The Stranger Within
The Stranger Within
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The Stranger Within is a collection of poems that reflect upon the thoughts, emotions, and observations of a wife and a caretaker, from early stages of Alzheimer's to death. It shares accounts of how a soul suffering from a disease is transformed into a shell, losing all ability to communicate, show emotion, and enjoy the loved ones who continue to care and provide support and dignity to life.

The Stranger Within is a chronological outpouring of a wife's innermost thoughts, fears, frustration, and anger as she learns to deal with how this disease turns her, her lover, the family, and friends into victims, as it slowly steals away the life of everyone in one way or another. Alzheimer's disease attacks everyone who is diagnosed at different stages in their lives, but it seems to attack in same manner and ultimately ends with the same result. During this process, these souls all in some way become a stranger to those who see them, but it is unknown what is happening in the mind of that person within.

The Stranger Within, through each poem, provides insight or comfort to those who are either beginning, currently living, or who have ended their journey with Alzheimer's and the stranger that came into their lives.

The Stranger Within by Joyce Yates

…..The neurologist came into the room where my son and I sat waiting. We had been fortunate to obtain an appointment with this group of researches renowned for their expertise in the search for the cure of Alzheimer's, which was considered to be a form of dementia.

“I want to run some more tests and obtain an MRI,” the doctor began, “but I can tell you now I am fairly certain that your husband has dementia of the Alzheimer's kind.”

“I would cry, but it won't help,”

….grieving is with me constantly as I contemplate and experience, the living death of my sweetheart. I accept the reality of my loss that my husband of fifty-four years is gone and will never return in this life. However, I am stuck in the grieving process and probably will be until God parts us. I have gone through denial and anger and have finally accepted the inevitable, but I cannot conquer depression and the mourning of my loved one's “death,” with only a beloved stranger remaining to care for. I do realize the sadness in what my husband has lost, but he does not experience the emotional pain that I am aware of and probably is unaware of what is happening to him. I pray to God that this is true and I thank God for His presence in my husband's life. Rather ironic, isn't it, that we who have our minds intact are suffering the most.

This poetry originated in the experiences as we encountered the many common milestones in our Alzheimer's journey. Feelings of anxiety, happiness, sadness, loneliness, and grief often overwhelmed me, and I became distraught. I had never written poetry before, but as I dwelled on my inability to conquer these feelings, words flowed from my inner consciousness. I wrote them into poems according to my reaction to every aspect of this long good-bye. The poems were written over several years and are a revealing look at the emotions, grief, and broodings of a group of caregivers trying to endure the pain of losing a loved one while they are still alive. Fellow caregivers can recognize shared trials and emotional pain and know others are encountering similar difficulties. We are not alone.

Surely this stranger and his vacant eyes would leave, my intelligent, fun-loving, interesting companion would once again be back from where he had retreated, and this nightmare would fade away in the dawn.

Vacant Eyes

Vacant eyes, Vacant stare— Where is the person Who was once there?

Used to be vicarious eyes Filled with mischief and intelligence— Sparkling eyes, Loving eyes, Eyes shining with brilliance.

If eyes are the mirrors of the soul, Then where has that soul gone? Where is the essence of the man That I married so long ago?

Is it waiting to emerge again When the long night of agony is over? Will we someday and somewhere in God's heavenly kingdom Have our companionship and love And revel in unfettered freedom?

Until then, I will continue to care lovingly For this stranger who lives with me And look past the vacant eyes and the vacant stare, Remembering the man that used to be.

Joyce Yates, originally from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, now resides in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. She is a graduate of the Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and a Master's degree in special education. She worked as a speech pathologist and special education teacher.

She was married to Earnie on February 18, 1951, in Fisk, Missouri. At the time of marriage Earnie was a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia and Joyce worked as a secretary at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Earnie was a member of the University of Missouri Air Force ROTC, and upon graduation in 1953, he entered the Air Force flight training program. He earned his wings and remained in the Air Force for ten years before retiring. Thereafter, he obtained his Master's Degree in education and administration from the Southeast Missouri State University. He taught in elementary and secondary education before retiring in 1992 after thirty years of teaching. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's just a short four years after retirement.

Joyce and Earnie are the parents of five children. They have eleven grandchildren, nineteen great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild. Joyce enjoys her family, friends, bible class and writing. She remains hopeful that a cure for Alzheimer's disease will be discovered. Earnie passed away on February 17, 2009, at 11:35 pm., ten years after his diagnosis and only twenty-five minutes before their fifty-eighth wedding anniversary.


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