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 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.