2014 Midterm Elections, Get Out The Vote!


Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

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Since 2004, WordPress has set out with an ambitious goal in mind — to democratize publishing and put state-of-the-art tools in front of publishers both large and small across the planet. We believe strongly in this vision because when more people have access to powerful tools on the web, that in-turn empowers them to do great things and publish amazing content. We feel the same way when it comes to democratizing, well, democracy — and in just a few weeks, citizens across the United States will have a unique opportunity to flex their political muscle and vote in the 2014 Midterm Elections.

For our part, we want to provide our US-based users a set of resources to help them make a smart, informed decision when it comes to who they will vote for. We also want to provide a toolkit so that they can get more information on where to…

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In Sickness and In Health: Saying Goodbye


Friends: As many of you know, Richard and I allowed two terrific journalist Diane Lade and Carline Jean from the Sun-Sentinel to follow us during our Caregiving journey. On Sunday September 28th, ironically, one year to the day when Richard and I were told that the cancer has spread to his spine, the Sun-Sentinel published the final story on our caregiving journey. Thank you to not only the Sun-Sentinel, Diane Lade, Carline Jean, but also to Mark Ketcham, Bryan C. Wilson and Jamie Evans for not only being with me on this special day, but also for being there during this entire experience.

My faith tells me that I will see Richard again; My mind tells me that he is forever pain-free; My heart tells me that he is right beside me.

The story below is copied from the Sun-Sentinel: The pictures in this post is how the story appeared in the newspaper edition; to see the online version click here! 

More online: Find the original series and video at SunSentinel.com/finaljourney and watch as Chris MacLellan says a final goodbye at SunSentinel.com/goodbye.

In Sickness and in Health: A couple’s final journey

frontpage

A new beginning: Navigating the challenges of moving on

By Diane Lade Staff Writer for the Sun-Sentinel: Photo’s by Carline Jean Staff Photographer for the Sun-Sentinel

Copyright © 2014, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

 

“A New Beginning” Chris MacLellan thought nothing could be harder than watching his partner, Bernard Richard Schiffer, slowly lose his life to cancer. Letting go once he was gone, however, was almost as difficult. The couple allowed the Sun Sentinel to share their story to shed light on issues gay and lesbian couples encounter at life’s end. Now,MacLellan faces new challenges, including how-to say goodbye to the man he had loved

Chris MacLellan was on a boat, heading into the Atlantic Ocean.

In the six months — to the day — since his partner, Bernard Richard Schiffer, died of esophageal cancer in a Fort Lauderdale hospice ward, so much had changed. He moved out of their small Deerfield Beach home. He left his job. And he was almost ready to start a new life in New Orléans.

Except for one thing. On this bright September morning, carrying a lovely, handmade paper box with the ashes of the man he’d loved for 11 years, MacLellan knew what he had to do next. On this last leg of their journey as caregiver and patient, he was here to say goodbye.

“It kind of completes my caregiving duties for him, so I can go back to just being his partner,” he said.

MacLellan, 57, and Schiffer, who died at 83, agreed last year to let the Sun Sentinel chronicle their final months together in hopes of bringing awareness to the special issues gay and lesbian couples face at the end of life. The April 13 story, “In Sickness and In Health,” drew a huge response from readers who identified with the pain of caring for a dying loved one. Many expressed surprise and outrage that a lack of marriage rights can encroach on a couple’s health care rights.

In Florida, where same-gender marriage is not recognized, partners can find the health care system hard to navigate.

Widowerhood, it turns out, is much the same way.

The green folder

With his partner gone, MacLellan felt alone in more ways than one.

His thoughts turned to their shared green folder, where the couple had kept legal documents like living wills, health care surrogate forms and powers of attorney. MacLellan and Schiffer had worried because gay and lesbian couples aren’t automatically granted the right to make medical decisions for each other — so the green folder accompanied them almost everywhere.

Now, MacLellan wondered: Whose name would replace Schiffer’s in the green folder? Who would be his surrogate?

MacLellan has no children. Although he has good relationships with his five siblings, all live hundreds of miles away.

And if he named a family member, what would happen in the event he fell in love again and another partner came into his life?

Still working as senior services coordinator at SunServe, a gay and lesbian social service agency in Wilton Manors, MacLellan in April turned to friend Katharine Campbell.

Campbell, a Wilton Manors psychotherapist who had been SunServe’s mental health program director, said she wasn’t surprised when MacLellan approached her with the life-and-death responsibility.

“I’ve been asked to do this so many times in South Florida,” said Campbell, 39, formerly a medical social worker.combined Sept 28_Page_2

She said relatives sometimes reject gay and lesbian seniors, or grow distant once they’re widowed, assuming grief isn’t part of losing a partner.

“We have an aging LGBT community, and they are starting to realize, in the state of Florida, they need these forms,” Campbell said.

MacLellan was relieved when she said yes.

The house

It took MacLellan a bit longer to make a decision about the house he had shared with Schiffer.

Right before meeting MacLellan in 2003, Schiffer had taken out a reverse mortgage on the house he had purchased 15 years ago with his late partner, in the Deerfield Beach Natura retirement community.

A reverse mortgage allows homeowners age 62 or older to draw money from the equity without paying it back. Like many seniors, Schiffer took this route when his medical bills began mounting.

The catch: When the senior borrower dies, the property’s inheritors may have to buy back the house from the lender if they want to keep it.

MacLellan wasn’t named on the deed. Under federal regulations passed in August, widowed spouses and partners who aren’t listed as borrowers on the loan can stay in the home until they die as long as they pay for taxes, insurance and upkeep. The rule applies to gay and heterosexual couples, to partnerships as well as legal marriages, said officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This didn’t apply to MacLellan, however. The new rule affects only mortgages taken out on and after Aug. 4, 2014. He wouldn’t have qualified anyway for multiple reasons, including that he wasn’t with Schiffer at the time the loan was taken out.

MacLellan didn’t know if he wanted to repurchase, short sell or foreclose on the little white house, still filled with hundreds of Schiffer’s Wedgwood pottery pieces and knickknacks. The lender told him he had a year to decide, he said.

MacLellan drifted on the tide of his grief. He cut his hair, which he had left long because Schiffer liked it. He went back to work. A few men, knowing MacLellan was single again, asked him out for coffee or to see a movie, and he agreed half-heartedly.

On May 22, MacLellan found a bright yellow “No trespassing” sign posted on his front door.

The posting said the property was being claimed by the bank, and MacLellan panicked. He envisioned police arriving within hours and watching him as he scrambled to remove cherished mementos.combined 3 pages sept 28_Page_3

After making calls, MacLellan learned he still had until March 2015 to make a decision. He took down the yellow “No trespassing” notice and stored it in the green folder.

The scare jolted him out of the haze of his mourning, though. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to be tied down to the house. “Too many memories. And it needs a lot of work,” he said.

What sealed his decision was having to drive himself to the emergency room in mid-July, convinced he was having a heart attack. The doctors said it was stress.

MacLellan opted to walk away from the house and started packing in August. He sold all of Schiffer’s collectibles, the furniture and appliances — netting almost $10,000.

Among the few items MacLellan kept: some lamps and artwork he and Schiffer had purchased together, and an old album filled with black-and-white photos of Schiffer and his previous partner, one showing them standing in front of their then-new house with their real estate agent.

He also kept three ceramic Wedgwood eggs, one of which contains some of Schiffer’s ashes.

One neighbor, shortly after MacLellan was served his foreclosure summons, came over to say goodbye and offer condolences. The rest watched at a distance.

MacLellan decided to stay with a friend until leaving town. On Labor Day weekend, he locked up for the last time and drove away.

The move

Shedding the house opened a door for MacLellan, and he eagerly walked through.

Instead of staying in South Florida, with its large gay and lesbian senior population, or returning to his hometown of St. Louis, he turned his sights to New Orléans. That’s where one of his sisters, Gerri Cortello, lives.

Cortello, 65, said she knows little about her brother’s life as a gay man, although she had met Schiffer. It was a topic they never discussed, she said.

Cortello was stunned, when reading the Sun Sentinel’s story on Schiffer’s final months, by the challenges he and her brother had faced.

Cortello knows about caregiving. She was only 27 when her husband died of pancreatic and liver cancer, leaving her with four young children.

It hadn’t occurred to her, however, that a man dying of cancer and his longtime partner would be treated any differently than she and her husband had been 38 years ago.

“I hope that, somehow, we can get some laws changed. It’s not fair,” said Cortello. In Louisiana, like in Florida, gay marriage remains illegal.

Processing the death of someone you love has no timetable, Cortello said, whether your beloved is the same gender as you or not, whether you are young or old.

“You have to let people feel what they feel. There is no time frame. You feel so … cheated, I guess,” said Cortello.

What’s next?

MacLellan quit his job at SunServe, where he had worked for almost three years, as he finalized his moving plans in August.

His dream is to write a book about his end-of-life journey with Schiffer, and he’s trying to restart an Internet radio show about caregiving, called “Healing Ties from Chris MacLellan the Bow Tie Guy.”

While a social worker by training, MacLellan is eager to forge a new career in media and is working on a master’s degree in communications and leadership online through Washington-based Gonzaga University. He knows it may be challenging to make a living this way, he said, even with the help of staying with family.

Money is an issue. When Schiffer died, his $1,300 in monthly federal benefits were gone, too — more than half of the couple’s household income. Florida’s lesbian and gay couples, at this point, are not entitled to survivor Social Security benefits, even if they were legally married elsewhere, said Stephanie Schneider, a Plantation elder-law attorney who worked with MacLellan and Schiffer.

After paying off medical and funeral expenses, MacLellan said just $400 remained in Schiffer’s bank account.

In mid-August, about a dozen of MacLellan’s co-workers gathered for a farewell party at SunServe. One commented that MacLellan’s sudden, dramatic changes — selling everything, leaving town without a job or much of a nest egg, writing a book — sounded “kind of scary, kind of exciting.”

“Yes, it caught me by surprise,” said his former boss, SunServe Executive Director Mark Ketcham. “But I support [MacLellan] fully. There are some people who can’t get out of bed for two years when someone dies. But there are some who mourn and move on.”

Ketcham said SunServe is exploring new ways to serve South Florida’s aging gay and lesbian community, in part sparked by MacLellan’s experiences.

More than a year ago, the agency started a cultural competency program aimed at training nursing homes and health care institutions to be more welcoming to gay and lesbian patients. SunServe has since certified two assisted-living centers and a home health agency, said Jim Lopresti, SunServe’s director of clinical services who is handling the program.

In the Sun Sentinel story, MacLellan described an incident last year when he had rushed Schiffer to the Broward Health North emergency room but was ignored by staff as they questioned his partner.

Just days after the story, the hospital’s CEO asked MacLellan to meet with her managers and began arranging competency training for the emergency room. Hands-on sessions with the Broward Health North staff will begin later this year, Lopresti said.

SunServe also may begin a referral service to connect aging gay and lesbian seniors with gay-friendly providers and help manage their care, Ketcham said.

While MacLellan isn’t involved in these efforts, he already has plans to continue his work promoting awareness of issues facing gay and lesbian seniors and their caregivers. He’s booked to speak at an AARP-Broward Health system roundtable discussion on LGBT caregiving in Fort Lauderdale in November, and another conference on LGBT aging in Nebraska later this fall.

Would he ever return to South Florida permanently? “Who knows?” MacLellan said. “At this point, I can go in whatever direction life takes me.”

Letting go

MacLellan traveled light into his new life. He left the house completely empty, the hurricane shutters covering the windows. He shipped a few boxes of belongings to New Orléans, packing the rest into his small car.

One last decision remained: What to do with Schiffer’s ashes. “I just can’t carry him around with me, I can’t,” MacLellan said.

His early September departure date was nearing. One night, he literally woke up with the answer.

“Richard loved going on cruises. So I just felt this was the final cruise he could go on and be happy,” he said, explaining how he came to be on a boat heading out from the Boynton Beach inlet.

Three people accompanied him: Ketcham, his former SunServe co-worker Bryan Wilson and Jamie Evans, who had been Schiffer’s favorite home health aide. Evans had been the person Schiffer trusted to see him at his worst, when he needed someone to bathe him and help him change clothes.

Now Evans helped MacLellan tuck, inside the boat’s cabin, two beautiful handmade, biodegradable paper boxes, in place of urns. One contained Schiffer’s ashes. The other held the remains of Schiffer’s former partner, which had sat on a bookcase for more than a decade.

When the boat was 3 miles offshore, the captain idled the engine, turning the bow into the wind. The plan was to place the partner’s box in the water first, then Schiffer’s.

Along the way, MacLellan suddenly began questioning whether to leave Schiffer’s box sealed.

“Set him free,” Ketcham told MacLellan, insisting Schiffer would have wanted him to open the box.

The moment came, and MacLellan began to cry. “By doing this today, I am able to regain some of the strength I have lost over the past few months,” he said to those gathered. “It’s a fitting start to a new beginning.”

He first dropped Schiffer’s partner’s container overboard. It landed on the deep blue water with a soft plop, like a pillow on a bed. Then, taking the box holding all that was left of the man he’d loved in sickness and in health, MacLellan leaned over the boat’s side and opened the lid.

The contents flew out and settled on the waves, spreading out slowly. MacLellan let go of the now-empty white box. It remained visible for a long time, drifting toward the open sea as the boat headed back to shore.

dlade@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4295954-356-4295

More online

Find the original series and video at SunSentinel.com/finaljourney and watch as Chris MacLellan says a final goodbye at SunSentinel.com/goodbye.

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Drops of Mercy


Christopher MacLellan:

If you have ever been a Caregiver and lost a loved one, you will take comfort from Ira’s post.

Originally posted on Conscious Departures:

Photo courtesy of OneWorld MemorialsIt’s has been quite a while since I’ve written something for Conscious Departures. It’s not that I ran out of steam or inspiration, but rather this hiatus was brought on by a poor assessment of my own personal grief.

As many of you who write know, a blog piece of 500 – 1000 words can take anywhere from several hours to several days. I’m a bit on the slow side, so for me it’s usually a 2 day process. What that meant for me was reliving Kris’ passing with great depth for that period of time, every week, in addition to the countless other times that grief would pay an unannounced visit. I was still in too tender a state to take on the constant intensity and it became emotionally impossible for me to handle. It was clear I needed to take a break. But now, after a lot of reflection and time…

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Letting Go, Together As One


We loved with a love that is more than love ~ Edgar Allan Poe

As I pulled up to the boat dock on Tuesday, I was amazed at what a beautiful,  clear and sunny day it was in South Florida. At this time of year, especially in the height of hurricane season, one never knows what the weather might bring us. The boat caption’s words last week after I booked the reservation–“we will sail at 9:30 am, weather permitting–reminded me that even when we put our best plans in place, there are things beyond our control.   BoatWaves

Sure, we all know that we cannot control the weather, we can only work with it.  Yet for me, the plans to sail on Tuesday, September 9th was significant because Tuesday, September 9th was the six month anniversary of Richard’s life transition and it was time for us to let go, so that we could be together again as one.   I’ve never experienced a burial at sea, so I had no personal experience to go by, but I did know that what was important for both Richard and I, was to be set free from the perils of death and be free, free so that we can be together  again as one.

MCD

On this beautiful sunny Tuesday morning, it was a small gathering of friends as we motored out into the Atlantic ocean.  Making the decision to bury Richard’s ashes at sea was something that we had both talked about, and something that I knew he approved of since he buried his first partner, Herman at sea in 1999.  The biodegradable boxes were a work of art; one blue with the (last) remains of Herman and one white with the  remains of Richard.  Yet even in those conversations about burial at sea,  you really don’t know if you can ‘do it’ until you get right to the point or rather, the day of ‘doing it.’

In a sense, I knew that placing Richard’s ashes at sea WAS my last act of Caregiving for him.   Sure, I had the option of the funeral home ‘doing it’ for me, but I knew deep inside my heart that this was my sole responsibility and something I wanted, and needed to do.  Then the conversation started on the boat.  “I understand that we have to be more than three miles from shore before the boxes can be placed in the ocean,” I said.  Then in unison, two of my friends said…”You’re going to just place his box in the ocean, he wants to be set free, just like you, let the ashes out of the box and set both of you free!”  “Hummm,” I thought…”Another Caregiving decision to make, and how I thought those decision were behind me!”

As the boat slowed down and then anchored, I knew that we had approached our destination and it was my turn to act.  I had no special words to say, yet I shared pictures of Herman and Richard and talked about their 43 years together as I placed Herman’s beautiful blue box in the ocean. Ocean 2 As I reached for Richard’s beautiful white box, I was still unsure of what I was going to do, then the box slightly opened, I could hear him speaking to me, “let me be free!”  After a few words, I took Richard’s box, and spread his ashes in the ocean and then watched as a beautiful array of colors gleamed at the top of the ocean as his ashes floated away on his eternal cruise.  As difficult as this was, as I watched his ashes float away, there was a sense of peace that came upon me that is difficult to explain.

As the box emptied of Richard’s ashes and then dropped into the ocean, the caption circled Richard’s starting point of his life-long cruise, where everyone placed  roses in the water,  and I thought about how happy he was because he was free.  It was at this point when I realized that I was free, too.

My last act of Caregiving for the one I continue to love, was to set him free, so that we both could be free.  BRScar2

You see, I did not mind being Richard’s caregiver, in fact I believe it is an honor to be a Caregiver, but for now and forever, I can go back to just being his partner, which is what I miss the most.  My faith tells me that I will see him again; my mind tells me that he is now forever free; my heart tells me that he 20120407-002416.jpgis right next to me.

For now, he is just a port ahead of me on his life-long cruise, catching up with family and friends, while speaking to me in different ways, because  I know that one day, I will arrive at his port and catch up with him on that life long cruise.  I’m sure he’ll have reserved a good cabin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Advocacy Heals U: Healing Ties of Change


Recently I had the opportunity to be a guest on Joni Aldrich show, “Advocacy Heals U”, which is now featured on iHeart Radio.  Joni is an accomplished author, radio show host, public speaker, but most importantly, Joni has been a caregiver for her husband, Gordon, who like Richard, passed away from Cancer.
22958786 Connecting with Joni has been a pleasure and sure proves that Caregivers, no matter what their journey might be, have this innate ability to understand each other, to be there for each other, to care for each other.  Joni has been that connection for me.   As Joni so eloquently wrote: “Love radiates through this show. Love of a partner for a partner through life, illness and difficult loss. “To love someone is to see the face of God.” Guest: Chris MacLellan, The Bow-Tie-Guy. Chris loved Richard Schiffer through the twists and turns of life and Richard’s end-of-life. Experience IS the most brutal of teachers. But you heal. Chris’s new show, Healing Ties, will discuss 4 aspects interwoven in hope: physical, mental, spiritual, financial. While his focus is on caregivers, the message is much deeper. Why are health care rights connected to marriage rights? In many states, gay couples do not have that option. Love can move mountains, but can it break down walls?”

To listen to our show, simply click here! 

To learn more about Joni Aldrich simply click here!

Approaching six months after Richard’s transition into eternal life, my life continues to transition.  I’ve made the decision to leave my job with Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 2.30.41 PMSunServe Social Services and start to write our story through my own words.  I’ll be heading over to New Orléans to write, spend time healing and starting my new radio show, ‘Healing Ties’ from ‘The Bow Tie Guy.’  Stay tuned to ‘The Purple Jacket’ for the launch date of my new show which will be featured on W4HC.com and iheart Radio.

Remember:  “Love, Care and Commitment is the same for any two people, no matter what gender.”  Make your day count, never pass up the opportunity to tell your spouse or partner that you love them!

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Day By Day: Grieving and Healing


Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.  C. S. Lewis.

Finding the energy to blog on The Purple Jacket has been difficult for me these past few months.  Let’s face it, grieving can be a full-time ‘job’ which takes quite a bit of energy.  But grieving can be healthy too.  Today I experienced a form or healthy grieving by visiting  Gold Coast Hospice where Richard made his life transition, to say hello to the staff and present them with gift as a token of my appreciation for the kindness and love that was demonstrated to us while we were both under their care. This visit had been planned in advance and while I was unsure of what my initial reaction would be, I knew that the staff would greet me warmly.

Kermit  As I approached the Hospice unit, I was struck by the utter calmness that suddenly came upon me.  My eyes immediately looked to the right as I entered the ward as Richard’s room was the first room on the right side entering the unit.  As I walked past and looked in the room through the crack of the door, it seemed fitting that today, this room was vacant.  Suddenly I heard, “He’s here” from the  Hospice nurse who came to the house to admit Richard to the unit in March. I knew right then and there that this was going to be the right thing for me to do today!

Hugs, well wishes, great conversation and tears followed as we greeted each other and shared stories. Fittingly, we moved into ‘that room’ for my formal ‘Thank You’ to the staff.   “As a part of my healing process, it was important for me to come here today to say hello, and to say ‘Thank You’ for allowing us to spend our last days together.”  In the six days that we were in the hospice unit, there was not one time were I did not feel welcomed, all we felt during our Flowersstay was love…I wanted to return the favor!

“It is important for me to present you with a copy of a pictorial book which was given to me by the two great journalist from the Sun-Sentinel who followed us on our final journey together and wrote our story, “In Sickness and In Health: A Couple’s Final Journey” which was published in April.”  More tears, more laughter, more love!  And yes, I think it is possible to cry and be calm at the same time.

There are many books written on grieving, yet one thing is certain; grieving is an individual process that is unique to each one of us.  In order for me to continue in the healing process, it was important for me to reach out and make this journey to the Hospice unit.  You see, the pictorial book that was provided to me by Diane and Carline from the Sun-Sentinel is the best book on (my) grieving that I have  read.  I am fortunate to have such a wonderful, life-long gifts of this book, and the article in the Sun-Sentinel. By sharing the book with the Hospice staff, and subsequently, other families who come to the unit, was my way of giving back, saying thanks and continuing my grieving and healing process.

Life is much different now.  There are more challenges ahead, yet in order to take on these challenges, I have to find a way to soften what has transpired.  There is no easy way around grieving, it is important for me, in my grieving process, to  simply just ‘own it.’   Today helped soften the anguish of missing him: May your grieving process be filled with  few hills and always, a gentle breeze at your back.

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Tributes to Those We Love


I am simply honored that Linda asked me to be part of her blog tour!   Linda’s new book, ‘A Long and Winding Road: A Caregivers Tale of Life, Love and Chaos’ is simply splendid and  now available through Amazon by clicking here

I’ve followed Linda’s blog for quite some time, and so should you! To visit and follow Linda’s blog ‘Life After Caregiving,’ simply click here

Caregivers have this innate ability to understand each other, even when our ‘long and winding’ caregiving roads are different.  Linda’s guest post, ‘Tributes To Those We Love’  comes at a perfect time for me as I continue to go through the grieving process. Thanks Linda for sharing your wisdom with ‘The Purple Jacket!’ Your guest post touches my heart!

Tributes to Those We Love

Guest Post by Linda Brendle

Recently, I attended an unusual funeral. To be sure, there were some tears and some evidence of sadness, but mostly it was a joyful celebration of a life well lived and a loving tribute to a man who was well loved. One of the first things I noticed was a large floral arrangement that depicted a man on an orange riding lawn mower. Next, I noticed that when the extended family filed into the sanctuary, most of them had on something red.

The daughter of the departed read the eulogy. She began with the traditional statistics—dates of birth, marriage, death, and also the names of survivors. From there, she went on to tell her father’s life story. She told of his spiritual journey from a rough-edged man of the world to a devoted follower of Jesus. Assisted by her daughters and nieces, she told stories that were both funny and touching—and she explained the flower arrangement and the color choices. As his health declined and walking became difficult, her father used his riding mower to keep tabs on his beloved homestead. His orange four-wheeler, as he called the mower, became a personal trademark along with the color red. Red was his favorite color because he said it reminded him of the blood of Jesus.

A celebratory memorial service can be a wonderful tribute, but there are also other ways of expressing love and appreciation to those we value. For centuries artists have paid tribute to people of value through sculpture, painting, and other art forms. Modern technology now allows us to immortalize each other through photography and other visual imagery. In addition to artistic tributes, we can honor those we love with written tributes and what I like to call lifestyle tributes.

My first close encounter with written tributes was several years ago when I was involved in a caregiver support group. At one point, we devoted several meetings to the topic, and I was surprised to discover that written tributes can sometimes be more important to the writer than to the honoree. Since many of our loved ones were afflicted by some sort of dementia, reading or presenting a letter or framed document to them would have been confusing. However, the writing process helped the caregiver focus on the more positive aspects of her loved one. Remembering who the person was before age, infirmity, and dementia turned them into an angry, messy, uncooperative patient sometimes brought a kind of closure and a sense of relief. Often, comfort and healing came with the preparation of a tribute and by sharing it with the group.

Lifestyle tributes can help restore a sense of control that is taken away after years of dealing with uncontrollable situations. Some caregivers have become advocates, either against the disease that took their loved one or, like my host Chris, for causes that were important to them. I’m not much of an activist, but my writing has become, in part, a lifestyle tribute to Mom and Dad. When something I write encourages caregivers and others who are in difficult situations, it seems to give some meaning to the otherwise meaningless struggle that defined the last years of Mom and Dad’s lives.

Tributes can take many forms. Regardless of which form you choose, finding a way to show honor and respect to one you love is an important part of letting go and saying good-bye.

 

 

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