“Take my hand. We will walk. We will only walk. We will enjoy our walk without thinking of arriving anywhere.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Guest Blogger Melissa Smith of Melissa Smith Yoga shares about her personal experience of her step-mother’s Alzheimer’s journey
January 19, 2016
When I visited my step mom, Marcee, where she lived in a memory care facility, I would take her hand and walk. Years ago, we would venture outside in the fresh air and down the street. The last time I visited, her knees rolling inward, she had a difficult time walking and holding her head up, so I took one arm, my dad took the other, and we walked in the corridors that made a short loop. One lap was all we could manage that day.
This past month, we lost Marcee who suffered from early on-set Alzheimer’s for more than 10 years. Her loss was a gradual one for my dad and I. Parts of her personality, abilities and memory would fade every day and watching this steady decline was heart-wrenching. But, today and every day, I choose to celebrate her life. I have a photo of her on my mantle where she’s nose to nose with a pet burro. It was taken about 13 years ago, when the symptoms first began to make themselves known to us. The joy she took in animals, sometimes even more than humans, makes me smile to remember. There was a simplicity to her love and care for them.
I think the absurdity and blessing of Alzheimer’s is that there is only this present moment. Some may recall the past or think it is the past, but to them, even the past is this moment. This moment is their only reality. Living with presence for most of us is not as simple as this. If I’ve learned anything from this disease, it is that I can at least rely on the skills I’ve learned through mindfulness and yoga to be present, softer (empathetic), and kinder. I can offer the gift of showing up without agenda to whomever I’m with.
For the new year, rather than a resolution or a list of goals, the gift of essential presence is what I hope to embody. As I peel away things that are no longer as urgent as I thought, I have more time and energy for things that I value. And in light of so much change, loss and healing in my life over the past year, I am savoring my kids being kids, watching the snow fall, and simply listening to a friend share about their day. I am feeling inspired by the commitment to both self care and practice throughout my yoga community.
Tools that cultivate presence and self care like mindfulness, meditation and yoga are the focus of our annual retreat for Caregiver’s of Alzheimer’s in November. If you feel sparked to volunteer, donate time, money or food on behalf or in memory of a loved one for this incredible event, please contact me.
May your journey take you the heart of what is essential, grounding and most valuable to you over the course of this season.
About the Author
Melissa embodies all things yoga and holds true to her personal belief in freedom. She is truly an example of living life! Melissa is an advocate for research for a non-profit Alzheimer’s Group and holds an annual FREE retreat to Caregiver’s of Alzheimer’s in Texas.
*Republished with author’s permission: www.melissasmithyoga.com