Never give up hope
Mary was 10 years older than me, and the most gorgeous, caring, amazing woman I’d ever met. She was a practicing Solicitor, extremely intelligent and spent her life helping others especially the elderly. We were married within 10 months of meeting, and every single day felt like a blessing. Then about six years ago I started to notice some changes. For someone so full of love for life, Mary’s actions became completely out of character and she was clearly agitated, confused and frightened all of the time. Mary suffered Early-Onset Alzheimers and the health decline was very rapid, not particularly memory related as perhaps is stereo-typical, but more a fundamental change in who she was. It was incredibly disturbing to witness.
I first met Heather when I arrived with my wife Mary at the Dementia cafe.
it really was a momentous achievement to actually persuade Mary through the door and to say our life at that time was traumatic is perhaps an understatement. I didn’t realise then, but discovered later that Heather actually ran this cafe and had been responsible for setting it up following losing her beloved husband Dave after forty years.
Heather’s volunteers rallied straight to the rescue and engaged my Mary in conversation - Heather somewhat instinctively homed in on me as the Carer and we ended up talking in private for a good hour, which basically consisted of me rambling on in a state of distress whilst Heather listened compassionately. I was only later to discover why she completely understood my feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
I just felt that there was “no way out” of this nightmare someone had labelled “Dementia”.
This was to be the one and only time that I was to take Mary to the Dementia Cafe, as shortly afterwards, again after much difficulty and soul-searching I arranged for Mary to have a one-week respite stay at a local Care Home. Whilst Mary was there, I decided to go down again to the cafe by myself. I just needed desperately to talk to someone about my feelings. Heather was busy helping other souls in distress and I ended up talking with one of Heather’s volunteers for a while until Heather once again made the time to sit and talk with me. After this encounter, as we were entering “Lockdown” and unable to meet face-to- face, Heather actually started texting me each evening and morning to make sure that I was “ok” - Heather did not even know me at this time but we ended up texting each other every single day.
My Mary came back from respite early, because the Care Home couldn’t cope with the situation and a short time afterwards Mary went to another Care Home with a specialized Dementia Team. Mary was my soul-mate and we were completely inseparable for thirty years.
Although the last six years had been extremely difficult for both of us, I will always be so very grateful for those precious thirty years together.
My Mary was never to return to me though - It was Early on-set Alzheimers.
Heather continued to text me every day, we spoke on the phone and she listened to me at the lowest ebb of my life. After just seven weeks and four days my Mary was taken away from me. Heather was still there supporting me - She is an incredible human being and a truly inspirational woman.
I started to turn-up for a cup of strong tea (I had to educate Heather in the art of making proper tea). Heather and I started to talk and see each other more. I discovered, completely unexpectedly, that I had fallen in love and even more unbelievably that Heather felt the same way.
We are now a couple and I so look forward to spending the rest of my life in the company of this wonderful woman.
Heather and I regularly talk about Dave and Mary. When someone you love is that important in your life, you will always be eternally grateful for the precious time spent with them. The first person I told about Heather was my Mary. I wanted her to be the first to know that I’m happy for the first time in so long, that I’ll be ok now.
We have both experienced extreme trauma, Heather even more than I. We have each deeply loved someone else for a major part of our lives and know exactly what it feels like to care for someone that you love twenty-four hours a day, watching them suffer and then disappear.
Now on a joint mission to help others having to travel this seemingly impossible road - we are together.
We share so much life experience, discovered that we were born in the same year and we are even both left handed!
The irony being that the cruelty of Dementia has given us each other - Never, ever, give up hope.