"Happy Birthday" - An Alzheimer's Story Told Through Birthday Cards!
- Published on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 16:56
- Written by Stanton O. Berg
This is a yearly log of Birthday card notes from a cousin Vernon Nedland who has a birthday on the same day and month as my birthday but 3 years older....and who also had a wife with Alzheimer's...
Over the years I had previously kept my cousin updated on June's Alzheimer's through my writings and my published tributes to June. He remembered the almost 12 year's journey for June as she gradually disappeared into the shadows of Alzheimer's.
Because we both have birthdays on the same day of the same month it is thus an easy birthday to remember. We have for many years now exchanged birthday cards. He frequently references my journey with June as well as his own journey with Marie. I start this log with a quote from my cousin:
"All my life there was always one more river to cross, suddenly there was Marie's Alzheimer's, and I had grown old,"...Vern
"Dear Stan -
I am sending this early and hope it finds you well, I am sure your days are tough to bear.
Our son David and Grandsons are taking Marie and I to Canada on June 8th for a fishing trip which we both enjoy...
Marie's Alzheimer's is steadily getting worse but we are trying to enjoy each and every day...
Try to have a good Birthday, if ever in the area stop in.
Editorial Note: Vern first noted his wife Marie's short term memory problems in the year 2004...It was in 2007 on October 21st, that my mother Ellen (Cousin Vern's aunt) passed away from complications of Alzheimer's.
"Dear Stan -
Thank you for the card, life goes on here one day at a time.
The clinical trials we had Marie on did little or no good.
Day by day her memory is leaving - You know how it goes, she is happy but has forgotten so terribly much.
Our son David is taking us to Canada fishing Friday for a week - this was one of Marie's highlights and I hope it goes OK.
If ever in the area stop and see me.
Editorial Note: On October 23rd, 2008, my wife June passed away from complications of Alzheimer's (Aspiration pneumonia).
“Dear Stan -
Thank you for the beautiful card. Sorry this is all I had –
Think of you often and what you went though.
I know how hard it is to “Let Go and Let God” –
I have had Marie in clinical trials the last 2 winters but as you know it does no good.
Marie is at least 5 years into this terrible disease and unless you have lived it you don’t know how terrible it is.
I don’t know if we will go back to Arizona.
I keep looking for a miracle in these clinical trials but I guess I know there is none.
Marie is still happy but doesn’t even know the children and grandchildren’s names.
If you’re ever in the area please stop.
Thank you for your card - No, things are no longer good here -
We did clinical Trials on Marie for 3 years in Arizona but as you know, they did nothing.
The last was through Pfizer Pharma and they canceled it 3 weeks ago as a failure...
We sold our place in Arizona - or you might say gave it away...
As you know we would give anything to turn the Clock back.
Marie will be in a home soon but its hell to give up.
In November we will be married 60 years.
If you are ever in the area, Stop.
Thank you for the picture, it certainly brings back memories of my Marie.
As you know, I now only have a body left of my wife. She still knows me most of the time and is basically happy.
I think I told you I had her in clinical trials in Arizona 3 years but as you also know there is no cure for this horrible disease.
But life goes on 1 day at a time.
I, like I am sure you do, get depressed & should probably have her in a home but its a hard decision after over 61 years.
I am basically healthy but old age is taking its toll. (86)
If you ever get in the area please stop by -
My Best Regards,
Hope life is getting better for you, rght now I'm at a low.
Put Marie in Monroe Manor (Assisted Living Facility) , Barron last July 6th - could no longer handle it.
Am enclosing an article printed in the Alzheimer's Support Group. It tells our story, not a happy ending but Alzheimer's never is.
I am starting to feel my age. (87)
If ever in the area look me up.
Happy Birthday -
Your Old Cousin...
We made "1" more.
(Note: Vernon's 2013 card message was short as he knew that I had already visited with Marie only 2 weeks earlier at the Monroe Manor Assisted Living Home where she is now living. I was able to spend some time with Marie during my Memorial Day weekend visits to Barron to decorate the graves of my Mother Ellen, my Father Tom, my Grandpa Gabriel and my Grandma Anne. They are all buried in the nearby First Lutheran Church Cemetery. Before returning to Fridley, Minnesota on that Sunday before Memorial Day, I arranged to stop the Monroe Manor to visit Marie...Marie had changed so much since I had last seen her that I barely recognized her. She did not appear to know me...I talked with her for a time about my old days as a child in Barron and that I had lived only a few blocks away from the Monroe Manor home...she was unable to make conversation with me and would frequently rapidly repeat phrases or words and her attention would stray around the room...she needed assistance in walking. Shortly after I arrived, one of the Nursing Assistants had helped Marie in and to be seated on a couch near my chair. Marie appeared to be well into the late stages of this terrible disease. Vern mentions in his card that we both made "1" more year...Vern is now age 88 and I am age 85.)
The End of The Story
As all of these sad stories end, Marie died from the Complications of Alzheimer’s at 4:00 A.M. on 1 October 2013 at the Assisted Living Facility, Monroe Manor in Barron, Wisconsin.
From the time of Marie’s first short term memory problems as noted by her husband Vern in 2004, a period of nine (9) years slipped by before Marie’s journey into the darkness of Alzheimer’s ended by her passing on 1 October 2013 at the age of 80.
Marie’s nine (9) years journey was a little longer then the average of eight (8) years as noted in the technical literature of this disease. It has also been estimated and suggested that from the time of diagnosis, the average remaining life span is reduced by one half as a result of the impact of Alzheimer’s. This would suggest that without Alzheimer's, Marie might have lived to almost age 90.
Marie’s funeral notice first appeared in the Barron News-Shield, Barron, Wisconsin on Wednesday, October 2, 2013…with Marie’s funeral on Saturday October 5th at the United Lutheran Church in Prairie Farm, Wisconsin and with internment at Sunset Cemetery, Prairie Farm, Wisconsin.
Marie's Funeral Remembrances
Editorial Notes: - The first of the above cards received from my cousin Vern in June of 2007, talked of his wife who appeared to be in early to mid stages of Alzheimer’s.
Unfortunately the worst was yet to come. (Marie will probably gradually lose the ability to walk, talk, eat or use the bathroom without help, there may be difficulty swallowing and the list goes on until life becomes little more than a mere existence.) There are no medical or miracle cures for Alzheimer's. No one who has ever traveled into the shadows of Alzheimer's has ever returned. Her final days may end with a most common complication of Aspiration Pneumonia. The average time from diagnosis to death is 8 years. (President Reagan survived for 10 years, Charlton Heston for 5.3 years.) Death is always the final result.
The subsequent years of 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and the mostly sad birthday notes are also reproduced below the first 2007 note. I found a photo of Vern's wife Marie that I sent to Vern in my card to him in 2011. Vern mentions this photo in his 2011 card. I posted a small version of the photo next to Vern's card text and a larger version at the top of this page. This photo was probably taken by my June in August 1983 at a birthday party for Vern's father. The location is June's sister's home, Lynda Etlicher in Rice Lake, WI. The elderly man in the background is Vern's father and Marie's father in law, and my uncle Edward.
I intend to continue posting the annual birthday card notes as received from my cousin until they stop coming or until I am unable to any longer do so!
Vern's wife Marie was born in November of 1932 and will be 80 years of age this year. (2012) Vern has advised that the symptoms were first noted in 2004 when Marie was 72 years of age.
June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website under the "In Memoriam" label - Click on: