June K. Berg, 80th Birthday
- Published on Tuesday, 27 May 2008 15:57
- Written by Stanton O. Berg
A Victim of Alzheimer's
June, today is your birthday. Your ten year battle with Alzheimer’s has left you lying wounded, vanquished and exhausted. Like a snuffed out candle, only the slightest spark remains of what was once a warm, bright, vibrant and glowing lady. Your mind only in the “now”, wanders through unfamiliar surroundings. Some people look friendly, some look familiar, and some do not. Some surroundings are void or dark. Some areas are so sad that you cry. All are confusing. The simple act of coughing or sneezing frightens you. You sit with your eyes closed drawing a curtain on a world that is always bewildering and sometimes fearsome. Well meaning friends and relatives try to jog a no longer existing memory with references that are also long gone. When you awaken from a sleep or simply open your eyes it is into another strange and different world. There is an occasional flicker of familiarity but that is quickly lost. Your injured mind has abandoned you to a mental feeling of isolation and solitude. Your signature smile that would always light up your face is forever gone with only an occasional trace. The sound of your voice has been stilled. Even the touch of your hand cupped over mine is just a memory. You cannot walk, eat or bath without help. There are occasional uncontrolled tremors. Your life has been reduced to little more then a mere existence. While you are like a stranger who no longer knows me, you remain and always will be, the love and light of my life.
I know that you are ready for God to take you home to a better world free of the shadows of Alzheimer’s. I still however cling selfishly to the remaining vestige of the lady who was and is the centerpiece of my life. I stand helpless as I see my life’s treasure being pulled from my grasp and slowly slipping away.
Pastor Harley always reminds me that we can still communicate spirit to spirit. Our present daily routine includes a visit to the little Chapel at the Benedictine where you now reside. Much like the Hymn “Sweet Hour of Prayer” we have a spiritual hour and quiet time. It is then while I take your hand in mine, I travel back in time to a world where it is always 1995. A time before the word “Alzheimer’s” became a part of our vocabulary. A time of much joy and happiness in our lives.
1995 also depicts a time when 6025 Gardena Lane was not just the address for a house but rather it was the address for a home. For almost 40 years you were the heart of that house and you made it into a home. 6025 Gardena Lane was then your castle and you were the queen. A queen however, who was a reflection of the greatest of all virtues but the least sought after, “Humility.” 6025 was the center of all the family holiday celebrations. My nostalgic ear is so attuned that at times I still hear the sounds of those distant and long past holiday joys.
This was the first house in which we both selected the lot and designed what would later become our home. You always loved our home and every time as we backed our car out of the driveway you would look back and say “We have such a nice home!” Now every time I back the car out of the driveway I am haunted by your words. I have a great sense of guilt in that I have been spared this terrible disease and continue to live in the house you loved so much. I once promised you following a sad visit with the Mayo doctors, that we would always be together. Because of my failures, you are now living in a velvet prison.
Our Redeemer Lutheran Pastors Dave, and Harley as well as our previous Pastors, Gene and Cliff, all assure me that God is not the author of your Alzheimer’s suffering and is working hard to bring good out of our present heartache.
One of our friend’s who is professor of law and forensic science at one of the nation’s great universities says:
“your June ….has been an inspiration to me to devote myself more unselfishly and lovingly to my….Out of the tragedy you are suffering under, this good, I thought you should know, has blossomed.”
A lady in the process of her second divorce after reading about you wrote:
“True love really does exist…Thank you for putting a light back on in my heart.”
People who have never met you are praying for you every day.
A lady you have never met has developed a powerful Alzheimer’s educational DVD presentation and it is dedicated to you. You have touched many lives.
June, your inspiring life and your battle with Alzheimer’s has also caused great spiritual changes in my own life. I have lost my initial anger and bitterness with God. I have also become an active advocate for Alzheimer’s education and funding. At the same time my love for you has only grown stronger.
One of your cousins described you:
“She was the one with the friendly smile and the kind eyes.”
I would think that is the way the world also saw you. You are a kind, humble, sweet, beautiful lady who is totally without guile or pretense. You have always placed all who were close to you, before you. You have lived an exemplary life with a strong faith in God.
You were my constant companion in my forensic science travels here and abroad. You are the reason that my life has been an adventure. In your life you have done the things that many people only dream of, yet your character and personality have remained that of the original warm, friendly farm girl from Colfax, Wisconsin that I first met in 1951.
Our oldest son Dave tells me that because of you he found God. Because of your prayers and example, I also found God. Dave now feels that God has not taken you home as God feels we can all still learn from you. Perhaps Dave is right....
Your 80 years have made and is making this a better world for all of us. June, your suffering will not have been in vain. However with my narrow view of the world and the suffering you have gone through, I find it difficult to equate the scales of justice.
Again I ask sweetheart, if you travel into life’s sunset before me, "walk slowly – wait up – and watch for me."
Photo Notes: Photo above by Jim Gehrz taken at the Benedictine on 31 October 2007 a few days before June's 80th birthday. Holding June's hand was my favorite means of communicating with her. The little hand made wooden cross was held tightly in June's grasp for much of the day. This little cross is now permanently with June at Lakewood.
(Published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Celebrations-Birthdays, Thursday 8 November 2007 – All editions.)
Final Notes: On October 23rd, 2008 June passed away after almost eleven years of an exhausting battle with Alzheimer’s. June's last three years and 8 plus months were in an Alzheimer’s facility. Her last years were at the Alzheimer’s “Villa” of the Benedictine Health Care Center of Innsbruck, New Brighton, MN. See the funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star - Tribune. It is located on the top blue navigation strip under the label: “In Memoriam”. Click on: