The Pain of Learning Your Friend Has Early Onset Dementia
by G G Collins Copyright 2020
When my incredibly smart and talented friend told me she had early onset dementia, I didn’t know what to think except I was suddenly very afraid for her and wanted to protect her. In her gentle way, she tried to tell me it would be okay. Okay?! How could anything this devastating be okay?
She methodically told me what was going to happen in a detached way as though she were talking about someone else. The disease would first take her memory and then turn her into a combative, maybe violent sick person. She had already lost interest in using her computer and cell phone. And worse, she had been fired for messing up a work project.
This was the last time I would see her because she had to give up driving, having gotten lost several times already, and she wanted me to remember her as she is now. But she told me she would love me for eternity even if she didn’t remember me. I’m sitting there listening in horror and wondering how this could happen to my vibrant, loving friend of 20-some years who could do anything.
As someone who works with words for a living, I tried to come up with words to reassure her, reassure me, stop this from happening. But there are no words for anything so horrible. And how do you change the subject from this to how pretty the fall foliage is? She tried and I tried, but I couldn’t think of anything else but I was losing my friend forever. She had absorbed some of the implications already while I was staggering around thinking of the unfairness and the loss that was coming, was already here. And then we hugged for the last time and said, “See you later,” knowing it wasn’t true.
She went home to ride out the gathering storm and I drove home fighting tears, already grieving her impending loss.
For more information: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers/younger-early-onset
These books are helpful:
Season of Loss: For Tawna
by G G Collins Copyright 2015
I rarely talk about anything personal on these pages, but I’ve lost someone very dear to me. She was a great friend, one of those people who accept others for who they are and never tried to change them. She “got” me on a level that amazed me. Her intuitive skills were finely honed. And she was the love of her husband’s life. They had been sweethearts since high school. Her family was enviable. They told one another “I love you” before they left the room! I once asked her, what do you do in your family when you have a disagreement? She answered softly, “We don’t have them.” When any one family member was threatened, they circled the wagons and they were all solidly there for that person as long as needed. She loved and was loved.
Tawna was a writing muse if there ever was one; both writer and collaborator. Her columns were a delight; the kind you looked forward to and read first. She could brainstorm with the best. We met a couple of decades ago with writing being our connection. But there was more. She was a horsey girl too; had thrived in the dressage ring. Tawna was a candle lighter. I loved it and began doing so myself. There is nothing like lighting a candle for someone. It is almost magical as the flame leaps to life and flickers with devotion.
In the fall of 2010 we met for lunch and a movie. The movie? Secretariat. Just two horsey girls watching a movie about a horse; tears and cheers. Over lunch at our favorite restaurant, Tawna told me “I love you and that’s for a lifetime.” She has always been a demonstrative person, so I didn’t realize she was saying goodbye. But her hug lingered. She knew.
Now I have to say goodbye and it’s hard. Endings always are.
♦ ♦ ♦
To light a candle for someone you love, go to: http://www.gratefulness.org/candles/enter.cfm?l=eng Or light one for Tawna.
My favorite song after loss is “Life is Eternal,” sung by Carly Simon. These are two beautifully done videos of the song: