December 29, 2014

Anna's gift of love

Apr 25

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Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter ¬ Anna gets a kiss goodnight from her granddaughter, Katie, before the light are turned out.

I am feeling very conflicted these days. This project has been one of the best of my career, and because of that, it's also been one of the worst.

Betty Brooks is one of the most inspiring women I have ever met. She welcomed me into her mother's home and has shared, without sugarcoating, Anna Snatchko's longtime battle with dementia. Betty, as you will learn later in the series, also is married, and her husband is dealing with some very serious health issues. I marvel at Betty's compassion and her ability to care so selflessly for others. But I also worry about Betty. Who is taking care of Betty?

I have come to care about Betty, her daughter, Katie Fehl, and, of course, Anna, like they are my own family. And that is what is making this assignment so difficult as well. I know that eventually I will have to say goodbye, and I am not prepared for that. I get teary-eyed whenever I think about it.

I look forward to my visits with Anna. I'm like a little kid at Christmas. I last saw Anna on Thursday. It had been 10 days since our last visit - the longest stretch I've gone without seeing her since meeting the family in early February. It was also the first time I had noticed a significant change in Anna. She wasn't as “talkative,” and she seemed more lethargic – at least until Katie got her up for lunch. That's when Anna flashed her trademark smile, and she kept on smiling. Every time Anna smiles, it just melts my heart. She has such a beautiful smile, and there is recognition in those bright crystal blue eyes. They really seem to come alive.

Before I leave Anna's apartment, I give Anna a kiss on the cheek or the forehead and tell her I love her. Once, she said, “I love you, too.” I realize she doesn't know me and her response was probably automatic, but those four words made my day.

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Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter ¬ Anna lays in bed around 7:30PM waiting to sleep.

Thank you, Anna – you continue to touch others in ways you'll never know.

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The Observer-Reporter's latest staff series will feature Alzheimer's and dementia. Each month, we will concentrate on different aspects of the disease, from what it is, who is affected, resources, and more. This powerful series will go on for the conceivable future.