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To love and to honor … “

As a young bride I recited those words without much thought to the long-term meaning. My mind was on the reception to be held later that day, moving into our apartment, having a family and living our life.

And live our life we did. We achieved our dream of owning our own business and with our sons we were successful. We named it O’Brien Floor Covering and enjoyed meeting customers and making friends in the beautiful village of East Aurora. We also made friends in the floor covering industry and attended seminars and conventions in many locations.

I was honored to be named the first woman president of the Buffalo Floor Covering Association. My husband, Jim, was proud to be a member of the American Legion, AMVETS, VFW and Kiwanis and he willingly served as a councilman and then fire commissioner in our hometown of Holland.All too soon the time came to retire. With mixed emotions we moved on to a quieter life at our home in Holland. We had raised three children and now looked forward to spending time with grandchildren, traveling and playing golf.

Our plans were soon brought to a screeching halt.

Jim wasn’t himself and we began the long process of doctor visits and multiple tests and scans. Finally the diagnosis: Alzheimer’s disease. And then what? Go to the bookstore, surf the Web, join the Alzheimer’s Association, cry and pray. It is a lonely and confusing disease. No one really seems to understand it and no one can predict the progression, but everyone agrees that it does not get better.

I am blessed that Jim is a Navy veteran and the VA has been a wonderful source of knowledge and assistance. The doctors and nurses are attentive as are the therapists, social workers, dietitians and everyone involved. I was so fortunate to meet a special person named Sue Engel who is a Dementia Care Coordinator for the VA. She gives me pointers on Jim’s care, listens to me and most importantly laughs with me. A sense of humor is essential in the care of dementia patients.

Jim no longer speaks so our days are quiet. I miss his companionship. But I remember that day more than 50 years ago when I said I would love and honor him and I am so grateful to be able to do that every day. Father Bob at Immaculate Conception Church in East Aurora says, “Do not be afraid, just have faith”. Those words keep me going.