Garvin, my brother-in-law had been suffering from dementia for approximately 7 years. With each year, we saw a diminishing of the person we knew and loved. He died this past July, and I wrote his wife, Barbara, the following email:
I can only begin to imagine what it would be like to have my husband, lover and friend gradually diminish right before my eyes. I am so sorry about your pain. I am so sorry that a once healthy man has been so diminished.
I wonder what two or three words you would choose to describe your Garvin as he was in his earlier years? We look forward to hearing some of your stories soon. I know what words I would use to describe you as a wife and friend of Garvin. Those words are loyal, dedicated, strong and loving.
Thank you, Barbara, for loving and caring for my brother-in-law, Garvin.
Thinking of you,
Barbara responded, “I have read and reread your words over and over. I will cherish them always. I thought and thought of the words I find most descriptive of Garvin. They are brave, honest, righteous, unwavering and kind.”
I share this letter with you not because I think it is a model to follow, but I believe that God gave me a helpful caregiving question, “What two or three words would you choose to describe your loved ones?” It invites a grieving person to reflect and share.