Alzheimer's disease does not discriminate in its relentless attack on the aging population. Male or female, rich or poor, famous or not, AD wrecks havoc when and where it calls, and leaves an emptiness and sorrow in its wake.
Most recently, Pauline Phillips, known to the world as the enduring advice columnist "Dear Abby", succumbed to Alzheimer's at the age of 94 after a lengthy and difficult struggle. For decades, Pauline had listened to her readers' problems and heartaches, and had returned thoughtful, caring advice in the form of her world famous advice column . She penned her replies under the pseudonym of Abigail Van Buren. "Abby" had a reputation for both sharp wit as well as genuine compassion.
In December of 2000, Pauline's daughter, Jeanne Phillips, now 70, began to join her mother in her work. In August of 2002 the Phillips family announced that Pauline had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and Jeanne officially took over the role and title of "Dear Abby."
In the recent days since her mother's passing last Wednesday, Jeanne penned an open letter to her readers about her mother's legacy and her own personal loss. Speaking of her mother, Jeanne states, "Over the past quarter century, Alzheimer's disease has stolen away bit by bit her remarkable intellect, but she battled her illness with courage and dignity. She was my best friend who can never be replaced." She signed off as Jeanne Phillips, aka Grieving in Minneapolis. The strength of "Abby" gave way to the human vulnerability and grief which all AD families share. In this letter, Jeanne also gave special recognition and thanks to her mother's long time caregivers who tended to Pauline 24/7 for over 11 years, a task certainly not all are cut out for.
The cruelty of the "long goodbye", a term coined by another famous grieving daughter, may seem like a merciless agony, and it is. But AD families still in the waiting stage might be comforted by Jeanne Phillips' beautiful analogy. In asking her readership for their prayers for her mother, Jeanne likens her mother's years of lingering to just another part of Heaven. Take a listen: "Ask that her spirit be surrounded by the souls of the many individuals whom she loved and who loved her. She has sat in God's waiting room for so many years, and now may their souls be joined together."