Broken, together 

The following song speaks of the beauty in suffering and the redemptive power in embracing and accepting our trials and painful life circumstances. It speaks of a marriage relationship, but for me, it speaks of my relationship with my mom. 

Many times throughout this journey I have spent my time trying to out maneuver and escape my mom’s and my own suffering. I have made excuses of why I can’t visit her that week, or attend to a phone call needing to be made. I have justified why my many reasons are valid and good. I say I need to protect my mental health. At times, frequent visits can causes deep depressions, so limiting visits to once every week or two can help. But, the problem with excuses is, the more I make them, the easier they are to except. And consequently, the more I seem to make them. Two weeks can easily become three or four. 

The realily is that after those visits, I am mostly left feeling grateful. I am grateful for how God intervened 7 years ago, and helped us transition mom to a nursing home, which ultimately got her sober and clean. Yes, it’s true, that alcohol and pills partly caused her early decline into dementia and kidney disease. But, if mom had not entered into the care center at that time, I have no doubts that she would’ve died very soon. 

I am so much closer to truly accepting and embracing mom for who she is, was, and will become. As the song says, we were never meant to be complete (this side of heaven anyway), but we can be broken together. And that is OK, and yes, even good. We can bring our true, loving selves, and offer one another what we have to give. Our pride is stripped down, when continually faced with confusion and vulnerability. We have become more open to give and receive love and gratitude. 

I have so much more of my true mom now, then I did when she was abusing chemicals. She isn’t obsessed with getting her next fix. Instead, she is present in the moment, or as much as she can be. She isn’t always sure of where she is, but she is spirited, joyful and loving. And very expressive. My children have the gift of sharing love with their grandma throughout their formative and early teen years. They have gained a greater sense of compassion and sensitivity to those with illness and vulnerabilities. 

Recently, I’ve taken her to the dermatologist, who diagnosed her with multiple spots of skin cancer (not deadly melanoma), some of which will probably need to be dug out, because otherwise they won’t ever fully heal. She has bravely dealt with the pain of all those biopsies taken, and now she will need to endure more. I pray for the courage and strength to help her in her brokenness, as I try my best to keep my brokenness together. 

And I pray for the grace to be grateful to God for allowing us to be Broken, together. 

What do you think about when you look at me? I know we’re not the fairytale you dreamed we’d be. You wore the veil, you walked the aisle, you took my hand. And we dove into a mystery.

How I wish we could go back to simpler times, Before all our scars and all our secrets were in the light.
Now on this hallowed ground, we’ve drawn the battle lines. Will we make it through the night?

It’s going to take much more than promises this time. Only God can change our minds.

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete.

Could we just be broken together? If you can bring your shattered dreams and I’ll bring mine.

Could healing still be spoken and save us?

The only way we’ll last forever is broken together

How it must have been so lonely by my side. We were building kingdoms and chasing dreams and left love behind.

I’m praying God will help our broken hearts align and we won’t give up the fight.



I feel so infinitesimal

gazing up at these infinite cosmos

Stars are light years away, Their glimmer lagging far behind

  Trailing strands of almost forgotten brilliance

Stars don’t shine, they scintillate

Light retracting through moving pockets of warm and cool air

Shifting through the turbulent atmosphere

Much like our shaky & unpredictable lives, 

Shaped by moments of intensity

Sharp, deep, landscapes of gut wrenching sorrows

  And sweet, sweet succulent joys

Depression: A Catholic Perspective

I have suffered with bouts of serious depression since my early childhood, and so I am particularly aware of and interested in this issue. It is a pervasive problem in our society, and one that needs increased attention and education in order for positive change to occur.

Depression runs in my family. Evidence has shown that there is a strong biological link to clinical depression, and so, a number of years ago I turned to medication as a last resort to combatting the debilitating symptoms of depression (and anxiety).

I found great relief from finding the right medication (it can take awhile) and combined with psychotherapy, I have been able to get to a stable and healthy place in my life.

Another thing that has greatly helped me is maintaining an active faith life. Prayer and meditation have helped to combat pervasive feelings of hopelessness and despair, as well as attending church services and being involved in a church community of believers.

I have also been greatly enriched and healed by practicing the Sacraments of the Catholic faith, particularly Eucharist and Reconciliation. I’m not perfect (my husband can attest to this 🙂 so I “fall of the wagon” at times with regards to being consistent in my practices, but my faith will always remain important no matter how many times I may briefly fall away.

I came across this great book and podcast today featuring the author (psychiatrist and professor at UC Irvine ) speaking on this important issue. I really appreciate the multifaceted approach he takes and how he talks of the compassionate stance the Catholic Church takes regarding depression, suicide, and mental illness in general. I am looking forward to reading it and I highly recommend listening to the podcast!

A Closer Look – Apr 28, 2015


Not just
A single moment
In time

Or a long awaited
Olive branch

But, a lifetime
Of moments

Expertly etched
by Grace

Glimmering facets
Made more brilliant

on the angle
Of the sun

Shining within

Painful memories
Blended &
With the truth

Of our Universal Human

A song here
A sermon there

All offering
Truth, love,
And mercy

Healing gifts
And salves
Our injured, bleeding

Setting us free….


When I Leave the Room

Caregiving with Grace

My mom’s home now for the last six years has been a little room that consists of a bed, chair, two dressers and a bedside table. The world of a person with dementia becomes smaller and smaller as the disease progresses. Memory falls away for the places and people that he or she were once attached to or dearly treasured.

At first it bothered me when mom lost her memory of her beloved lake home, where she lived prior to moving to the care center. She remembers her childhood home well, which is often the case with dementia.

It took me a long while to adjust to her new cramped physical space and call it “home” (she does not, as she frequently tells me “please take me home”.) I went through all the regular grieving stages of loss (still do) of denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance, & depression as each new…

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“Still Alice” speech

I recently finished reading the book, “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. It is also now a nominated film, which is currently playing in theaters. It is a moving story, and is told through Alice’s voice, which gives one a very interesting perspective on what it may feel like to be living with dementia.

The following excerpt is my favorite part of the book. It is a speech that Alice gives at a dementia care conference. It is real, raw and powerful and relates how above all, those who live with dementia have a soul and spirit that transcends the ravage effects of this horrible disease.

“Good morning. My name is Dr. Alice Howland. I am not a neurologist or general practice physician, however. My doctorate is in psychology. I was a professor at Harvard University for 25 years. I taught courses in cognitive psychology, I did research in the field on linguistics, and I lectured all over the world. I am not here today, however, to talk to you as an expert in psychology or language. I’m here today to talk to you as an expert in Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t treat patients; run clinical trials, study mutations in DNA, or counsel patients and their families. I am an expert in this subject because, just over a year ago, I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

I’m honored to have this opportunity to talk with you today, to hopefully lend some insight into what it’s like to live with dementia. Soon, although I’ll still know what it is like, I’ll be unable to express it to you. And too soon after that, I’ll no longer know I have dementia. So what I have to say today is timely.

We, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s are not utterly incompetent. We are not without language or opinions that matter or extended periods of lucidity. Yet we are not competent enough to be trusted with many of the demands and responsibilities of our former lives. I no longer work at Harvard. I no longer read and write research articles or books. My reality is completely different from what it was not long ago. And it is distorted. The neural pathways I use to try to understand what you are saying, what I am thinking, and what is happening around me are gummed up with amyloid. I struggle to find the words I want to say and often hear myself saying the wrong ones. I can’t confidently judge spatial distances, which means I drop things and fall down a lot and can get lost two blocks from my home. And my short term memory is hanging on by a couple of frayed threads. I’m losing my yesterdays. If you ask me what I did yesterday, what I saw, and felt and heard, I’d be hard pressed to give you details. I’d guess a few things correctly. But I don’t really know. I don’t remember yesterday or the yesterday before that.

I have no control over which yesterdays I keep and which ones get deleted. This disease will not be bargained with. I often fear tomorrow. What if I wake up and I don’t know who my husband is? What if I don’t know where I am or recognize myself in the mirror? When will I no longer be me? Is the part of my brain that’s responsible for my unique ‘meness’ vulnerable to this disease? Or is my identity something that transcends neurons, proteins, and defective molecules of DNA? Is my soul and spirit immune to the ravages of Alzheimer’s? I believe it is.

Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is like being branded with a Scarlet A. This is now who I am, someone with dementia. This was how I would, for a time; define myself and how others continue to define me. But I am not what I say or what I do or what I remember. I am fundamentally more than that. I am a wife, mother, and friend. I still feel, understand, and am worthy of the love and joy in those relationships. I am still an active participant in society. My brain no longer works well, but I use my ears for unconditional listening, my shoulders for crying on, and my arms for hugging others with dementia.
Through an early-stage support group, through the Dementia Advocacy and Support Network International, by talking to you today, I am helping others with dementia live better with dementia. I am not someone dying. I am someone living with Alzheimer’s. I want to do that as well as I can possibly do.

Please don’t look at our Scarlet A’s and write us off. Look us in the eye, talk directly to us. Don’t panic or take it personally if we make mistakes, because we will. We will repeat ourselves, we will misplace things and we will get lost. We will forget your name and what you said two minutes ago. We will also try our hardest to compensate for and overcome our cognitive losses. I encourage you to empower us, not limit us. If someone has a spinal cord injury, if someone has lost a limb or has a functional disability from a stroke, families and professionals work hard to rehabilitate that person, to find ways to cope and manage despite these losses. Work with us. Help us develop tools to function around our losses in memory, language and cognition. Encourage involvement in support groups.

My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment. Some tomorrow soon, I’ll forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I’ll forget it some tomorrow, doesn’t mean that I did not live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean that today did not matter.

I am no longer asked to lecture about language at universities and psychology conferences all over the world. But here I am before you today, giving what I hope is the most influential talk of my life. And I have Alzheimer’s disease. Thank you” – Alice Howland

This is a beautiful song written for those with dementia…


Phone conversations with mom have become almost impossible. She refuses to wear hearing aids and she tends to accidentally push the mute button, so you can imagine the result.

So I brave through another wave of grief. Back in the day, mom and I talked on the phone almost every day. We would chat about everything and nothing. A friend to confide in, who was always ready for some loving advice. She was a positive person, always trying to find a bright spot to any issue. I wrote this last night to help me “just keep swimming” in the grief. Poetry always does that for me.

To reach me
The line

Feeble, rushed, and
On the buttons
You can’t

You mumble,
“Are you coming to get me?”

Among other
Disjointed imaginings
In your head

“That’s what the Dr said”
“Tomorrow, you take me home”
“Speak louder! I can’t hear you!”

Like trying to
Save a drowning
Muffled requests,
Urgent pleas,
Save me
Save me
Save me

“I love you, mom!”
“I’ll see you soon!”
And seeing
It’s a I can do

A lifeline
To hold her up
So her fears
Don’t choke her
To soon

Just enough
To keep her afloat
another minute,
Or until
I’m with her again
In her