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essays

essay by Andrea Hurley: beauty and the magic of undistracted time

by Andrea
June 14, 2015

To me my mother is beautiful. Ninety-seven years old and beautiful. I tell her this almost every time I see her. As these simple words penetrate her heart, she usually smiles softly and expresses a bit of disbelief—as if it surprises her every time. My mother probably does not expect to hear these words. She may not hear them often from others. She probably does not think of herself as beautiful, not at 97 years old. As I expressed in my last essay, we...

by Judy
June 7, 2015

Recently I read Dr. Oliver Sack’s autobiography called “On the Move.” I had never actually read any of his previous books although I knew about them. It still amazes me how close we can feel to another individual who we have never met and yet through their words and heartfelt vulnerability, they become part of our lives. They become our “friends.” Also this is a doctor of neurology who managed to connect very deeply with his patients out of his curiosity and very human care. And he shared his findings, through his writings, with the whole world -...

when the table turns: gratitude

by Judy
May 25, 2015

Thinking about what we might call the status quo, when there does not seem to be any change one way or another - perhaps small changes but nothing that big - and how often we can start to take this for granted. I am thinking in this case in relationship to living and helping to care for my elderly mother. Yes, there are moments that are difficult, but on the whole it's been pretty even. Yes, my mom is getting less engaged in general; yes, there are times like yesterday when it is difficult – no food pleases her and she “blames” it on us and does...

looking inside, changing mindsets, and creating a new future together

by Andrea
May 21, 2015

This past weekend I went to the birthday party of my friend, Joe, who just turned 95. Joe lives in the historic Beacon Hill area of Boston. He still drives, travels, teaches, writes (currently working on a book) and goes often to the theater, symphony and opera. Joe has lots of interesting friends from many different circles. Rare in his capacity to retain his memories and engage in thoughtful conversation, Joe breaks the spell of what most of us would believe possible as we march on toward our elderly years. At the celebration of his ninetieth...

by Judy
May 11, 2015

I am presently in the middle of reading David Brooks' latest book called, “The Road to Character.” It's very inspiring. Brooks speaks about what we value in our life and differentiates between what he calls “resume” virtues and “eulogy” virtues. For example, at the end of someone’s life, what do we value about that person? Is it what they accomplished in terms of career, status or fame (resume virtues) or is it much more to do with their character, their qualities of kindness, goodness, integrity; what kind of relationships they formed? (eulogy...

by Judy
April 26, 2015

Although I don’t have any grand statements to make, I do want to give words to and honor my mom’s 99th birthday that happened just a few days ago. To be sure, it does feel like quite a milestone that she has reached this age after having a stroke almost three years ago. Since surviving the stroke, her level of engagement has gotten less and less and even a year ago, my mother felt she was imminently leaving this world. It shows yet again that we just don’t know…we don’t know when the “hand of our maker” is taking us from this earthly...

by Judy
April 12, 2015

There is a power in communion. Yes, when I write, so much gets revealed, but there is a particular power in communion, in sharing together, in being transparent about our experience in relationship to caregiving, to life, death, aging…to Alzheimer’s. Our transparency touches the other whether it fits our own experience or not, still it resonates and that has an effect way beyond what we could imagine.

Today there were only three of us in our Caregiver’s Virtual Circle; Andrea, myself and one other woman, and we went deeper into each person...

when the table turns: unadulteraed humor

by Judy
March 30, 2015

I often come back to certain themes, cycling and recycling around them and seeing how they evolve. This time it’s about who we are or who we think we are. In seeing how much my mother has changed, I wonder how much she actually remembers who she was or who she thought she was. I think about how each one of us has our narratives; our stories that we carry about ourselves. Some of that narrative is true, some is based on what people tell us about ourselves and what we choose to remember or hold onto and some is a fabrication or an elaboration of...

alzheimer's and a rocky week of dreams, by Andrea. Photo credit: Relativity, by M. C. Escher, 1953

by Andrea
March 25, 2015

It’s been a rocky week of dreams, the kind that you can’t shake for days. Even as the details fade, a heaviness lingers. In one dream, I was driving in NYC and got lost. After some time I found a parking garage, hopefully a respite from the confusion. I pulled in, but there was no respite. The parking garage was impossible to navigate. It was like trying to navigate Escher's stairwell. Nothing made sense. I parked the car and got out to search for my bearings—only to find that I could not find my way back to my car. Things went from bad to...

by Judy
March 16, 2015

My mother was always very artistic. She loved beauty and creating beauty. When we were growing up, she went back to school and became an interior decorator. This love for beauty and creativity came in various forms…beauty in the home, flower arrangements, creating rock gardens…dressing beautifully. She also encouraged her children to be creative. For myself, it mainly came out in doing cards for special occasions, dancing or maybe writing a poem, but she was always very enthusiastic about anything we children might create.

Although...

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