Free shipping on all orders over $75🎄

My father has Alzheimer’s. He’s in the middle stage of the disease. He still recognizes his wife and all six of his adult children. He has moments of complete clarity where he will hear a joke and immediately laugh at the punchline. He will see my mom in pain and go to offer her comfort.

But he has moments of profound lapses in memory too. He can no longer make his favorite breakfast of oatmeal that he’s prepared for himself for the last 30 years because he simply can’t recall how to make it. My mom will ask him for paper towels, and he will come back confused with a bucket of cleaning supplies that doesn’t contain any paper towels.

As of late, Dad has lost his ability to communicate.

My siblings and I recently came to the awful realization that we will never be able to have a conversation with our father again.

When he wants to add to a discussion, the light turns on behind his eyes, and you can see the thoughts come as he so desperately tries to convey them into words. But the words don’t come. They can’t come. His brain won’t allow them. But despite the overwhelming frustration of his suppressed speech, he will often shrug it off, shake his head, and even give us a little smile.

RELATED: You Can’t Outrun the Grief of Losing a Parent

I recently read a piece to my parents that I wrote about my childhood. My dad was eager to share something about it but couldn’t express himself. After much guessing by my mom and me, Mom figured out the memory my piece had triggered for Dad. He wanted to recall the time he and I fought to bring the sport of lacrosse to the girls in my high school.

My dad introduced me to the landmark legislation that is Title IX. I did my research, got a petition going, and generated interest. My dad assisted me in preparing a budget, and in finding field space and coaching staff. We wrote letters to the athletic director and went to school board meetings. For one such meeting, I remember preparing a speech for what I wanted to say to the board. When the time came, I froze. I couldn’t find my words. So, my dad stepped in and passionately articulated why the girls in our school deserved a lacrosse team. He believed in the cause so much it was as if he was planning to play on the team himself.

I never did get my team. But it was my first glimpse into the importance of fighting for something you believed in.

Together, my Dad and I stood up. We saw an unfair situation and used our voices to try to make it right. We put the ball in motion for the school to get their girls’ team, which they eventually did. This story is one that my dad still remembers with pride.

Years later, my dad’s voice saved me again. This time, we were at my cousin’s college graduation. My large, Italian family and I as well as many of my cousin’s friends were out to dinner at a restaurant. I so badly wanted to say a few words to honor this very close cousin of mine. I tapped my glass with a fork. The crowd grew quiet as all eyes fell on me. Again, the words didn’t come. Instead, I turned to my dad and blurted out that he would like to share a few words. I put him right on the spot. Dad chuckled and reluctantly, he stood. He wholeheartedly took this opportunity I forced upon him to share some thoughtful and celebratory words. This story, even now, makes my dad laugh out loud.

RELATED: To the Dads Who Love Daughters

Fast forward another few years. I am in my 20s, in the real world, working at one of my first serious jobs. I was presented with an opportunity to interview for a position within the organization, 80% of which would involve public speaking. It would be a promotion for me if I got it. Unsure of what to do, I went to my dad for advice.

He encouraged me to take it, said that I had to if I wanted to grow both in my career and as a person.

I considered all he told me and apprehensively accepted the job. Taking it was one of the best decisions I ever made. It was one of those life-changing, eye-opening, awe-inducing jobs that helped to shape who I am today. Through my presentations—to students, addicts, police officers, and inmates—I met remarkable individuals who brought intangible character traits like bravery, resiliency, and compassion to life.

I’ve been so focused on praying for a miracle, pleading with God to just clear Dad’s mind and make him well. I’ve found myself feeling stuck and helpless, wondering where He is and why this is happening to a man who has given so much of his life to helping others. And in all this desperation came something unexpected . . . appreciation. As I continue to watch my father struggle to speak, I can’t help but appreciate (even more so) how much his words have positively impacted my life. My heart is filled with so much sadness and pride.

While I am devastated I will no longer get to hear his worldly wisdom, I am so grateful to have heard it in the first place.

I now revel in taking every opportunity to stand up and say a few words (usually more than a few) on behalf of the birthday girl, the bride, the expectant mother, the retiree. Moving people through the spoken word is actually my jam now. I’ve changed so much—from a shy, hesitant girl into an outspoken, confident woman because of my father’s belief in me. His encouragement. His support. His guidance. But of all these gifts my dad has given me, the one I appreciate the most is how he fearlessly used his voice—whether it was for the greater good or to just bring a smile to the faces of those around him.

RELATED: My Mom May Be Dying, But She Will Never Leave Me

Even now, he refuses to give up.  And once again, I find myself in awe of him, admiring his determination to share his thoughts and memories with those around him. With this horrific disease has come the incredible realization of the most beautiful gift my father has given me—the power to find and use my own voice.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Laura Bagnarol

Laura Bagnarol is the founder of Be Big Be Brave LLC, a company that provides inspiring programs that encourage kids to be their big, brave selves. She is also the daughter of two Italian immigrants, the sister to five amazing siblings, the wife of one incredible husband, and the mom of three fiery children. Laura lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York. You can follow her @bebigbebrave.

Sharing Our Grief Frees Our Hearts

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Two women holding hands over a hospital bed, color photo

Almost 18 years ago, we lost our first child. It was unexpected. It was public. It was traumatic. It was a moment in time that even to this day, burns with a scorching flame, running like a reel in my memory and igniting a pain deeper than anything I’ve ever known into the empty corners of my heart. And while time has marched on in beautiful ways—healthy children who I get to watch grow up, an incredible marriage with the love of my life, a gratitude for all the milestones each year brings—I still can’t help but hold space for the...

Keep Reading

As Long as It Beats, a Grieving Heart Lives with the Pain of Loss

In: Grief, Loss
Woman walking through brown field with hand outstreatched

Life churns forward in a somewhat continued and steady momentum that I find I must consistently adjust my pace to keep up with. There isn’t tolerance in life for the way grief seems to ache for pause. In the silence of this space, my body feels crushed under the weight. I sit alone with my thoughts often. I’ve made peace with the solitude that surges in the aftermath of death. Maybe not peace. Perhaps it’s surrender. After all, which one of us doesn’t fall prey to the helplessness of mortality? I can no longer count on one hand those I’ve...

Keep Reading

6 Things You Can Do Now to Help Kids Remember Their Grandparents

In: Grief, Living, Loss, Motherhood
Grandfather dances with granddaughter in kitchen

A month ago, my mom unexpectedly passed away. She was a vibrant 62-year-old grandma to my 4-year-old son who regularly exercised and ate healthy. Sure, she had some health scares—breast cancer and two previous brain aneurysms that had been operated on successfully—but we never expected her to never come home after her second surgery on a brain aneurysm. It has been devastating, to say the least, and as I comb through pictures and videos, I have gathered some tips for other parents of young kids to do right now in case the unexpected happens, and you’re left scrambling to never...

Keep Reading

I’m Not Ready for Life Without My Mom

In: Grief, Loss
Woman sad sitting by a window looking out

I’m not ready. Not ready for time to just keep trudging forward without her. Four years have gone by, and I still think about her every day. When that awful third day of October rules around every year it’s like a tidal wave comes and sweeps me up tossing me this way and that. The rest of the year I can bob up and down with the occasional waves of grief. But the week before October 3rd the waves pick up, and I can’t see over the crest of one before the next is already upon me. I find myself...

Keep Reading

Since She Left

In: Grief, Loss
Older, color photo of mother and young daughter blowing out birthday candles

It’s been 14 years since she left. It’s like a lifetime ago and yesterday at the same time. The loss of my mother was indescribable. We never had a traditional relationship. As I grew older, our roles were very much reversed, but even still, missing one’s mother (for lack of a better word) is hard . . . plain and simple. Sometimes I wonder, what is it exactly that I miss? Of course, I miss talking to her. I miss how she drove me crazy. I miss her baking. I miss hearing about her newest needlepoint. I miss when she...

Keep Reading

I Carried You for Just 17 Weeks but I’ll Hold You in My Heart Forever

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Ultrasound image of baby in second trimester

September 11 will be a date that is forever etched in my heart, not only because of its historical significance but because it’s the day I saw your lifeless little body on the ultrasound screen. I couldn’t hold back the sobs. My chest suddenly felt heavier than a ton of bricks. I’ve been here before. I’ve had losses, but none this late. I didn’t feel their movements or hear so many strong heartbeats at my checkups. Your siblings felt you move and squealed with utter excitement. I want to wake from this nightmare, but it seems it’s my new reality....

Keep Reading

To the Woman Longing to Become a Mother

In: Faith, Grief, Motherhood
Woman looking at pregnancy test with hand on her head and sad expression

To the woman who is struggling with infertility. To the woman who is staring at another pregnancy test with your flashlight or holding it up in the light, praying so hard that there will be even the faintest line. To the woman whose period showed up right on time. To the woman who is just ready to quit. I don’t know the details of your story. I don’t know what doctors have told you. I don’t know how long you have been trying. I don’t know how many tears you have shed. I don’t know if you have lost a...

Keep Reading

I Was There to Walk My Mother to Heaven

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Hand holding older woman's hand

I prayed to see my momma die. Please don’t click away yet or judge me harshly after five seconds. I prayed to see, to experience, to be in the room, to be a part of every last millisecond of my momma’s final days, final hours, and final moments here on Earth. You see, as a wife of a military man, I have always lived away from my family. I have missed many birthdays, celebrations, dinners, and important things. But my heart couldn’t miss this important moment. I live 12 hours away from the room in the house where my momma...

Keep Reading

To the Loss Mom Whose Tears Keep Her Company Tonight

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Sad woman sitting up in bed with head in hands

Three pregnancies in one year. Three first trimesters. Three moments of celebration . . . until they turned to moments of sorrow. I’m sure every woman who experiences pregnancy loss has the thought, “I never thought this would happen to me.” I truly never thought this would happen to me. I have two healthy boys—conceived easily, uncomplicated pregnancies, by-the-book deliveries. We even thought we were done having kids . . . until the pregnancy test was positive. That’s when my heart opened up to more children, and I realized I ached to carry more life. Raise more littles. Nurse more babies....

Keep Reading

Cowgirls Don’t Cry Unless the Horse They Loved Is Gone

In: Grief, Kids, Loss
Little girls Toy Story Jessie costume, color photo

The knee of my pants is wet and dirty. My yellow ring lays by the sink—it’s been my favorite ring for months. I bought it to match Bigfoot’s halter and the sunflowers by his pasture. Bigfoot is my daughter’s pony, and I loved him the most. The afternoon is so sunny. His hooves make the same calming rhythm I’ve come to love as I walk him out back. A strong wind blows through the barn. A stall labeled “Bigfoot,” adorned with a sunflower, hangs open and I feel sick. I kneel down by his side as he munches the grass....

Keep Reading