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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published January 04 2009

Special cross offers comfort

Dear Carol: My mother, a devout Christian, received a gift I thought you may want to tell your readers about. Mom’s eyes are dim and her fingers gnarled by arthritis.

A friend found, online, a special cross that fits naturally into twisted or clenched hands. The cross is cast in resin, but looks like olive wood. My mother is comforted by holding this cross, even as she sleeps. – Cheryl

Dear Readers: I checked the Web site and the cross is beautiful. The Web site is www.restministries.org and the cross costs $14.95. I know many people who would be comforted by holding this smooth, naturally curved symbol of their faith as they pray, sleep or just rest in thought.

Books: I receive and read a steady flow of books on aging, Alzheimer’s disease, caregiving and other subjects of interest to column readers.

To me, the most interesting books are the ones that tell stories. When I speak to groups, I tell stories. My own writing tends toward story telling. So, why wouldn’t I be drawn to a series of books that are collections of stories?

LaChance Publishing sent me two of their “Voices of” series, one on caregiving and one on Alzheimer’s. LaChance Publishing is part of The Healing Project, a not-for-profit organization devoted to creating community support for people struggling with life’s challenges.

I admit that I was skeptical as I prefer stories from non-celebrities, and I wasn’t sure what I’d find in these books. However, what I found were moving, well-written, brief journal entries from talented writers who had the same challenges many of us face. Most of the people who write these vignettes are, while talented writers, average people facing the same issues and pain we all face as we watch our loved ones decline with health issues.

Some stories are written by nurses and social workers and chaplains. Others by spouses of aging loved ones. A few are written by younger people who became spousal caregivers long before one would expect that to happen.

A shining example of a younger caregiver in the caregiver book is by a woman who is caring for her husband who was injured before deployment to Bosnia. He was a Green Beret. He feels his life isn’t worth living and attempts suicide. His wife’s story in the caregiving book is about how she stopped this destructive act.

One heart-wrenching story in the Alzheimer’s book, a story just a couple of pages in length, tells of the agony of a wife of 60 years readying her husband for his trip to the nursing home, where he needs to go because she no longer can care for him by herself.

I believe it’s the very briefness of these stories that makes their punch so powerful. Either book would make a good gift for a caregiver or yourself.

“Voices of Alzheimer’s” and “Voices of Caregiving” are available online and in book stores.

Bursack is the author of “Minding Our Elders,” a support book on family elder care, and maintains a Web site at www.mindingourelders.com. To view past columns, go to www.inforum.com and click on columnists. Readers can reach Bursack at cbursack@forumcomm.com or write her at The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107