Photo Friday: Bougainvillea for my Grandma

Bougainvillea flowers will always hold a special place in my heart, as they remind me of my grandmother and all the carefree California Summers that I spent with her while growing up. So during our visit with my grandparents this past week, when I happened to glance out the window to see the setting sun dipping down in the sky and illuminating a wall enrobed in vibrant blooms, I had to grab my camera for a bit of photo therapy and rushed out to capture a few shots.

But I want to share something more with you friends (it’s kind of hard to talk about). While beautiful, these photos also hold a lot of sadness for me…because it was just earlier that afternoon that I learned my grandmother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. We’ve seen the signs for quite some time, but this rather final diagnosis and witnessing first-hand the way she now struggles to recall simple things…and even some of my sibling’s names, is heartbreaking. I honestly don’t think I’ve processed it completely yet. I guess right now, all I really know for certain is that no matter what direction time will take my grandmother in, she has always been the kindest and most nurturing person I’ve ever known…the one person who has always believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself, and a part of my heart that I keep with me always. I know there will be sad times ahead, but for now I want to surround myself in a cloud of bougainvillea-pink memories, and smile because of all the years we’ve been able to share so far. xo Ez

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26 Comments

  1. indreams / / Reply

    that is so hard to hear, especially since you two are so close! my grandmother passed from alzheimer's a number of years ago, but since she lived in england (and i in canada with my family) i only ever met her as her alzheimer-self, and even then, she was unable to speak by that point. i wish i could rewind time and ask her all sorts of things about her life, and have her input on the big changes in my life! these upcoming years will be tough for you, but you've got memories of happier times to carry you through, and she's got you to look after her during this tough time. *hugggg*

  2. Michelle / / Reply

    My Grandmother has Alzheimer's as well. A great Aunt that I was close to had it too and I saw all the stages of it until she passed away. It is sad to know that my Grandmother will now go through the same stages (and has already progressed through many). It is hard to watch our loved ones like this.

  3. Lauren Ashley / / Reply

    Beautiful post, thank you for sharing. I am actually in the midst of planning a trip to visit my grandma in Southern California – she has dementia, so trips to see her have taken on new meaning. Sending positive thoughts your way. xo.

  4. Ivana / / Reply

    What a beautiful sentiment about a beautiful person. I hope you continue to find comfort in many wonderful memories you have of her.

  5. helen h / / Reply

    Sorry to hear your news EZ. My partner's Grandmother died last year of AD after being ill for some years. It is enormously frustrating that our memories of that cheeky feisty little woman are coloured by the woman she ultimately became. It's also such a draining illness for carers- my partners parents are still coming to terms with what its like to be retired but without someone to care for 24h a day. Shared memories like flowers from the garden become very important; you may find in time that your grandmother doesn't really remember you or sharing the flowers with you, but will still remember that the lovely flowers are important to her. These little things give you joy.

    Good luck to you all.

  6. Meg in Progress / / Reply

    Ez, this broke my heart. I think so much of life is like this. Beautiful pink flowers that remind us of happier times when the sadness, the goodbyes, – the loss change everything. She is blessed to have you. I know you will continue to bring beauty into her life just as she has into yours.

  7. Briel K. / / Reply

    So sorry to hear about your grandmother. That is such a hard disease.

  8. Michele / / Reply

    My mother, who was a wonderful grandmother to my two kids, had Alzheimer's Disease for about 6 years before she died in 2007. Very heartbreaking. My daughter was old enough to remember her pre-Alzheimer's, but my son was young enough that he doesn't remember much before she was affected by that horrible disease. So sorry to hear about your grandmother. Just try to spend as much time with her as you can. My mom reached the point where she didn't want to talk on the phone because it became too stressful for her to follow and participate in the conversation. So after that I wrote letters to her. My dad said she enjoyed being able to re-read them. I also put together photo collages for her with captions to help her remember names and places. Maybe your grandmother would like that.

  9. Ez / / Reply

    Thank you so much for your kind words of support friends. I'm so sorry to hear that so many of you have seen your loved ones affected by AD too! It's such a heartbreaking disease! Sending hugs out to you all. xox Ez
    P.S. Michele – I LOVE the collage idea. I was actually just in the middle of planning out a photo book for her from our trip, but adding the names is brilliant! Thank you for that.

  10. Sharon / / Reply

    I'm so sorry. Grandmas are amazing, and they do nothing but love and spoil us. I wish you and your family the best.
    I did recently hear a story on NPR this week about a therapy (not sure if that's the correct term) with AD patients, where instead of trying to have your loved one remember memories and then they get frustrated with failing to remember, open up a magazine and show them a picture and ask them what they think is happening – where does the woman look like she's going? And take it from there. That way, they are creating a story, and there's no right or wrong and they don't get mad at not remembering something. Maybe NPR's website has it recorded, I think it was just this week that I heard it.

  11. nichole / / Reply

    So sorry to hear this Ez. We lost my grandmother to AZ as well, and it was heartbreaking and frustrating.

    When I think of her, I barely remember those years, though. I remember her standing over her cakes, smiling at her children (she had 11!), and being her sweet self. That's what matters. She raised a beautiful family and she lives in all of us.

    Have a wonderful weekend,
    Nichole

  12. Jo / / Reply

    Reading about your grandmother reminded me of my own who is sadly no longer here. My grandmother made me feel exactly as yours did. Even though she has been gone for many years, as I write this I am still overcome with deep, deep sadness at not having my Nana to talk to and laugh with. We are lucky to have had such love even if it results in tears all these years later.

  13. Kris Pare / / Reply

    Ez, I am saddened you too will experience this cruel disease. We also did an old fashioned photo album, but what we did was organize it by chronological order and by each family. Grandma had 6 children and 10 grandchildren. So we pulled out the old photos that were her kids, showing stages of them growing up, then married, then with us as her grandchildren ending with a current family photo. As they said before, writing each name under each photo, their age, and date. We also did that with photos she had in frames. The saddest day is when she didn't recognize her kids anymore. I tear up as I write this as I still miss her and Grandpa –but they are now together and hope wherever they are they remember us all and look down on us as time moves forward. Take care, Kris

  14. Jenny / / Reply

    Ez, I was very sorry to read your Grandmother's news. I truly hope you and your family are able to soak up this time with her, and find solace in warm memories and her giving spirit.

  15. Maureen / / Reply

    Sorry to hear about your Granma's diagnosis. I know it is all very new and fresh, but when you feel up to it, look into organizations like the Alzheimer's Association, they are a wealth of information and support. I used to volunteer at a day respite working with Alzheimer's patients so their caregivers could get a break and go do things they needed. We just lost my unle to this disease as well. I will keep you, your Grandma and your whole family in my prayers!

  16. erinkathleen / / Reply

    oh, Ez, my heart goes out to you! I watched my grandfather suffer this disease, as well as many in his immediate family. And I know that my mother fears going through the same thing herself. There is no easy road map when someone you love forgets your name or the memories you have created together. Just endless patience, and a willingness to tell her stories. And then, to tell them again. There's nothing I can say, but that you and your family will be in my thoughts.

  17. Lina Fox / / Reply

    Oh Ez, I know I'm late in responding but I just wanted to say that I'm so, so sorry. I immediately started crying when I read your post. I know there are no words I could offer that would make the situation better. I'm just sorry. I'm glad you have such wonderful memories of your grandma. Thinking of you.

  18. Carrie / / Reply

    Ugh. Alzheimer's is a terrible disease. My family and I are currently caring for my paternal grandmother (under hospice care now) and it has been a tough road to walk. I would recommend reading the book "The 36-Hour Day" even if you are not the one providing the day-to-day care. It will help you understand the process of living with (and ultimately dying from) this awful disease. Hold tight to those good, sweet memories you have!

  19. Becki / / Reply

    Oh, Ez. My heart goes out to you. My grandfather, to whom I'm incredibly close, is in the end stages of Alzheimer's, and there's just no skirting the fact that it's terrible.

    The one bright light is that you have time. Let your grandmother tell you stories, ask her questions, take photos…spend all the time you can getting all the wisdom and love she has for you. I wish I'd been better about that while I had the chance. xox,B

  20. frankysportfolio / / Reply

    wow these are really beautiful flowers and photos. Do you by any chance grow your own herbs at home as well?

  21. Burkha / / Reply

    Oow, I´m sorry to read that…This post reminded me of my grandmother. She had it too. I can´t help at getting emotional with this subject. Her name was Aurora, she died 11 years ago, but I still cry her. She was my favorite person in the whole world! I have the most beautiful memories of us together.
    That were some really nice words you said about her…
    Best of luck, patience, and lots of strength from Argentina.

  22. Julia H / / Reply

    I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother, Ez… stay strong and always think of her as the incredible person that believes in you :) This flowers also remind me of my childhood in my grandparents house, you know? Here in Brazil we commonly call them Tres Marias or 3 Marys because of their three petals :)

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