Years ago, when I finally received confirmation of the type of Dementia Mom was living with, it brought about bittersweet moments. The more I researched FTD, the more I worried about how much time we had left with her before she no longer recognized us. Life can become filled with many distractions making us forget how much time has passed until we are threatened by the loss of time.
My next guess was faced with a very different race against the clock. Ashely Jackson, the founder of Timeless Dream Events and Author of Lost Travel Found, is proud to claim the titles of wife, caregiver, and event planner. I asked Ashley to join me today because you will feel the light shining through her smile when you hear her story. Becoming a caregiver at 31 created overwhelming pressure to become the sole breadwinner, housekeeper, and cook before she ever said, "I do."
Ashley sympathizes with others facing similar dilemmas because she will never forget being faced with a race against time in March 2017, only three months after getting engaged to Troy. With all her hope and determination to love and care for him, the weight of an unpredictably rare type of cancer with a 35% survival rate set different plans in motion. They knew the importance of setting goals aside for an engagement party in order to begin rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries immediately. Their moment would have to wait. Thankfully, by March 2020, Ashley and Troy were able to speak their vows to one another.
Through this divinely timed life experience, Ashley realized her purpose in life. Timeless Dream Events was born out of her pain, with its mission and vision being to provide terminally ill people and their family members with a chance to celebrate life and love. She plans various events at minimal notice due to each unique and sensitive situation. Ashley has been humbled by turning her pain into a blessing to others.
Acknowledging a blessing is often dismissed when we get stuck in a rut. If the distractions sweep us up in life, then the gift of time can be taken for granted. I was blessed with this message before I left the corporate world. After I settled into what became my last role as a corporate accountant, one of my co-workers shared her story of the double edge sword her job had become. Julie had stepped away from running a business with her husband to rejoin corporate America. Running a business is very time-consuming and does not allow for much work/life balance if you expect to succeed. Rejoining corporate America did not allow much freedom either as her father became ill.
Julie shared how she regretted not taking the time to visit sooner. She kept telling herself – I'll see him later, next weekend, next holiday until she ran out of time. Once she finished her story, I made plans to visit my Dad twice a month to have lunch together. I was grateful for the timing of Julie's story because Dad passed within two years. I had been doing the same thing. Work was very demanding, and life kept getting postponed. I had plans to interview him so I could write his memoir. He always told such profound stories about his days during the Vietnam war and caring for Mom.
Thankfully, Dad could travel with his sweetheart before gaining his angel wings. He survived many rough patches and endured quite a bit of sacrifice before being rewarded with new adventures abroad. So, I may not have been able to write him a memoir in time, but I now understand the time to enjoy the wonders of the world with self-discovery is now.
While I cared for Mom and started my awakening process, I began to hear a strong message. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. It is dangerous to plan a life of adventure for retirement when there is no guarantee you will quit while you have your health to travel. The more I prepare for Mom's journey to end, the more urgency I feel about designing a life with my husband and sons to make memories now. I find myself being called to the beach more and wanting to travel to new shores in the world.
We do not realize the blessing time is until it is gone. What would you spend your time on if you were granted one wish and could not wish for more wishes?
Many who have lost loved ones would say they wish they had one more day with their loved one before they ever considered winning the lottery. I see Dad in my dreams now, but we can only speak through glances and embraces. Our last conversations about life are some of my most significant treasures. Reminiscing about time spent to keep his memory alive made me realize I was stuck in the past. I could honor his memory by living my life, planning to experience timeless events, and cherishing every moment with my family now.
When we remain stuck in the past, we relive moments that were only intended to make an impression for us to learn from then move forward. The past fears, anxiety, and anger become inner parts of us that block our potential to really live and let live. The inner parts that kept me stuck in the past needed time to heal, but I did not realize it until I went to the beach by myself one summer. I sat on the sand under my umbrella, listening to the waves, waiting for a sign. I wasted so much time in earlier years waiting for signals to go in one direction or another. The difference from then to now is before I waited, now I pray and ask for feelings to take me in new directions.
Mom used to say, "Misery loves company." She used to be so adventurous or what we thought was a carefree spirit, but a lack of judgment and reasoning removed all inhibition. Finding a balance between spontaneity and planned adventures became an issue for all of us. When I asked her about her favorite trip, she recalled the school exchange program that took her with students to Japan. Watching her face light up as she described how wonderful she felt being treated like a princess made me miss her adventurous side. Even though she can no longer travel safely with her declining health, she still has treasured memories from her timeless events.
I now make it a point to plan timeless events with my loved ones after being given a new lease on life from the scare of experiencing a pulmonary embolism. Even though it has been five years since Dad passed, I seem to have settled back into my caregiving journey with a defeated sense of complacency. That one PE became a powerful wake-up call reminding me what I have been blessed with could be lost at any time. So part of my proactive self-care now includes planning events with my honey or family together, no more taking time for granted.
If you feel as if you have the time to wait for whatever reason, then remember these points:
1. You are NOT guaranteed tomorrow.
2. Procrastination is the arrogant assumption that God owes you another opportunity to do what you had time to do.
3. Change of scenery can drastically change your mindset, health, and growth potential.
4. When you feed your soul, you bring light, love, and inspiration to others.
5. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
6. Your dreams, no matter how big or small, are worth it - get to planning!
7. Give thanks for the time given because there is still a purpose to fulfill as long as you have air in your lungs.
Thank you for joining in and listening today. I hope this episode gave you more food for thought. Until next time, BE PROACTIVE. Take care, everybody.
Intro: Vacation Time by Khris Paradise
Outro: Misty by Khris Paradise