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Beginnings and Endings: Hope and Grief

In January of 2020, I wrote a Lumunos blog about preparing for two major relationship transitions—the birth of my son and the beginning of the end of my father’s life. I was readying myself for the challenges of connecting with a newborn and staying connected with my dad as his memories faded through the fog of Alzheimer’s. In my last update (February 2021), I wrote about the beautiful relationship developing between my son and daughter and the meaningful visits I was able to have with my dad despite the global pandemic. In this final installment, I am writing about the ending of these transitions and my emergence on the other side. My son is now 14 months and toddling around with great gusto, and my dad has passed away. I find myself both hopeful and full of grief. What I came to realize is that over the last year, I witnessed the simultaneous and paradoxical emergence of one person and the receding of another. While my son’s body grew and developed from a helpless nursling to a strong and ravenous toddler, my dad’s body atrophied, he grew more helpless, and his appetite waned. My son’s big personality revealed itself more and more as the weeks and months went by. He realized the power of making people laugh and he found his first words and phrases. At the same time, my dad’s big personality receded. He lost many words and the desire to command attention. Fortunately, he could still make people laugh with an occasional witty remark. As we near Father’s Day this year, I am trying to figure out what exactly it means to be on the other side of these relationship transitions. My son and I have established a beautiful relationship full of love, laughter, and joy. It will change and evolve over time, of course, but the foundation is solid. I am full of hope as we emerge from our COVID bubble and explore the world together as a new family of four. Since the spread of COVID, so many have encountered unexpected grief. With Alzheimer’s you have a lot of time to grieve. First, I realized that my dad would never be able to visit our new home, though I knew he would have been proud of us for making our dream of a little farm a reality. Then I recognized that my children would have little or no memory of their Grandpa Lee. The hardest part was accepting that there were parts of me I’d liked to have shared with him that he would never know. Though my daily life and routine is largely unaffected by his passing, my understanding of my place in the web of humanity suddenly seems a bit opaque. My dad wished for a simple scattering of ashes, so the eulogy I wrote for him will only be heard by a few close family members. However, there is one passage I would like to share in conclusion to this piece:

As he lost touch with his memories, his stories, his likes and dislikes—the things we often think of as who we are—he actually became more himself. It was as if he was distilled down to his essence, that essence being loving-kindness and humor. Though he was lost in the maze of his muddled mind, I enjoyed those last visits. You could still see the love in his eyes and his unhampered smile. Becca Perry-Hill

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