A shining tribute to help others left in darkness

Published 6:56 pm Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I have been thinking a lot about my parents, Edd and Martha Austin, lately.

They were bright and shining people. They loved life, the beach, being together, going to church and most of all they loved their family. Their grandchildren were bright and shining stars to them and they would tell anyone who would listen about their accomplishments. Growing up with them as our parents was always an adventure.

For instance, on rainy days when we could not go out and play; my mama would help us write and organize the performance of a play. She somehow came up with costumes for us to wear. We would rehearse and rehearse so the play would be perfect when daddy came home from work. My parents would then sit and watch our “Tony” award-winning play and clap and laugh at the proper intervals. My brother and I felt so very special. They were exceptional parents and people.

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As Martha and Edd were entering their golden years, the ravages of Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer’s attacked their brains. At first, it began slowly. Forgetting little things in a conversation, misplacing items around the house and then frantically looking for them. As time progressed, dangerous incidences began to happen – leaving the gas stove on, Daddy cleaning off the roof of a two-story house with a leaf blower. My brother and I decided that they should move into an assisted living facility. That did not work because daddy constantly walked off the grounds into a busy road trying to find his way home. Finally, my brother and I found a wonderful Memory Care facility for them.

All the while my heart was breaking. My parents never wanted to go to a “nursing home” (those were their words). I would drive four hours to see them and they didn’t know me. I tried to keep up a lively conversation but inside I was aching and weeping for the loss of my beloved parents.  Finally my Daddy could not form words in order to talk and Mama just drifted into herself to never again emerge.

My daddy died on March 10, 2010 of complications from Alzheimer’s and mama died in her sleep on Dec. 19, 2011. I was so lost upon their deaths because I felt like they had died twice.  To me they had died when the effects of Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer’s began to take a firm hold on them. Then they died again when their bodies failed.