At the beginning of January this year, Dana's husband, Steve, went on to be with the LORD. She has blogged eloquently in his last days and since his death. Dana and I both have a lot in common—Christians, authors (Dana wrote Galatians: An Exploration of Faith and Freedom, and I wrote Getting Off the Niceness Treadmill) , widows (Dana now and I have been) and caregivers for husbands with forms of dementia. We both used to teach full-time in public schools, but she was elected to the school board. She describes herself as a Type A busy person. Like Dana, I used to live in California (northern, although she lives in southern California) and I used to sell Mary Kay (I like to think my skin care is the reason I don't look 68). I have been gone from California for years, and gave up selling things because it didn't work when I was too nice (another story). She enthusiastically has sold Mary Kay while being her husband's caregiver. I have that flexible schedule with part-time teaching that she has with selling Mary Kay. We pieced together this interview from Facebook, her blog and email.
Carol: What has been the most difficult part of your husband's Early Onset Alzheimer's for you?
Carol: And you have not hesitated to write all of that. You also have not hesitated to share about your grief at this early date. Why is that?
Dana: In answer to the question about reflecting on grief now, I certainly do want to reflect, even publicly, as I do whenever anyone asks how I'm doing, in group or individual conversations. I take that as an opportunity to witness, to share my testimony, because God has been so very close to me, by the power of His Holy Spirit, that I'm amazed that He chose me for this trial, and I feel it is for the purpose of making Him and His ways known to as many who care to inquire after our wellbeing. I shared with our Home Fellowship group that believers' testimony is not only, "Once I was lost, and now I'm found" (or saved), but our testimony is ongoing, because God is daily at work in our lives in a miraculous way.
Carol: Absolutely He uses grief for our sanctification and the example to others.
Dana: Remember, I learned in my caregivers' course, which God used to save me from becoming utterly overwhelmed, that I've been grieving the loss of my husband for at least two years. The term "pre-grieving" was one I picked up on immediately. The husband I'd been married to since 1981 was already gone by 2011, despite a healthy body and perfectly normal appearance. It was becoming a matter of time before he'd need round-the clock care, which happened in late 2012. I would have had to hire three shifts of help, so an assisted living placement was a far superior choice.
Carol: Early Onset I understand is a fast disease. Did Steve talk early on about his awareness of the disease?
Dana: Yes, Steve talked about his disease a lot, and was very eager to try natural remedies. Remember, his brother had passed of the same dementia in 2010. He was very sad, but tried to fight on, exercising, doing puzzles, reading. We delayed a diagnosis until he no longer could work, because he kept working various ever-less demanding jobs and didn't want his outstanding reputation and resume to be tainted. So I'd say, after trying truck driving school, so maybe 2009. Not clear here about truck driving school.
Carol: How did he show his frustration as the disease progressed and how did you handle this?
Dana: Steve got frustrated back when he wasn't too bad off, still taking care of the property, able to go to church and with me, to the store, and even to Disneyland (2010). At that time he didn't have a problem staying home alone. He would get frustrated when issues like fixing the step on the RV would come up, for instance, \ and he'd be fearful when traveling in the RV, even though, ironically, he's the one who taught me to drive it.When we were camping with friends, he had trouble putting up the sun shade on the RV, and got really frustrate. One of the husbands in the group came alongside, and patiently spent 2 hours with him.
Carol: So Christian friends were there to help Steve.
Dana: For believers, we need to have the kind of godly friendships that allow us to ask for help from other men at church, and those friends came right away, feeling honored to do so, to serve in this way.. For two years in a row (2010 & 2011) we had friends come help Steve put up the Christmas tree, with Spirit-filled wisdom and tact, preserving his dignity, while getting the job done. But as his disease progressed, he became more sad and depressed, tearfully saying, "Everyone has something to do but me." and "All I ever wanted to do was to help people."
Carol: What decisions have you had to make this past month since his death?
Dana: The mortuary had to be selected, and then the next choice was cremation or burial. Next I spent time handling many legal and financial details, such as acquiring the official death certificates for life insurance, mortgage companies and banks. Filing the life insurance proceeds and Social Security Death Benefits have been the most time consuming tasks, still unresolved.
Carol: How are your adult children doing?
Dana: I've kept open communication available with the kids, so they know that any and all of their reactions are normal, expected, and not likely to go away soon, as the grieving process unfolds. Add to that the possibility of inheriting the cruel, life-shortening familial dementia that lurks in half of the genes, and I have much to pray about for my kids.
Carol: Has it been hard to get back to regular activities and your business of selling Mary Kay?
Dana: I find that I'm a little vague and inattentive when it come to my business, although I am back to booking appointments and attending events. My former excitement is building back up again after a month off, as I draw on God for energy. I still have moments of disbelief that I'm now a widow. A daily look on the surface doesn't show much change in my routine and our house looks the same. I got a minor speeding ticket--the first in a decade--at the bottom of a steep hill near our house due to inattention, or more likely oblivious familiarity. Despite some vagueness and occasional loss of focus, when I look in the mirror, I see a woman whom God is moving forward.
Carol: How are you dealing with the loneliness?
Dana: My pregnant daughter and her husband have finally moved into the house providing companionship and help.
Carol: You love Scripture as evident in your blog. What promise in Scripture has spoken to you in recent days?
Dana: Psalm 121:3, 7, 8 which reads
He will not allow your food to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber. . . .
The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.
The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.
Carol: I enjoyed your book, Galatians--very practical and insightful. What will your next book be about?
Dana: Would like to write a devotional, or one day start again on my book about dementia. :)
Carol: I continue to follow your blog, learn from you, read your next book and pray for you, my social media friend.