Unpacking the Past

Buried Boxes of 2007

Buried Boxes of 2007

Today we will begin a 3-month project to unpack boxes from a sudden move that happened in 2007. These boxes were packed in a hurry and stored/sat as a 15’W x 15’L x 6’H block in my mother-in-law’s basement for 18 months while I became a displaced person and took on the role of primary carer for my mom, who died of frontotemporal degeneration at the age of 67 December 24, 2008.

Karl and I moved-in together into our present home on February 17, 2009. Because we were bringing the stuff of our lives together for the first time, we had duplicate coffee makers and the like. Most of the boxes from my personal life were put in our new basement to figure out later (from my belongings, just a few clothing, comfort, favorite kitchen stuff, and book boxes came up to the living area to become integrated within our new home). In 2009 I was an emotional mess (5-year anticipatory grief realized + normal grief + acute stress disorder becoming post-trauma stress disorder) and did a lot of grief-work.

In January 2010, I pulled myself up off the couch, read the national research on the topic of dementia-carer health effects, got mad as hell, and vowed to become a change-agent in the lives of dementia carers. With fire in my heart and belly, I founded Marymac Missions LLC on April 19; launched the websites marymacmissions.com and rest-stop-ranch.com; completed 400+ hours of yoga teacher training; and in the fall began a Leadership for Change management program at Boston College, which I completed with my classmates in 2011. We also completed (October 2010, in three days time, with the help of local landscapers) a home wheelchair-access project, expecting that my father with diabetes would be moving in with us in the future and may need wheelchair access to the home.

My work in 2011, with the help of creative talent North of Boston, produced a “Take Care of Yourself: Seven Sustainable Skills for the Long-Term Care Journey” pocket guide and illustrated journal (with which I started workshops and retreats in Kansas and Massachusetts) and a “My Doable Self-Care Plan” illustrated 4-week planner. In the summer months, my father had a toe amputated and he recovered several weeks at our home. In November, we created (in seven days time, with the help of local landscapers) the 0.1 mile wheelchair-accessible MargFMac Front Garden Loop.

We wheeled my father ’round the MargFMac Front Garden Loop on a warm day in January 2012. He loved it and gave us the money to purchase MacIntosh and Red Delicious apple trees (which we did in the spring). At that time, I was becoming more involved with my father’s critical need for an aortic heart valve replacement. We made what felt like countless trips to Beth Israel Boston throughout the year. The round-trip to Boston would have us returning often at the day’s end to one of our favorite restaurants North of Boston, Legal Seafoods or IHOP. While companioning my father (through what I know now to be his last full year of life), by the grace of God in my gut and lots of helpers, we produced significant work. We successfully piloted four new program themes, My Doable Self-Care Plan; Resurrect, Recover, and Renew; Music Ministry at Home with Family and Friends; and the Holiday Rush Not Twitter series. We launched Guide Services, a coaching and long-term-care consulting service for individuals and families at rest-stop-ranch.com. We launched communications via Twitter @marymacmissions as well as the Marymac Missions’ Monthly e-newsletter. We were certified as a Sustainable Business Leader by the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts. We self-published Early Gardens at Rest.Stop.Ranch, a 100-page photo book documenting our first four years developing the wheelchair-accessible gardens at our home, and gave a copy to the 60 guests who attended our at-home 2012 wedding celebration.

My father’s health continued to decline in 2013, which made him eligible to participate in the CORE valve clinical research study. I companioned him through the many pre-operative tests, the operation, and the many weeks of post-operative recovery and rehabilitation. In the end, his overall heart health failed and he left his body in the BI CCU on May 24, 2013. It was Memorial Day Weekend. Karl and I drove to Syracuse, NY to plan and participate in my father’s funeral. After we buried my father, I stayed in Syracuse to begin the management of my family estate. The cleaning-out of my family home took me six months, with the help of my neighbor Barb and a professional organizer, Peg Moore. I moved the remains of my family home to Topsfield on November 13. I sold the family home to Barb’s sister, Beth, on December 13. I took a month to rest and renew December 15 – January 15.

I am grateful to now have the physical well-rested-ness, the emotional readiness, time, and help to unpack, uncover, and transform these buried boxes of my life. We will work each week up to Holy Week, and God-Grace willing, we will realize a resurrection come Easter Sunday.

Moving forward with a listening heart,
~ Mary

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