"Sunshine and Shadow" quilt that reminds me of my parents' lives (photographs by Marylin Warner)

“Sunshine and Shadow” quilt that reminds me of my parents’ lives (photographs by Marylin Warner)

Ray and Mary Shepherd's engagement picture

Ray and Mary Shepherd’s engagement picture

Their 60th Anniversary picture; Estes Park, CO

Their 60th Anniversary picture; Estes Park, CO

My parents were married for nearly sixty-eight years.  They were best-friends-forever; their marriage was built on love, respect, hard work, faith and family.

The first quilt I ever made was a wall quilt diagonal version of the Amish pattern, “Sunshine and Shadow.” When I look at it now, I see the fabric of my parents’ life together. Bright, vivid or subtle shades of sunshine…until the shadows of Alzheimer’s and dementia wove their way into the pattern.

In this pre-Thanksgiving post, I thank all of you who have encouraged and participated in this blog. Those of you who submitted your poetry, Christmas memories and Mother’s Day greeting cards to the blog’s writing contests in my mother’s honor; those of you who write personal comments to us, open comments on the blog, or share your own experiences and stories; those of you who drop by for a visit, try a recipe, comment on your writing projects and ours ~ I’m thankful for you all.  My mother would be, too, if she could understand how wonderful you all are.

If you would like to get a closer look at Fort Scott, Kansas, where I grew up and now visit Mom each month, for some excellent pictures from blogger Claudia’s recent autumn trip, go to             Fort Scott was a pre-Civil War fort in southeastern Kansas, and it still has miles of brick streets and fascinating Victorian homes; it is also the boyhood home of writer/photographer Gordon Parks (visit Ft. Scott Community College and the Fine Arts Center and Gordon Parks Center).

Last week I shared two of my mother’s Haiku poems with you. Diana Bletter of  wrote this in reply:   Mother’s lamp gone out ~ Her words do not come easy ~ Love is what remains… “That’s the haiku I wrote for you and your mother after reading your post. The poems and art and love remain behind! Marylin, thanks for sharing this! It is a great reminder for me after the loss of my own mother. Thank you. ~ Diana”

My thanks to you, Diana, for the poem and the reminder that yes, in many ways, we are all in this together. You’re in Israel; I’m in Colorado, traveling every month to Kansas, the state where you also once lived, and yet we met through our blogs.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.  According to the 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, 1 in 9 Americans age 65-85, and 32% over 85 have Alzheimer’s or dementia.  Last year I posted a piece on Pat Summitt, who coached the U.S. women’s basketball team to an Olympic Gold medal in 1984; she also coached TN’s Lady Vols basketball team to 8 national titles. In April, 2011, she faced her toughest opponent when she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. A year later she retired from coaching, but her determination to win continued.

“I hope I can encourage others living with Alzheimer’s disease to continue living their lives,” she says. “Keep fighting, keep living, keep making the most of every day.”

Pat Summitt, whose hardest opponent now is Alzheimer's

Pat Summitt, whose toughest opponent now is Alzheimer’s



Filed under art, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, friends, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for

59 responses to “NOVEMBER…REMEMBER

  1. And I sure I speak for many, we are thankful for you, your mother and your thoughtful and inspiring blog.

  2. juliabarrett

    Alzheimer’s is one of the most difficult diseases for a family to cope with. You cope remarkably well. I love Fort Scott, Kansas! We visited when I was a kid – such an interesting historical place!

    • I’m glad you like Ft. Scott, Julia. If you visit the old fort, you get one set of feelings; if you visit the #1 National Cemetery (oldest) you get a real history lesson by reading the headstones. Bourbon County (Ft. Scott is the county seat) is steeped in old stories.

  3. Yes, Rod’s right – yours is an inspiring place to come, Marylin – and the love you have for your Mom shines through each post, as does the wisdom your Mom has passed on to you. Thank you for your friendship via our blogs – I treasure it.

  4. Oh, thank you for that shout out, Marylin! And thanks for reminding me of Gordon Parks as we did not do that on that Saturday. Loved the haiku by Diana. It is warm here today but very, very windy. I am sure it is blowing some winter our way! Have a good weekend….

  5. Many people are touched by the problems of alzheimers but blogs like yours prepare them in some way for what to expect. Apart from it’s obvious usefulness it’s also a delight to read as you radiate love in every line.
    Ju and I can never reach the longevity of your parents marriage but I hope one day Yvonne will be able to talk of us in the way that you do of your parents, that we were each others best friends and confidantes. Most of all that it was a marriage of love.
    xxx Massive Hugs to you xxx

    • It was a marriage of love, David, which made it a good home for us kids, too, and our friends and all the extended family, and so on. But, like you and your wife, Jim and I can’t possibly be together for 68 years, but our daughter will be able to say ours was a marriage of love, and that’s what counts. Hugs to you, too!!!

  6. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Marylin, my mom was a devoted Tennessee fan and loved Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols! Thanks for the reminder that I want to read Pat’s book. Hugs and Happy Thanksgiving to you!

    • You mom would have loved to see all that Summitt’s foundation is accomplishing through the donations, Nancy. So many of her players are active with it, plus her son is also a coach as well, and he’s active, too.
      Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

  7. Sunshine and Shadows. Sixty-eight years. So beautiful, Marylin. Children of parents who loved each other “through thick and thin” should not take that for granted. Too many of us didn’t have anything near that type of security. Parents like yours gave you one of the greatest gifts a child could ever receive. And I know you, Marylin, are well aware of that!

    • Oh, Darla, I am very much aware of the gift they gave us, and I’m grateful beyond words. I also am aware that not all families had that, and what most touches and inspires me are the children who came from those families and still were outstanding parents for their own children.
      You have written and shared so many sweet things for and about my Mom, Darla, and I know that if it weren’t for the dementia, she would embrace you with a big hug and much love!

  8. Amy

    32% is a stunning number… It takes so much courage for people like Pat and even more for the family. Thank you for delivering inspiring words and courage while you are taking care of your mother …

    • 32% IS a stunning number, Amy, and what I didn’t go into were the predictions of what that percentage will be by 2040 if they don’t find some preventatives and remedies. And since my dad died of Alzheimer’s and now my mom has advanced dementia, I’m nervous every time I can’t remember a name or can’t find my keys.
      But we do the best we can, and we take it one day at at time. Thanks for your kind words of support, Amy.

  9. Many of us, myself included, are in a club that we never hoped to be a member of, Marylin. Your blog provides a safe and inspiring place to voice our concerns and support each other. I’m so thankful to have discovered this inspiring corner of cyberspace. xo

    • You’re so right, Jill; this is a club none of us ever wanted to join. But I’m glad to have found friends who joined under duress, too, so we can figure things out together. When you and I write about our mothers or our struggles with writing, we understand immediately. That’s a gift I didn’t expect from the blogging world, so I feel really grateful.
      Whoever said cyberspace isn’t real hasn’t seen the entire picture.

  10. Sunshine and shadows … what a beautiful, emotionally-touching way to look at life. Diana Bletter’s haiku also is a wonderful reminder of what’s truly important and what remains: love.

    Whatever we’re struggling with, it’s comforting to know that we can find a friendly face on your blog. Thanks, Marilyn.

    • Truly, Judy, that’s the friendly face I count on at your blog, too. There are so many times I relate to what you’re saying, or laugh at the funny things, or learn from the topic you’re discussing. It’s a two-way appreciation, and one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about meeting friends through this blog is the awareness that there are so many of us out there who could meet somewhere for dinner and conversation and really enjoy each other’s company.

  11. Sunshine and Shadow is a perfect illustration for this November’s Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here, of course, but it is good to give thanks anyway, and I give thanks for you and your mother and the blog you create together.

  12. Long marriages are inspirational. My parents were married “only” 36 years before my father died. But 68 years is incredible. We are fortunate in having no history of Alzheimer’s in our family that I know of but plenty of other challenges. The bricks on which a 68 year marriage were built are all too rare nowadays and those of us who had a background surrounded by these values are truly fortunate. Your blog is inspirational Marylin and if your mother could grasp just a fraction of it she would be very happy.

    • I think she would be happy, Andrew, to see the pictures and read the stories about her life, their marriage and family, the sorrows and joys they survived and celebrated together. It’s sad that the dementia has clouded these memories, though I keep hoping that there are moments when she does remember glimpses of these things.
      Thanks for the kind comments.

  13. Gwen Stephens

    I love reading your blog, Marilyn. I never knew November was Alzheimer’s awareness month. I have an uncle with advanced Alzheimer’s, and an aunt (his sister) who recently passed away from the disease. Makes me wonder if it’s in my future, too.

    • From what I’ve read, Gwen, Alzheimer’s and dementia have the potential of being in many futures. There are numerous variables and possible causes and triggers, so no one is free and clear of the dangers. It is frightening, but they are making some progress, and in the meantime we’ll all make the most of every day and do the best we can.

  14. Thank you Marylin for your beautiful posts. You’ve brought compassion and a face to this disease, your mother would be very proud and thankful of her daughter.

  15. Don

    Marylin, your blog is an inspiration and it is always so full of humanity in the midst of what must be extremely difficult for your Mom and you. It’s always a an absolute joy to visit your blog and one never leaves without being nurtured by the truth and compassion that is expressed there. Thank you marylin.

    • You’re very welcome, Don. I’m learning along with all of you, as I try to figure out some way to make sense of the dementia (and my dad’s Alzheimer’s, too) and not let it ruin good memories.

  16. I echo what others have said Marylin. I’m glad to have found your blog and been able to share something of your lives, thoughts and beautiful writing.

  17. Marilyn … If you don’t already have The WordPress Family Award, you do now. I love your stories about your family. See my blog for details:

  18. I’m not sure if I posted this. I nominated you for The WordPress Family Award. Please see my blog for details:

  19. Wow, Marilyn! 68 years. A true love story indeed. Beautiful. And the fact that they were best friends and built their relationship on the things that matter – love, faith, respect, family! I just love to read your stories about your family and the love you share is so inspiring. A true joy to visit you once a week! Blessings, Robyn

    • Thanks so much, Robyn. I’m inspired by your photography talents, the artistic way you capture movement and beauty in a picture. I don’t have that talent–as you can tell from my pictures–so I especially appreciate those who do.

  20. Goodness, 68 years of marriage, nearly! That is an amazing accomplishment. I don’t think anyone in my family has been married for anything like that, except for my uncle and aunt who are not too far off their golden anniversary (I was a bridesmaid at their wedding when I was 6 years old!).

    Fort Scott, Kansas, is a place that I have never visited and I am looking forward to visiting Claudia’s blog to see her photographs, thank you for the link. It is always so lovely to learn more about one another and this will be a wonderful way to get a glimpse of the place that you once called home and where your dear mom lives to this day.

    ‘Love, respect, hard-work, faith and family’ What a truly blessed family life and for your mom and dad’s legacy to live on through you as you share this here with us. This truly is what life is, or should be, all about.

    As with everyone here Marylin, I am so very thankful for you…your beautiful writing has inspired me greatly and I am so blessed to have met you and your mom and for all you share with us.

    • We call that a Junior Bridesmaid, Sherri, and I love it that you were six and in the wedding of a couple who will soon celebrate their golden anniversary! I’m thankful for the example you are of love, respect, hard work and faith in your family, Sherri. You stories about your daughter and your own life are inspiring, with just the right blend of poignancy and humor, too.

  21. Married for sixty-eight years. Wow! That is such an achievement, and so fantastic that it was filled with love and respect. I admire that so much. you obviously adored them and the family you came from and this shines in your blog. I do so love your blog.

  22. Molly

    The one thing I remember Grandma telling me before I got married…the secret to a successful marriage…”Don’t ever fuss at him! If you have things that are bothering you, share them with him, and ask for his input to work through it, but don’t ever fuss. No one wants someone to fuss at them!”

    Well although I am pretty sure Trevor would say, I do FUSS at him, I try hard not to fuss too much!

    Great story mom, and I love all the pieces that tie in, from other readers!

    • Your grandmother could have had her own talk show, don’t you think? Except no sensationalism, no swearing nor shouting. She could give sound, simple advice, teach how to throw together a great meal in a hurry, give advice on writing poetry, and also hold a baby from the audience while she did it!

  23. Jim

    Grandma Mary’s no-fussing rule should apply to husbands as well. Nobody likes fussing.

    I have watched Pat Summit coach her Lady Vols basketball team on TV for many years. So many hard-fought victories. I was very saddened when I heard she was stepping aside from coaching because of Alzheimer’s. But she was a never-quit-fighting coach, so it should not surprise us that she is an inspirational leader (coach) in coping daily with the disease.

  24. Absolutely, honey, no fussing. It’s a deal; I promise to try.
    I know how much you admire Pat Summit and all good coaches, but especially in basketball and tennis…okay, and in football. It if hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t have know about Summit’s diagnosis last year, so I thank you Big Time for being my wing man!

  25. Marylin,
    I’m sure your quilting is as wonderful as your writing. You know I love quilts. The memory of how the quilt represents your parents life is beautiful. Diana’s sentiments were as well. 🙂
    I enjoyed your parents photos too!

    • Thanks, Tracy. So you can see “real” quilting at its finest, I should show some 100+-year-old quilts by my grandmother and her sisters, aunts and cousins. Every step is done by hand, and the top stitches are often 4-6 stitches per inch. That’s why they’ve lasted so long, plus we really take good care of them as heirlooms…

  26. I would love to see those quilts. I only hope my quilts last that long. 🙂

  27. Jane Thorne

    The love you all share, that is still in your Mum’s heart and soul, that inspires your writing, inspires us all Marylin. Thank you. Xx

    • Oh, thank you, Jane. The stories about my mother mean so much to me, and I hope they’ll mean more and more to my grandchildren (her great-grandchildren) as they grow older. I am so grateful if they also inspire you and others, too.

  28. You have a very inspirational blog no doubt. I learn about the disease and its implications and how important it is not to be overcome by it but continue to move on with a great spirit. Your stories of your mom are heart warming. I become quite emotional reading about your beautiful family and specially about your mom. You are an inspiration for all of us. Thank you for being yourself. Take care and God bless.

    • Thank you for this, but also for all the wonderful, supportive stories you post about police officers. Our son-in-law, like so many policemen, does brave and helpful and necessary and careful work that makes things better for all of us, and your blog is an excellent resource.

  29. I stalled at the picture of your parents’ celebrating their 60 years together. What a blessing for you and your family! I wanted to let you know that my godparents were at my first wedding, the only “big” one that I had and they were talking to my (just married) husband’s family, connecting in the way people do. When they found out that both husband’s had been going to college in Colorado and they liked Estes Park, they bonded. My godparents’ names were Gene and Jean Estes! Just had to tell you this was a strange way that you and I are distantly connected now, too.

  30. You share the most lovely thoughts. Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season and meaningful new year.

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