Maybe I will: a guest post by @MaliaArries #memoir #nonfiction #family #caregiving #guestpost
Hi, I’m Malia and I am a wife, a mom to two dogs, and the author of Dad Died, Then Mom. Family, friends, dogs, and dancing, are what I live for. During a usual day, I’m likely to be at my computer, throwing a ball for my dog, relaxing on our outdoor swing, or watching a movie. I am pretty much retired, but continue to teach a few ballroom and Latin dance classes; I practice patterns often so I won’t forget them – well, at least the ones I can still remember.
MAYBE I WILL BY MALIA ARRIES
After sharing with one of my dearest friends the extraordinary occurrences that my siblings and I journaled during the time Dad was dying, and two years later during the time Mom was dying, she told me I should write a book about them. I responded, “Maybe I will.”
However, my husband, Darrell, and I adjusted to a life that no longer included the numerous five-hour roundtrip drives to help care for Mom and Dad. We became more involved with our friends and doing other things we enjoyed – like going to fantastic Northwoods Wisconsin supper clubs. (I would be more than happy to recommend the best ones to you!)
I settled in enjoying teaching ballroom and Latin dance classes – I absolutely love doing that! I tell people not to worry about getting all the patterns exactly right because I’m really just teaching them how to have fun.
Moreover, Darrell was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (cancer) two years after Mom died. The treatments took their toll on him. Even though now (five years later) he is still in remission, his care continues. I had completely forgotten about writing a book.
Until, as I wrote, “I had just lain down on the sofa to take an afternoon nap when, for some unexplainable reason, visions with words began popping into my mind describing the night Dad died. It was so overwhelming, I needed to get up and start typing them into a document. And this was over six years after both Dad and Mom had died! I noted to call my sister, Franchion, to ask her if I could borrow The Notebook. It was the type of diary we kept during Dad’s, and later Mom’s, time in home hospice care.”
In Dad Died, Then Mom I write about how my siblings, Bill, Marvel, Franchion, Shonnie, and I navigate something we have no desire to experience – until it becomes the experience of a lifetime.
Psst, don’t tell my two dog-kids, Ellie and Shelby, that I’ve already written the first chapter of my next book. Maybe I’ll complete it.
Readers, scroll down to read all about Malia’s book…
Title Dad Died, Then Mom
Author Malia Arries
Publisher Trilogy Christian Publishers
In Dad Died, Then Mom, Malia, along with her siblings, Bill, Marvel, Franchion, and Shonnie, guides you through something you do not want to experience – until you come to realize, as they did, it can be the experience of a lifetime.
Malia is not a nurse, a doctor, nor a psychologist. She is a family caregiver who is writing to you as a family caregiver. Because you are looking for a deep and hands-on realization of what you or someone you know might be going through, or will be going through, you may feel better able to connect with her even though every individual situation is different. Offering insight to prepare and help you through your journey, she shares her family’s journey.
Five siblings came face-to-face with the inevitable. Their parents were dying. They did not divide. They came together and worked as a team because it was not about them, it was about what was best for their dad and then their mom. Their parents modeled for them how to die graciously and they modeled for their children as they observed them care for their grandpa and grandma.
Rather than being a syrupy, depressing story, Dad Died, Then Mom is a heartwarming story. Of course there are plenty of distressing and tearful moments, but there are also moments filled with comforting smiles and even laughter. Moreover, the beyond this world moments Arries describes are awe-inspiring.
Malia’s goal in writing Dad Died, Then Mom is to familiarize you with what may happen and to offer you options on how to address issues by sharing the actual, day-by-day, journaled occurrences she, along with her brother and three sisters, encountered with their dad and then their mom. Her aim is for you to read this story so you might also choose to experience this truly extraordinary time of life with your loved one, or to compare your experience, or perhaps you have received a terminal diagnosis and wonder what it might be like during your last few months of life.
(Note from author – excerpt varies slightly from original manuscript)
Dad became very emotional, so torn because he felt like two people. “There must be two of me,” Dad said through tears. He continued by saying, “I am standing at the foot of my bed [gestured there], and the other person is in bed. I see them both.” We didn’t know what he meant when Dad then asked, “How come one jar is full?”
Dad fell asleep for a while, then woke and said, “One for Marvel, one for Franchion, one for Malia...” He drifted off. When he roused again, he said, “Bill, Darrell, Aubrey... I want everyone to know I recognize them.” I asked him if there was anyone with him at the foot of the bed. He squinted as if to see more clearly and replied, “Maybe a friend, maybe Arden?” (After Dad’s death, we found out Arden had died a short time later.)
May 19, 2013
I slept every night in the living room next to Dad. At one o’clock that morning, he wanted a drink of water. I asked him about the “jar.” He told me, “We’re both in there.” I asked him, “Who, the two of you?” He nodded yes. I was mystified. Dad thought it was seven o’clock and wondered why Mom wasn’t up yet. When I told him the actual time, he asked, “How come it’s so early?” Then Dad wrapped his arm around my neck and clung to me with a very long, tight hug. I’ll never forget it.
Sugarfoot woke Mom that morning with her meows at Mom’s bedroom door. When Dad saw Mom, he told her, “I don’t understand this.” A little later, he added, “I can’t get started.”
He talked a lot about the “two jars/bottles.” It bothered him because he didn’t know who was in the other one. Since we were assuming he was referring to their cremation containers, Mom and I tried to explain it was Mom in the other jar. He then seemed to remember. Dad also expressed his concerns about being cremated; Mom and I did our best to reassure him. I wasn’t convinced he was settled on either issue. However, he did nod his head as if everything was okay, as he turned away from us.
Dad’s nurse arrived a little later. He told her about seeing himself outside his body. She asked how he looked. Dad happily responded by saying, “Healthy.”
May 20, 2013
He was restless. He threw his covers back as if he wanted to get out of bed. I asked him how he felt; he said, “Frustrated.” Then I asked him if he felt all mixed up. He looked at me and nodded yes. More and more, he would curl up tightly and roll onto his right side, facing the wall away from us.
Dad said, “Hi, Marvel,” when she came that afternoon to stay with him while Shonnie and I took Mom shopping for clothes to wear for Dad’s imminent funeral. What a bewildering experience, enjoyably shopping with Mom for an absolutely unenjoyable reason. While we were gone, Marvel said Dad asked if I had gone home.
May 21, 2013
Dad woke with soreness in his right wrist that morning from the nearly constant curling up and lying on his right side. I asked him if he would like something for the pain. He said, “I believe so.” I was perplexed when he said it felt like he had a belt on.
Franchion came that evening a little after six o’clock. When Dad saw her, he said, “Hi, Frenchy.” He was very weak. We gave him a few sips of water through a straw, but it was hard for him to swallow. We told him Bill had called to say hi to him; Dad simply responded by saying, “Bill.” We noted that his eyes were open but “not seeing us.”
May 22, 2013
Mom put on her new outfit with the shoes Dad had given her for Mother’s Day to show him. She would be wearing this for his visitation after he died. We sensed Dad realized and accepted what the new clothes were for. He was so happy she got them and delighted to see her in them! He repeatedly told her she looked beautiful and kept smiling at her. Franchion wrote, “Talked with Dad about how he would always help Mom shop and pick out something she really liked that would be different than what anyone else had.” Dad kept smiling and said to Mom, “You look so pretty, sweetheart. Don’t take it off.” Then Darrell waltzed into the room and told Dad he got a new outfit too; Dad smiled and told him, “You have to take yours back.”
Malia was the bookkeeper for her dad’s feed & farm supply store while living and working on a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin, followed by living and working on a cattle ranch in Montana. Twenty four years after high school graduation, she received a bachelor of arts with honors in sociology from University of Wisconsin – Madison. During her senior year she was one of four runners-up for the Outstanding Undergraduate Returning Adult Student Award.
Along with her husband, Darrell, two dogs, Ellie and Shelby, she lives full-time in a vintage Prevost bus. Everything they own is in their “grand old lady” or in the Jeep they tow. Spending summers near Minocqua, WI and winters near Pahrump, NV takes them from lush woods and lakes to barren deserts and mountains. They love them both!
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