Testimonials | Who Am I?

testimonial-4Meet Douglas. He’s quite the character. At eighty-two he is still a southern-gentleman. His blue eyes glisten with warmth and his smile is quite engaging.

Who is Douglas? He’s a veteran, a husband and a father. He’s a person.

His journey started in Pineridge, Arkansas where he was born. He grew up nearby in Mena on a working farm. His family was blessed with an outhouse, a two seater no doubt, courtesy of a program for farmers devised by Eleanor Roosevelt during her husband’s presidency. The posh potty is now on display in the Lum and Abner Museum. (Just in case you are interested www.lum-abner.com.)

Like countless other young men, Douglas graduated from high school in 1945 and subsequently entered the Air Force. It was his service as an airman that led him to his sweetheart. While stationed here, at Barksdale Air Force Base, he attended a party hosted at a private home. He spotted Lillian from across the room. Completely taken by the sight of her, he said “that’s going to be my wife”. I’m certain his buddies enjoyed a chuckle or two at his expense. Even so, he couldn’t have been more correct.

Lillian taught him how to dance and somehow he managed to get her phone number. They courted for a year and six months before tying the knot on October 9, 1968. Their union created the perfect harmony for a peaceful and loving home where together they raised three children – Theresa, Linda and Michael. Their lives are full. Faith was always important and being active in their church community yielded so much joy. It was their church family that nicknamed the pair “Daddy Doug and Mommy Lil” and it’s stuck ever since.

Over the years, the couple took great pleasure in many activities – their favorites were predominantly bowling and traveling of course always together. Cruising was defnitely their craze. In 2003 on a cruise to Alaska, Lillian began to notice that Douglas was repeating the same questions and phrases. In her heart, she knew something was wrong, she told him “when we return, we need to see a doctor”. They returned and visited their primary care doctor who recognized Douglas’s symptoms as early Alzheimer’s disease. His diagnosis would be a voyage that forever changed their lives.

Who am I? Douglas might not recall. He is in the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease now. He may not recognize his wife, Lillian. These days she tells their story. She is not alone. It’s been a little over a year ago since Lillian reached out to us for help. By chance, she had learned about our Dementia/Alzheimer’s caregiver support group which meets monthly. After speaking with the group facilitator, Sandra Huber, our chaplain who also cared for her own husband with Alzheimer’s – Lillian felt she was found. The group and our program have given her confdence.

Lillian is a well-aged, delightful, lady who is a wonderful caregiver and most importantly a wife. The frst time we met, Lillian asked if I had seen “The Notebook”. It is an epic love story about an elderly man who reads a love story (their love story) to his elderly wife with Alzheimer’s. In the end, they both die peacefully in each other’s arms. I told her “yes indeed” and “it’s my absolute favorite movie.” Lillian’s eyes flled with tears and gently they cascaded down her cheeks.

I knew exactly what she was thinking. Douglas is the absolute love of her life. This is their story. It’s so amazing to be a part of this experience and to know love is still alive. You see, there is hope in every story. It’s not easy. In truth, it’s almost certainly the most devastating and life consuming heartbreak Lillian has ever faced. Douglas and Lillian have found hope through hospice and sharing their story will give other’s hope as well. We know they could have chosen any hospice provider in this area. Therefore, it’s an incredible honor for us to walk this journey with them and every family under our care.

Lillian says “we found her” although in reality she found us. So many patients and families tell us, “We wish we would have known about your program earlier.” Unfortunately, in our community there are numerous people like Lillian and Douglas who do not have hope. They do not know that hospice could help change their lives.

Dementia/Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support meets monthly and is open to the community. For more information, call Hospice of Shreveport/Bossier at 318-865-7177
or email us.

written by Amy Stewart, Director of Community Education