IUniverse Radio Interview
Interview with Monsignor Snyderwine
Photo by Michele Muir
Here are some frequently asked questions and Marilynn's response:
"You write about Patrick being a priest. Why didn't you include more in the book about how you met and fell in love? I'm sure people would be interested in that."
Yes, I'm sure they would! It was a decision I made early on in the writing of this book. I knew people would be drawn to the fact that Pat and I fell in love while he was a priest, but I consciously decided that this book, although containing that fact, would not focus on that part of our lives. I wanted our story to reflect the fact that this man, while having walked away from the priesthood, never walked away from God... that his strength, his faith, was a part of how he dealt with Alzheimer's.
"It seems that you always concentrated on the positive aspects of your life. My father had Alzheimer's and it was awful. Why didn't you write more about all the horrible things that go on in Alzheimer's?"
Trust me. Every day I saw examples of what Alzheimer's is capable of doing. I think my attitude reflected, in part, what Pat always believed; that we can experience all moments—good and bad—and deliberately choose to give as much power to the positive as we do to the negative. I chose to accept the positive. It gave me balance. It gave me something to hang on to, something sustaining, for those moments when despair crept in.
"You didn't write about his actual death. Why?"
At the time I began to think about actually publishing 'Released to the Angels', I was still feeling the effects of his death (I still am). My message in writing this book is about the process of living, of coping and finding in life ways to deal with the effects of disease. I want our story to give strength to those facing a diagnosis or who are now caring for a loved one—that life can go on in this disease. Alzheimer's is always fatal. Perhaps in the future I will write of our last days together, mainly because I was given insight into another aspect of life—the dying experience—a very profound experience in itself.
"It was remarkable that you were able to find humor in everyday experiences. How was it that you could laugh?"
Because laughter is a part of life. I never lost hold of the fact that Alzheimer's would eventually take his life, but in the meantime, he was alive—with feelings, with emotions, with the need to laugh and react. We laughed before Alzheimer's, so we laughed with Alzheimer's. If you knew how much Pat loved to laugh and make me and others laugh, you would quickly know that it wasn't something we were ready to give up."
"How could you face what you knew was going to happen?"
Shock doesn't last forever. After the shock, after the initial realization, you are faced with reality. Somehow you have to go on. I knew that I wanted to be with Patrick and face this with him. We would use each other's strength. We always had. And as long as I had him with me, I knew I would be ok. We could do this.
"What was your favorite anecdote?"
Wow...so many (for different reasons). But I think the one that I look back on with the fondest of memories and feelings is "Trip to Bethlehem"....I can't help but laugh every time I think of it, remembering the humor of the moment ( and how all the children kept staring at us while the adults tried to maintain dignity by looking straight ahead!)
"What was the hardest thing you had to endure or take on?"
When he couldn't understand. When he wanted to express something he needed to say and couldn't. When he felt the effects of pneumonia and couldn't understand why he was sick and thought he had done something wrong. That was hard to watch.
"But all the things we know go on in Alzheimer's—the incontinence, the outbursts, a change in personality—that wasn't the worst?"
The worst—meaning for me, or for him? Of course it all was hard on me, but I always wondered how it was affecting him. He had such dignity. Cleanliness was a big thing for him. He may have realized or sensed his incontinence and felt uncomfortable, so in those moments I didn't think of how I felt. I knew I wanted to make him comfortable as soon as possible. When he had outbursts, I didn't focus on me. Instead, I knew I had to find a way to ease his anxiety—fast. When you take the 'evaluation of feelings' out of the equation, you no longer have to think how bad this is or how it's affecting you. You simply react, and pick up the pieces afterward.
"O.K...what was the hardest thing that affected you?"
When he didn't know who I was.
"What do you want others to know?"
I want to reach those out there who right now are caring for a loved one and don't know how or even if they can. I want to tell them it's ok if you're afraid, it's ok if you're not always strong. Pat always said to look to others when you have no strength. Use their strength as your own. So I say...take all the hugs, all the strength, you can get. And if our story will give you strength, then consider it a hug from me.
"Your music on this site is beautiful. Have you always played the piano?"
Since very young. I've always found it a way of relaxing. In our life together Pat always loved listening to me play the piano. And so when Patrick was sick and became anxious, I found it a natural place to go to comfort him. I would often simply compose quiet melodies, never recording them, just soothing tones for the moment. It was only when this website was being created that the idea came to include background music. I sat down once again at the piano, closed my eyes and imagined Patrick there...and started playing.
"Where is he buried?
Patrick is buried in St. Frances Cemetery in Newburgh, New York —the town where he spent his childhood years. His parents and other family members are buried nearby in the same cemetery. On the back of his tombstone are engraved the words that, in sickness, Patrick had struggled to write—words that spoke of a faith he never lost and which served as an inspiration for the book's title. Two little child angels kneel at the base of the stone.