Note: Each issue of Dimensions features a contribution from one of the Alzheimer's groups in Washington. This article is reprinted with permission from the Alzheimer's Association Eastern Washington Chapter.
Jerry Ham is a caregiver for his mother, Joan. He first started writing poetry as a way to express his feelings of grief, confusion, frustration, and pain from his mother's battle with Alzheimer's disease. Since that time, Jerry has touched the hearts of many people around the world with his poetry. A booklet of Jerry's poetry is available by contacting the Inland Northwest Alzheimer's Association at 800-256-6659.
There's a stranger in our house,
But she's one I used to know.
She loved me, fed me, clothed me,
And did her best to help me grow.
Her love was always there,
As I traveled though this life.
She beamed through tears of pride,
As she watched me take a wife.
Oh this one who's now a stranger,
At one time gave hugs and cheer.
And she was always ready,
To help dry a grandchild's tear.
But the years have long since passed,
And her memory's slipped away.
And now she talks unending,
To unseen people all the day.
This dear person is my mother,
I'll not whine, nor will I grouse.
For now it is my privilege,
to love this stranger in our house.
©1997, Jerry Ham
You give of your heart, your love, and your life,
To a grandparent, parent, a husband, a wife.
You dress and you feed them, you clean up the mess.
For months, maybe years, you give of your best.
At times you can laugh, more often it's tears,
As you watch them decline year after year.
So often you feel like there's nobody there,
No one to talk to, there's no one who cares.
Then late at night, you'll sit and just cry,
"It all seems so hopeless, so why do I try?"
And then comes a voice, so soft and so clear,
You look all around you, but no one is near.
Again comes the voice, soft as can be,
"You know why you try, just look and you'll see.
"You do it for love, you know that is true.
This love that you have, will help see you through.
"You're not alone, there's someone who'll share.
The burden you carry, I'll help you bear."
Then in the darkness, there's a warmth you can feel,
A soft gentle presence, you know it is real.
As you drop off to sleep, the angels above,
Echo the words...."You do it for love."
©1997, Jerry Ham
She was bright, and smart, and so full of life.
She loved her role as mother and wife.
Two girls, three boys, five children she reared,
She taught them to laugh, to love and to care.
She showed them that love was not to be earned,
But given freely even when they got burned.
They told themselves that she'd always be there.
Their joys, their triumphs, and sorrows to share.
But then a stranger showed up one day,
Unbeknownst to them, it decided to stay.
It made no announcements to let them know,
That it would bring them sorrow and woe.
But just as sure as day becomes night,
This unseen enemy began its dread fight.
A bill or two she would forget to pay,
And coming back home she'd lose her way.
Then words said earlier, she would say again,
She could not remember the name of old friends.
This unseen enemy continues to rage.
And each new day is an unwelcome page.
And now she chatters the whole day long,
She has no idea that there's anything wrong.
This unseen enemy has done its work well.
It's destroyed her memory and left just a shell.
Thus my prayer is: "Lord, someday please,
"Help us find the cure to Alzheimer's Disease."
©1998, Jerry Ham
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