Jose stayed by Anna’s side practically non-stop for eleven years, providing increasingly higher levels of service as her dependency on him grew.
“Anna seemed to feel much better when we had a predictable routine that she could rely upon. So there were regulatory scheduled events and activities that we did on a regular basis. On Saturdays, we went to the Mall and afterwards went to the movies that she always enjoyed. She loved Parrot Jungle, which we visited every Sunday afternoon.”
Because they both had always loved to travel, Jose had handicapped apparatus installed in his car and they traveled extensively throughout the state of Florida.
“In many ways”, Jose told us, “I was closer to Anna after Alzheimer’s than I had been prior to her illness. Her inability to communicate with me as easily as she used to challenged me to pay closer attention to her in order to understand what she was feeling and needing.
“For instance, I would see her holding her head and I knew she had a headache. She became like a little child who didn’t have sufficient language to express what was wrong. When she was constipated, to protect her health, I always accompanied her to the bathroom. I watched to see if she was moving her bowels, since constipation can be a serious problem for people with Alzheimer’s. I stayed tuned into her just like I was nurturing a baby. I had been too preoccupied with my career to pay close attention to my daughters when I was younger. Because I was now retired, I could be fully available to my beloved Anna in her time of need. And for that, I am deeply grateful.”
“Although Anna’s gone now, I still feel very connected to her. I visit her at the cemetery where she is buried every Sunday and speak with her like I did when she was alive. Of course, I still miss her but I never feel lonely because of the depth of the connection that we have shared for so long.”
Jose’s story reminds us that love is timeless and transcends even our physical presence. The love that Jose and Anna had was not fully developed at the beginning of their relationship.
It grew and deepened through their shared contributions of care, attention, generosity, gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, and so much else that they gave to each other over the years. They co-created a partnership that exceeded their initial expectations and found that nothing, not Alzheimer’s, not even death, can diminish it.
Anna and Jose are not exceptional people, but they created an exceptional marriage out of their willingness to risk living with the devotion that comes from a life of openheartedness.
Maybe the rest of us ordinary folks can do the same as well.
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