One time, my mom got a horrific sunburn on the backs of her legs when we kids were little. We had been at the beach all day, and she had to sit for the 45-minute drive home.

I don’t remember her complaining.

My mom didn’t get her driver’s license until I had moved out of the house because she was so afraid to drive. She walked to and from work for the nearly 30 years that she was a secretary at one of our local elementary schools. She fared sweltering summer days, rain storms and freezing cold in the winters.

I don’t remember her complaining.

She fell on her walk home from work once. When she came in the door, I noticed that her eyebrow was bleeding profusely. She had no eyebrow on that side of her face after the wound healed.

I don’t remember her complaining.

Mom did all the shopping, all the laundry, all the cooking and most of the cleaning (whatever we kids didn’t do for chores, which probably just increased her workload).

I don’t remember her complaining.

My mom worked hard for her whole family and very hard for each one of us so that we would have what we needed, when we needed it. Through her actions, she taught us constantly about who she was and what she believed in.

I think that’s why it was so easy for me to give back to her when dementia came into her life.

Yes, there were horrendous things that happened—battles over the phone, battles over food (she had paranoid delusions that we were all trying to poison her), battles over using her walker. You name it; it became a battle.

She called me once in a sheer panic, yelling, “Help me, Leeanne, there’s a man here in my bedroom and I don’t know what to do!”

The man was my dad. I calmly told her, “Mom, give the phone to that man, okay?”

She was shocked. “Do what?!”

“Give the phone to him, Mom,” I repeated. “I will talk to him.”

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My dad came on the line and we talked for a bit. Once Mom had calmed down some, he gave the phone back to her and I tried to help ease her worries.

This journey—whether the culprit is Alzheimer’s disease or any of the other types of dementia—is a journey like no other.

We all know where we’re going. We all know the last chapter in this book. The best we can do, the best we can hope for and accomplish along this arduous journey is to live and love in the moment as we try to deal with incredible heartbreak.

Dementia taught me that that is really all any of us have. We have today.

I learned to stop griping so much because of dementia. When this condition brings you and your loved one to the point where the best part of the day is a wink, a smile or maybe a simple word like “hello,” it makes you focus on what is truly important in life. It makes you realize that there’s no time to waste. Each moment is precious—a treasure.

Mom showed me the value of not looking for or focusing on the negative. She taught me long ago not to complain about life and its circumstances. Her dementia showed me the reason why.