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by Abigail Van Buren

Simple Beauty of Neighbor's Flowers Brought Joy to Ailing Mom

DEAR ABBY: My parents met when they were 14. They married at 18, raised four boys and had an incredible marriage. When Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, they carried on as best they could with Dad providing her care. Sadly, Dad was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, so they moved in with me, and I quit working to care for them. Dad died three months later. Obviously, Mom was devastated in addition to being confused about why Dad was no longer there.

Mom and I often took walks through my neighborhood, and at one house in particular she would comment on the pretty flowers in the yard and how she and Dad enjoyed planting flowers every year. No matter how agitated or upset she was, seeing that neighbor's yard would cheer her up and bring back fond memories for her. Mom died a few years later.

I wrote a note to the person who lived at the property -- whom I never had met -- telling her how much joy her flowers had brought to Mom and thanking her for making my mother's final days brighter. Abby, I am writing now to share that even in the darkest times, a little beauty can make a world of difference. -- GRATEFUL SON IN ARIZONA

DEAR GRATEFUL SON: What you have written is true. Music can have the same effect on patients with Alzheimer's disease. My mother had Alzheimer's for many years, and my brother and I provided her with music from her era -- Pearl Bailey, the Andrews Sisters, etc. -- to help her pass the time. Toward the end, singing a song from her youth to her brought her back to me for a precious moment, and it, too, made a world of difference. Thank you for your letter and for taking me on my own trip down memory lane.

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