A Year of Firsts

Me and Adelynn on a lunch date

Last week this picture popped up on my Facebook timeline as a memory from one year ago.

I remember this day quite vividly.

That morning I had a shoot for ciLiving in Rantoul and had called my mom to see if she and Adelynn wanted to meet me for lunch at C&C Kitchen.  It was the day after I had gotten to see my Dad for the first time after his release from the psych ward in Decatur and was able to visit with him in his new assisted living facility in Mahomet.  I specifically remember telling my mom at this lunch date one year ago that I had such a good feeling about this new home for Dad.  I was optimistic.  Hopeful.  We had made the right decision in putting him there.  Everything is going to be okay.

I also remember Mom and I having a conversation about paperwork she needed to complete for Dad that included a DNR, do not resuscitate, so that was fun.  But necessary.

Then in a matter of 24 hours, everything changed.  Our world flipped upside down and we started a journey on a wicked roller coaster ride that would not let us off no matter how hard we tried.  That next day I was eating lunch with a friend from church when my Mom called and said the assisted living facility called and said Dad wouldn’t let go of a nurse’s arm and they had to call in the fire department and police to get him to let go.  They were headed to the ER.


My head began spinning.

He wouldn’t let go of someone’s arm so we call the fire department?

And now we’re heading to the ER?

Is this for real?

How is this possible?  I just saw him the day before.  He seemed to be doing great.  How could I have been so wrong on feeling so optimistic?  How could things have downward spiraled so quickly in a mere 24 hours? This can’t be real.

I met my mom at the hospital and we were there when he arrived on the stretcher.

What I then witnessed and what began to unfold before my eyes was a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from… no matter how hard my Dad squeezed my arm.  Because he did… HARD.

He was so confused.  He didn’t understand what was going on.  He couldn’t understand that they needed him to stay in the hospital bed so they could examine him.  He kept trying to get up and a nurse began to FREAK out.  I can’t blame her though, because she had no background information on my Dad.  He looked so normal, like a strong, young, healthy man.  She didn’t know any better.  The nurse then proceeds to call in what felt like a dozen nurses, security guards, and anyone with muscles, to restrain my Dad.  I was stuck in the middle trying to calm him down, convince him to sit back, but he put the grab on my wrists and he squeezed.  I was reminded of the “Indian burns” that he used to give me as a kid but this time he wasn’t rubbing and he wasn’t letting go.  That then made the nurses nervous, but I just kept reassuring them I was fine.  He wasn’t hurting me.  It didn’t feel good, but there was no way I was telling them that information.  After I got Dad to let go, the doctor made us leave because he knew we didn’t need to be there for what was about to happen.

We stepped out of his room and hearing my Dad yelling, telling them to stop, that they were hurting him was too much.  We had to get out of there and get some air.

When we finally got to go back to see him, he was in restraints, in a position that looked most uncomfortable.  We were praying that this behavior was caused by a urinary tract infection, but those results came back negative.  The doctor blamed the progression of the disease and really had no answers for us.

So we sat.  And we waited.  I caressed his hair, sang softly to him, and we watched the drugs take over him and put him into a drugged coma for two days.

And that was the beginning of the end.

But, seeing that picture pop up on my Facebook feed brought that day rushing back to me and those events have flooded my mind ever since.  I thought I was doing so well with my grief.  I was able to look through photo album after photo album searching for back to school photos for my last post and didn’t cry once.  Not once.  I’d made a breakthrough.  Right?

How has seeing one picture, that my Dad isn’t even in, set me back in my grieving?

My birthday is coming up this week.  It’s going to be my first birthday that I won’t hear my Dad wish me a happy birthday.  Last year, from his hospital bed, he sang to me, his own Alzheimer’s version of the song with help from Mom.  It was perfect.  What I wouldn’t give to hear that messed up version again this week.

A year of firsts.

First birthdays.  First holidays.  First anniversaries.  Experiencing everything this past year for the first time without my Dad has been hard, but what I expected.  I didn’t think it would be fun or easy.  But things were getting easier.  And now, I’m back to feeling sad.

Celebrating what would have been my Dad’s 63rd birthday

So, where is my joy?  Something I take pride in being able to do well, is the ability to find the joy in any situation.  But, I’m struggling this time.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Trust in Him.  The one who made me.  The one who loves me more than anything and loves me so much He sent His only son to die on a cross for me.

For imperfect me.

So that is what I will do… trust in HIM.

I have felt the power of the Holy Spirit since starting this blog.  I can go back and look at previous blog entries and think, “What made me type that?  Where did those words come from?”  And there’s only one answer… I had help.

I’m anticipating these next few months to be needing a lot more help from up above as we head into our final “firsts” and are reminded of my Dad’s final days.

Thank you God for all the birthdays I had the privilege of celebrating with a Father who loved me beyond measure.  Thank you for loving me and being there for me during this new stage of grief and sadness, and for the gift of Your presence I will be joyful.  And even though this year’s celebration will look and feel a little different, it doesn’t take away from the fact that You gave me the ultimate gift, a gift I can never repay, but can try to everyday by living a life that reflects You, just as my Dad would want me to do so we can one day celebrate together once again.  Cupcakes are calorie free in heaven, right?


3 thoughts on “A Year of Firsts

  1. Judy Roberts says:

    I hate this disease so much! I don’t have words to describe that day when the memory care facility called. It makes me sad to think back but it makes me realize we need more training and education in learning how to manage and care for these loved ones. Geren would never have intentionally hurt someone ever, but when he got the death grip on you, he was hanging on. Heather, your writing is so beautiful. God is totally working through you and I thank Him for that. I’m sorry you are sad again. Dad would not want that. But grieving is tough. It can take just one little anything to flood your soul with grief again. I know. It happens to me a lot. But sometimes it make me chuckle through tears. Sunday morning I grabbed a pair of socks only to find they were mismatched. A job I gave Geren and thought he had done well. When I grabbed the next pair, same thing. Bless his heart. He tried and it made me sad, but I chuckled and it made me feel like he was getting a good laugh, too. Keep trusting in God. He’s our comforter and healer and someday we can all be joyful in heaven, but for now, let’s get that joy back you sweet daughter of mine. I love you, Heather!

    • Aunt Susan says:

      Heather, this had to be one of the most horrific days in your life! The feeling of helplessness had to be overwhelming for you and your mom!
      It breaks my heart that your dad had to live with Alzheimer’s and that you kiddos and your sweet Mom had to watch as this horrible disease consumed him!

      As much as we love your sweet dad, and as badly as we wanted his mind healthy again, we couldn’t make that happen. In the end, it was so sad looking into his confused, scared brown eyes.

      On my final visit with your dad, God knew I needed to see his smiling, mischievous brown eyes again and for a brief moment, I got just that! A precious smile; a flicker of my precious brother back again! That’s the memory I hang onto. Heather, my prayer for you is for God to help you replace every heart breaking Alzheimer’s memory of your dad with a fun, healthy, happy dad memory! I love to remember your dad’s laugh! I pray the sound of his laughter and his goofy grin never fades from my memory!

      As we focus on the cross, we know God has a wonderful reunion planned for us! I’m looking forward to that day!❤️

      Thank you so much for opening your heart and sharing your journey with us. I love you darlin’ girl.

  2. Ramona Simpson says:

    Heather, I can’t tell you how much you are touching my heart with your writings. Especially since I’m now facing the same nightmare with someone I love. I try o stay positive but some days are really hard. Thank you for being willing to share your journey.

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