Lessons Learned

We recently mailed a letter containing a story about the Reading family. That letter sparked so much interest that we asked Tracy Reading to share more:

Dear MMC Family,
For the past eight years Pauli & I have been on a challenging yet still rewarding journey that has enriched our marriage, our family, friends, and community. When the words dementia or Alzheimer’s appear many people run, hide, or deny the reality. We did! However, there comes a point when you must face the music and decide how you are going to live your life. More importantly, one has the rare opportunity to define their character.

Pauli & I have been married 34 years. She is in the final stage of the disease and under hospice care. She has been stripped of walking, talking, thinking, hygienic care, and just living a normal life. She missed our daughter’s wedding and will miss seeing our grandchildren grow up. Though the glass has been half empty, it’s also half full. We have been blessed to have the Memory & Movement Charlotte family and a personal network I call our army of angels to care for sweet Pauli. There is so much I have learned in these past eight years that I have written a book. Three key lessons are:

  1. To Care: This is the easy part. When you love someone it’s natural to care. It’s like breathing, you do it without thinking. However, as strong as we intend to be, the philosophy of “it takes a village” couldn’t be more true. Put your ego aside and ask for help – especially of the professionals. Pauli has tremendous care with MMC, our army of angels, hospice, and the Sanctuary at Stonehaven where she now resides.
  2. Not to Care: This seems counterproductive. Let me be more specific. When you’re thrown into caregiving your entire mindset is focused on your loved one. To maintain such a demanding lifestyle you have to let things go or “not care.” The house will not be perfectly clean. You will not please everyone all the time. Most importantly, you will lose patience and explode with emotion sometimes. Give yourself grace, we are human and there will be days we fall short.
  3. Be Still: For the past 20 years I have been a Yoga teacher. I have learned the art of meditation and Savasana. This year I’ve learned the beauty of being still with Pauli. When I visit we listen to music, watch tv, or just be still together. Our eyes lock with no words. Audrey Hepburn said so eloquently “The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.”

I have no idea when Pauli’s last day will be here, nor do I know mine. This is the greatest mystery of all. However, as hard as life can be for all of us, let’s never forget how beautiful it is! Every day I thank God for Pauli, our daughter Ali, my family, our army of angels, and all the people I love. I wish the same for you. God bless.

Tracy Reading shared his story in our September, 2021 Take Charge Live workshop