to coexist with grief, this is one of those days when I cannot fight the tears.

I think about my last Thanksgiving with my dad, spent in the hospital, where I schlepped a full turkey dinner that he ate, mostly, to make me feel better because I had been crying and pleading with him to eat and get stronger. My last Thanksgiving with Ben was melancholy because he was understandably down about so many things regarding his ALS, including not wanting to eat pureed versions of traditional holiday dishes. Although it was easy to lose sight of it at the time, we did have things for which to be thankful. Being able to feel and express gratitude for each other was indeed a superpower because it gave us perspective to see the love that was there, and even to have some laughs. The love in those memories continues to warm my heart, despite the lingering sadness.

I think of my first Thanksgivings without Ben. It is my good fortune to have friends who included me in their Thanksgiving plans. I love my friends and spending time with them, and I sincerely appreciated the invitations, but the feeling of aloneness hovered. I returned to my apartment from these occasions in tears, weighed down by the unhappiness of not having any close family anymore and not knowing where I really belonged. At this time, my aunt Eleanor’s Alzheimer’s disease had also progressed to a point where I had lost the person I knew and each visit with her was yet another stinging reminder of my loss of family.

After a couple of greatly appreciated but painful Thanksgivings, one year, I decided to ignore the holiday, declining invitations and staying at home. It did not feel good either. But hey, I tried. Even when I have an epic fail as I did that holiday, I always pat myself on the back for striving to reshape my life and address the areas that are especially troubling to me.

This year, I originally planned to travel to London to completely avoid the discomfort of Thanksgiving and immerse myself in one of my favorite places, visiting people I love, too. For a couple of reasons- all positive and optimistic, by the way- I decided to postpone my trip. Still, it left me here with my discomfort. Who knows? I might have felt discomfort in London, too, knowing that I went away because I did not especially want or need to be home. I clearly miss the dependable comfort of family. Maybe, one day I will find it again. Maybe, being in a state of gratitude will help to manifest it. Too much of the touchy-feely laws of attraction stuff? Maybe. Or, maybe not!

As I said, I do have wonderful friends, and yesterday, I spent a lovely Thanksgiving evening with them. Again, I returned home feeling a mix of emotions. I let myself feel the heaviness of grief and missing my loved ones. I also let myself feel content that I did enjoy my time with dear friends. Being honest with my feelings- the positive and the negative- helps me to reflect honestly on gratitude and the spirit of Thanksgiving. I believe that it is in my acceptance of the bad moments, or days, that I began to understand what Walt meant by being in a state of gratitude. I make a practice of acknowledging gratitude, but I do not force myself to suppress my emotions.

In the 1960 Walt Disney Productions film Pollyana, Pollyanna describes the “Glad Game.” This was a game that Pollyana’s father taught her to deal with disappointment, in which you turn every tough situation around and think about something you are glad about regarding that situation. As time has passed, I have learned that being “in a state of gratitude” is not to naively play the Glad Game (click for more). It is not to ignore the bad experiences or diminish their impact, but, instead, to draw upon the especially important superpower of perspective. I have a good cry when I need to, or when something triggers it, but I also acknowledge and welcome experiences or insights into those tough times that compel gratitude.

For me, I struggle with a lack of confidence, and I want to frame my gratitude list this year in the context of achievements, so I can document and hopefully clearly see growth.

  • I have said it before, but can never say enough, that I am grateful for my friends, who have shown me such kindness, generosity, compassion, and encouragement. I am grateful that I emerged from the darker days of grief to be able to enjoy creating new memories with them.
  • I am grateful for my love of animals, as they are often more intuitive and genuine than humans. And, they completely delight me! Doing animal encounters and interacting with animals gives me such a sense of fulfillment. It connects me to my dad because he also deeply loved animals. I did plan to do a penguin encounter with Ben, but a winter storm made travel in an ambulette and with his wheelchair too daunting. I did feel guilty doing my first penguin encounter without Ben. But, I have learned that I take Ben everywhere with me, and even when that is not enough, it is something. For this, too, I am grateful.
  • I am grateful to be working with Hope Loves Company, facilitating online “hangouts” for kids who have a family member with ALS, leading crafts workshops at the organization’s online camp event, and participating in the development of new endeavors. I am sorry to meet these young people at this devastating time in their lives, but grateful when I can bring them some laughs, maybe some insight, and an opportunity to socialize with other young people who share the experience of ALS in their families.
  • I originally began a club in my school intended for students who are caregivers for ill family members or even helping to raise their siblings. It has shaped up to be a club of caring, and somewhat shy, kids who want to find themselves and support others in school, in the local and global community. I am grateful that my club has worked to raise awareness in our school about student family caregivers and their struggles. We have conducted events for November’s National Caregivers Month. I have also been leading professional development sessions for teachers and staff that focus on addressing the needs of student family caregivers. I am grateful and proud to have made caregiving a part of our school’s dialogue.
  • I am grateful to find comfort in the arts and in my creative endeavors. Blogging has been tremendously helpful, and I am grateful to know that readers find comfort in my words and I am thankful to have connected with many people.
  • I am grateful to have been working diligently on my writing. I take classes and joined writing groups to help hone my skills and learn about the publishing world. I have a caregiving book and picture books in progress. I mustered the confidence to share drafts with beta readers and have gotten positive feedback and constructive criticism. I am hopeful and optimistic about being a published author.
  • I am grateful to Walt Disney and all he created for providing me with entertainment, inspiration, motivation, joy, and opportunities to reflect and sort through my feelings. I am grateful to believe that wishes can come true and that there will one day be a cure for ALS and all devastating and terminal diseases. I am grateful for my sense of whimsy and belief that if you wish and dream enough, your wish will come true. It lets me know that I will have even more to be grateful for next year!

There are and there will likely continue to be setbacks and I remain consumed with feelings of wanting to be respectful to Ben’s memory and to make my dad, mom, and grandma proud. My memories will accompany and guide me on my journey and will always be a part of me, and that gives me great comfort and peace. And, I keep reminding myself of what Christopher Robin said to Pooh: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” I know that I will be okay because I have the superpower of gratitude that allows me to embrace all my emotions and seek a balance between positive and negative moments and thoughts.

Thank you for indulging this reflection and for sharing in my experiences in caregiving and grief. I always welcome you to share your own in the comments.

With all good wishes,

Abby

Wishing Well at Walt Disney World July 2014