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Friday, April 15, 2016

Celebrating A Life Before Parkinson's

As the leader of our local Parkinson's Support Group, I try to attend the Memorial Services of our members who have died. So far, I've attended three and all were people with Parkinson's, not their spouse or care-partner. There have been more than three, but they either died elsewhere or didn't have a service locally. 

At our monthly meetings, I'm so busy, I don't get a chance to socialize as much as I'd like to. As a result, it's not surprising how little I know about their lives before Parkinson's, so I enjoy the Celebration of Life slide shows that are now standard in Memorial Services. It's interesting to see old photos of them working, playing with their children and grandchildren and enjoying life. They had interesting careers and accomplishments. Their friends tell humorous stories about them. And all I knew was a very small part of their life, the Parkie part. 

I was surprised to see Jon, a member of our group officiating at a service recently. I had no idea he was a retired minister and he had no idea that I knew the deceased. Jon had only recently joined our group and the deceased had stopped coming over a year ago because his disease had progressed. Jon knew the deceased son, but didn't know his Father had Parkinson's, until he was asked to do the service for them. 

The spouse probably won't remember that I was there. And that is okay; that is not why I go. I go out of respect. Respect of a life well lived. Respect that they fought Parkinson's as long as they could. I feel sad for the spouse/care-partner though. They've been taking care of their loved one 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and now it just ends. I don't feel sad for the Parkie though, because their battle is over and now they are finally at peace. 

Some spouses will come to an occasional meeting after their loss, just to say hello, but most I never see again. It's just too painful for them and I understand. 

You know, I've spent most of my adult life around retired people. Most do NOT talk about the work they did. Instead they talk about their life now and the things they enjoy now. Things such as fishing, golfing, Jeeping, quilting, crafts, card games, concerts, karaoke or travel. They hardly ever mention their children or grandchildren because they usually live elsewhere and their friends have never seen them.

Life is a series of adventures and Parkinson's was just a small part of most of these people's lives. I wonder how much it will be a part of my slide show? One thing for sure, they'll be lots of laughter at mine!