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Dotty and Duncan

Jun 7, 2012

More than a year ago I first discovered Bob DeMarco's Alzheimer's Reading Room. I've been visiting ever since and have learned so very much through what Bob has shared with us there...especially from his journey as a caregiver for his mom Dotty.

For the past almost-three weeks, I have been honored and humbled to read what Bob shared about his mom leaving this life. Morning and night, I would check for a new post, hoping to find out how they were doing...thinking of them each time I passed my dressing-table altar...and many other times besides.

When we returned from an out-of-town trip a few weeks ago, we found one of our elderly goats (one of a pair of brothers, the last of a dear line of hooved creatures) at what looked like death's door. It wasn't unexpected, but we gave him delicate treats and herbs and tender care and he rallied for awhile, but a few days ago he took a turn for the worse and I knew this was the end of his time with us, sweet Duncan.

He spent the last few days of his life in his familiar paddock, resting on a thick bed of golden straw, with cloths to keep the flies off and frequent visits from us with water to pour upon his tongue and green leaves to nibble. Wednesday evening when my husband returned from a rehearsal and could be in the house in case Mom woke up, I took myself to the barn with a flashlight and something to lay down on and spent an hour or so with Duncan.

The flashlight was turned off and I was stretched out next to Duncan listening to his breathing and stroking his furry cheek. His brother, Mackay, was laying in the straw nearby and I listened to Mackay's stomachs gurgle...and Duncan's mostly peaceful breathing...and I watched the canopy of stars beyond the overhanging roof and the fireflies shining out now and then over the paddock and hayfields. I watched planes fly over and thought of the variety of people sitting in all those seats and all they were holding in their minds and hearts...I thought of Bob and Dotty in their house in Florida and hoped they were having moments of mostly peace, as well. When Duncan called out now and then and feebly moved his legs, I stroked his legs and murmured endearments and comforting words and was grateful that the episodes quickly passed...and I thought some more about Dotty and Bob...and also about my mom and myself and how I hope that we will be able to be together and as peaceful as possible at home when it is her time to take leave...

More stroking and listening and watching and meditating, until I left Duncan with a kiss...peacefully sleeping. A tiny bit of water and a few leaves the next morning before I had to go into town, and another kiss...then a phone call in the afternoon from my husband to let me know that Duncan had gone. When I came home, I found that my husband had added Duncan's name to those of Bob and Dotty that I had spelled out a few weeks ago, near the beginning of the last part of their journey together. And then this morning I found this when I checked Bob's blog.

Sweet Dotty. Sweet Duncan....I don't want anyone to think I am being disrespectful or in any way comparing Dorothy Olive DeMarco's life or passing with our dear goat's...not at all. But they have been woven together in my days this last while...woven together with the love and the stars and the tending and the fireflies and the caring and the peace and the Life within and around it all. 

Reprinted with permission. Originally published in Austin's caregiving blog, Under My Wing. We're so grateful to be able to reprint such a sensitive and loving piece. Lesley is also the owner of the website Wisteria and Sunshine.
Photographs by Lesley Austin.

Lesley Austin is the owner of Small Meadow Press, in Bruington, Virginia, which specializes in hand-made stationery with a Victorian or Edwardian motif. She and her family reside in an 18th century farmhouse that is one of the most relaxing and beautiful homes we've ever visited.

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