Book Review of “To Remember Love: Two Promises that Led Me to the Notes in the Ashes”

August 8, 2012

4-27-12-To-Remember-Love-Tonya-FergusonTo Remember Love: Two Promises that Led Me to the Notes in the Ashes by Tonya Ferguson

“At that moment, I didn’t know what our future was going to hold. I didn’t know how earth shatteringly difficult the next nine and a half years were actually going to be. I didn’t know what kind of toll it would have on us personally, emotionally, financially or spiritually” (76).

To know Tonya Ferguson’s strength, you must know her story. Fortunately, she has intimately detailed her entire caregiving journey, starting before her father died suddenly of a heart attack, to her mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and continuing on after her mother’s death from the dreadful disease nine and a half years later. It is a brave and honest narrative that portrays grief, suffering and confusion. Yet Ferguson’s faith-filled words construct a tale that moves beyond the pain of loss and caregiving to a higher plane of hope, love and support.

Every landmark of the “typical” caregiving journey is touched in “To Remember Love.” Feelings of loneliness and despair, struggles with available resources, an extended family in denial, the “perpetual grief” of losing a loved one slowly, periods of readjustment and change. Her story covers all of the bases. Readers will find themselves relating to various aspects of Tonya’s life and healed by her revelations.

Consider “To Remember Love” as a must-read, especially for readers seeking a faith-oriented narrative. Tonya’s grace and ingenuity are truly inspiring. She has made it to the other side and is more than willing to discuss her ideas on what worked as a caregiver and what did not.

“I read where Caregivers should take care of themselves, accept help from friends and family, take time off to get away for a while, commit to staying healthy, stay connected socially with friends, and on and on and on. In a perfect world that would have been great. It didn’t take me long to realize that all of those things would have been extremely helpful and it all sounded very logical when I read it, but I found it impossible to implement those things into my life. … I am here to tell you, with or without those things in your life, you CAN and WILL survive being a Caregiver.” (181)

She also offers advice to a caregiver’s external network in her letter “To All My Dear Friends of a Caregiver.” Tonya explains that a caregiver’s network can help him/her enormously with one uncomplicated action—picking up the phone. “There were many, many days just a simple phone call to let me know I wasn’t alone and that someone was thinking about us would have really meant a lot.” (119)

Caregivers reading Tonya’s story are likely aware of the associated symptoms of caregiving: exhaustion, uncertainty, and stress. But “To Remember Love” promises more than anecdotes of caregiver burnout.

“It’s like I’m watching a beautiful dance. I love the way you all take turns caring for her. It’s such a selfless love and you all need to say no words to each other, it’s like you just know how to do your part.” (160)

The reader, whether caregiver or not, will undoubtedly gain insight into coping with the battle that rages between life and loss. Tonya’s story is primarily one of grace. “No one handed me a ‘How-To Manual’ when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They handed me a prescription for Aricept and told me it might give her six more months.” Despite this, she instinctively handled her caregiving responsibilities with love and compassion. While her role as caregiver no doubt was painful and confusing, Tonya rose to meet the challenge head on with the support of her husband, her two daughters and her faith.

Thank you Tonya for a beautiful and inspiring book, written with honesty and love.

Please visit her site for book news, her blog, and other inspirations:

Written by Alexandra Axel
Alexandra Axel was the first founding staff member at The Caregiver Space. As a New York native, Allie grew up people-watching and story-collecting, eventually pursuing her undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey in sociology and creative writing. At The Caregiver Space, she worked with social media, graphic design, blogging, and program development to brand and grow an online community composed of, and focused on, caregivers. From the seedlings of an idea to the thriving community that it is today, Allie was there from the beginning to support the evolution of The Caregiver Space. Allie enjoys writing poetry and short fiction, devouring books, biking, crafting, urban agriculture and imperfectly cooking. She currently resides in Brooklyn with her pup, Hen.

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