by Vanessa Williams-Harvey
It took years of silence for me to come to terms and let it all out. Everything came to an abrupt halt in August of 2015. On that painful and dark day, our mother was ultimately placed in a nursing facility. We continue to struggle with that painful decision. My personal guilt, frustrations and regret plagued my soul to the point of endless days and restless nights. I was able to find relief when I pulled out my tablet and began to jot down everything that had been swirling around in my head.
I started writing about the good times; there were a few. The more I wrote, the more I relaxed and I could finally exhale. I used words to breathe life into the dark reality I suppressed for far too long, finding a voice in writing that I wasn’t quite comfortable with verbalizing. I felt incapable of being accountable to myself, let alone anyone else.
“I Remember” is a candid and brutally honest glimpse of what my family and I experienced on our journey with Alzheimer’s. My writing is a deep dive with frank details about some tough and challenging times, as we struggled to communicate and collaborate with one another. It took a lot of time for me to realize that I wasn’t the only one hurting. The very same pain that was ripping at my heart and head was also wreaking havoc on each and every member of our family in a very distinctive way.
As I talked with friends and colleagues about the difficulties we were having as a family, I was amazed by the number of other families being torn apart by a crisis that ultimately led to family conflict. This realization gave me vigor and purpose, while it helped open my eyes to the fact that we are not alone. Although we lacked control over many things that were happening around us, we eventually learned that we did have control on how we would emerge from the ordeal. Our family learned a tough lesson the hard way.
Unfortunately, families in conflict while in the midst of a crisis are a part of everyday life. When emotions run high, anything can happen. It was deeply troubling to watch everyone I loved slip away. It was almost as difficult as watching Alzheimer’s steal our beloved mother.
Our family wasn’t ready, willing or able to function when Alzheimer’s reared its ugly head. “What would mother do?” Mother would hold herself accountable and pay her dues to herself–first. By dues, I mean DUES –Do better, Understand better, Expect better, Serve best! It’s what I decided to do and our family is in a much better place today.
I Remember was released in June 2017 and is about a family in conflict while in the midst of a crisis. Our family’s crisis was and is Alzheimer’s. Just when we thought all hope was lost, we mustered up the energy to fight for our mother, fight for our integrity and fight for our family. Only then were we able to transition from victims to victory.
About the Author
Vanessa K. Williams-Harvey is a life-long advocate for setting high standards and helping others to achieve their life purpose through self-awareness and proper planning. She is a registered nurse by profession and currently serves as a Clinical Informatics Manager. She is also an adjunct faculty with a local college. In these roles, she has the ability to connect with many diverse people and empowers them to thrive in an ever-changing world.
The book, I Remember is about her family’s journey when its matriarch is stricken with Alzheimer’s disease and how this crisis almost destroyed everything their mother had spent a lifetime building. Only with time, acceptance, forgiveness and faith were they able to move from victims to victory. Every family faced with a crisis is challenged and tested in ways that exposes vulnerabilities.
Vanessa is an advocate for Alzheimer’s awareness and serves as a co-chair for the Louisville area Walk to End Alzheimer’s. She is married to her husband, Mark Harvey, and they are the proud parents of four grown sons and a dog, Maxx. They both are active members of Burnett Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
The time is now to strive for personal acceptance and satisfaction by paying DUES — Do better. Understand better. Expect better. Serve best!