Love Still Lives Here: Running the Long Road, John's Story

As a portrait, lifestyle and humanitarian photographer, I capture love, light and compassion in any situation- even the tough times.  Sharing our stories can be healing, and I want to tell you stories of love, courage, and coping with life changes. 

John Duncan and Becky Beaver contributed to my upcoming book Love Still Lives Here. Their story is about embracing what life gives you even when it is unexpected and hard.  

Becky has a lot of energy! Some of us spin slowly through life and some of us spin rapidly. This is not a judgement or indication of intelligence, but it is how we negotiate events in our lives. Becky is a force to be reckoned with. Her boundless energy is her superpower.  John is witty, understated and brilliant economist. John has Alzheimer's Disease


John Duncan and Becky Beaver

John Duncan and Becky Beaver

John and Becky have been married 41 years, and they have three grown children and a beautiful granddaughter. John is 80 years old strenuously works out 4 mornings a week. He runs a mile or more on the hike/bike trail in Austin 2-3 times a week. Impressive!  Becky lives a busy and exciting life running her own law firm, playing basketball, serving on the board of many non-profit agencies and caring for her husband. She and John spend 3-5 evenings a week out and about in Austin, Texas attending galas, theater, live music performances, and eating out.


Becky is a caregiver. She was awarded the 2017 Outstanding Caregiver of the Year Award presented by Alzheimer’s Texas. I attended and photographed the Hidden Heroes Luncheon where a variety of caregivers were honored, and heard her speak about her role as caregiver. 

Alzheimer's Texas Hidden Heroes-The Gift of Caregiving Luncheon Program 4-25-17 at JW Marriott Austin, TX.

Becky is a strong, confident, woman who openly revealed her vulnerability and challenges caring for her husband as he progresses into the slow decline that is typical of Alzheimer’s. Hearing her confide he insecurities as a caregiver touched my heart, and I knew others who care for their loved ones would certainly relate. I'm delighted they agreed to share their story with me for Love Still Lives Here. I met with Becky, John and his daytime caregiver Sandra to learn more about them and their journey with dementia, aging and living their best life. They are such an inspiration!  I'll tell you a little bit, but you'll have to wait until the book comes out early 2018.

Watching John and Becky, one would have no doubt love plays a part in living a high quality life in spite of dementia. Becky is a beacon of hope, a realist, and is on a mission to support her husband.

John Duncan and his fitness trainer Randeen Torvik Ragan of RandeenFit

John Duncan and his fitness trainer Randeen Torvik Ragan of RandeenFit

John’s first symptoms appeared about 15 years ago. He was formally diagnosed 10 years ago and initially showed improvement under Becky’s care and commitment to John's work outs. In fact, up until a year ago, he went many years with no decline at all and this is nothing short of a miracle of love.  

 

 

 

 

Taking Care of Yourself-  A Caregiver's Responsibility

While it is a lot of work to give care to a loved one, Becky is clear about the need to take care of herself also. If we do not take care of ourselves, we can not show up 100% for those we love. Becky continues to educate herself, adjust to each new situation, and accept support so she and John can continue to live the best life possible in the time they have together. They truly are an inspiration. 

When you first have a baby you have to figure it out for yourself. People can tell you, give you tips, but you have to figure it out for yourself. Don’t get down on yourself if the first three things don’t work. You will figure it out. Make sure you’ve got a good support group no matter how the group looks for you whether it is a church, team of caregivers. Perhaps most importantly, make sure you have time for yourself not being a caregiver. I’m a very high energy person and never have trouble finding time for something other than being a caregiver.  I have very little down time, but this is my diversion from caregiving and is essential to help with coping. Everyone needs to find a way to make it happen that works for them.
— Becky Beaver

 

Becky and John discovered how physical exercise made significant changes in the clarity of his thoughts and his memory. They attribute routine exercise, which includes running, flexibility, and weight training to his long plateau-something uncommon to those with Alzheimer’s Disease. Every family who contributed to Love Still Lives Here have their own unique perspective on living well when someone you love have dementia.


 

A spiritual crisis can happen when life changes in such a way our dreams, hopes and faith begin to crumble. Aging and retirement can also bring about a spiritual crisis. Our needs change and we face our own mortality in way not previously experienced. We can all learn from Becky and John, who see challenges as opportunities to grow. Love Still Lives Here is about how families cope, thrive and meet their spiritual needs in the most trying of times.

 

I have learned so much from talking with families impacted by dementia, and I want to honor these families who opened their hearts and homes to tell us their stories of deep fear and profound love. These stories will be featured in my book Love Still Lives Here in Spring of 2018, but I want to give you a little sneak peak of some of the love that has been shared. 

Dot and her daughter’s story will teach us about the healing power of laughter and humor during difficult times. 

Mary cares for her two son’s with Alzheimer’s Disease and hers is an inspirational story of the power of prayer.  

Gracetta’s daughters are both advanced practice nurses and have created a healing environment for their mother. 

Vicky has an amazing story of the power of devotion and learning to letting go in order to love bigger.

Laura and her mother Billie are examples of true loyalty.

Bea, the subject of next week’s Facebook Live, Carmen Talks Love has an inspiring story of forgiveness.

Thirteen is my lucky number, so it seems just to have thirteen stories in Love Still Lives here. Roxanne cares for her mother Judy, who has Alzheimer’s Disease. She tells of the struggle and consequences of finding time to take care of yourself.  Her story will resonate with so many of us who try to be everything to everybody. 

Sign up for Carmen Buck Photography newsletter to stay up to date and learn how you can get in front of my camera and be the first to read Love Still Lives Here.  

 

Are you interested in learning a bit more about caregiving, balance and spiritual care? I delivered a presentation on the Virtual Summit with Public Speaker’s Association: Can’t Seem to Balance it All? Let Your Spirit be your Guide.  Listen Here- http://publicspeakersassociation.com/summits-3/balance-love-life-biz-aug-23rd/

 

Do you like what you read? Do you have questions or comments?  Leave me your comments!  

Legacy Family Photography-Creative, Meaningful and Compassionate Expression of Love