January 7, 2010

Final essay from Strayer University

The Strayer University essays continue. Below, sociology student Windy Clemmons discusses how the film Losing Herbie personally impacted her.

Why can’t I remember you, the one I use to love? How can we help our love one’s remember those special moments and what will happen when they reach the point of no return?

After watching Herbie I immediately felt this sense of despair. What would happen to me if I were diagnosed with Dementia? Could my children handle caring for me each and every day as Herbie’s did? The anxiety struck me beyond belief. I have no affairs in order if I were to become gravely ill or die. This would place such a strain on my three children in so many ways. I have no home that I own, so care taking would have to fall on my children, unlike Herbie’s in home health-aids. I quickly began jotting down all the things I needed to do before anything happened to my health, and putting the plan in motion.

I started thinking about my relationship with my children, my fiancée and my family. Would they really be there for me like they always say they will be if anything happened to me? Herbie and Ruth had been together for 11 years, (a very committed relationship I think), yet when Herbie’s health started deteriorating Ruth made it very clear she wanted no part in caring for him. Ruth would call and casually come by once a week, say hello and away she went. I couldn’t shake the thought that I could be Herbie. Dementia does run in our family, and we just had grandma placed in a home three years ago. Me, the care taker after all these years, living with my son or one of my daughters, and relying on them to care for me. I know my family loves me, but knowing firsthand what it takes to care for someone with this disease I can’t help but question how long they could handle it.

Having Dementia and reaching the point where I would be dependent on family or caretakers for almost everything, brings about many strains such as the financial, emotional, and physical aspects. Having a family and being married makes it even harder. I thought to myself would I be able to pick up on the stress and fatigue my presence and illness was causing? Would I be able to feel guilty for requiring so much time and attention that it took away from my very own grandchildren and where would I end my final days if I became too much on their marriage? If they placed me in a home how often would they visit, and would it slowly lessen as time passed? Would I pass away in a cold empty room alone because my family couldn’t get there in time, or was away for the holiday or a family vacation? I was struck with such emptiness; Herbie was surrounded with family at home. I don’t think anyone wants to die alone, especially me.

Finally it all hit me, love. That’s really what it’s all about. Just like Herbie’s family said they signed up for a sprint and got a marathon, but the important thing was they never quit running. Through the good days and the bad, raising children, working, and marriage they stayed true to their word. I admired the bond Herbie and his daughter had as well as the way the grandchildren interacted with their grandfather.

I have saved this video not just for me but for my family, friends and others in this situation as well. Herbie passed surrounded by love, memories, and respect. He reached the point of no return with open arms and a smile on his face, returned to lost memories and eternal love. Who could ask for anything more? Memories may be lost, but love lives on forever.

- Windy Clemmons